There’s a lot happening at a construction site at any given point in time. Project managers juggle hectic schedules and rising costs. Safety managers conduct critical trainings with new workers and ensure adherence to safety protocol. Craft workers install new piping, tighten bolted joints, and perform pressure tests. Everyone is doing what they can to move the project forward.
In fact, a construction site is a lot like a busy, swarming beehive where everyone has an important job to do. There’s constantly a lot of movement and action—but that doesn’t necessarily mean that productivity couldn’t be better. In fact, there’s a key role that hasn’t been mentioned that plays a starring role both at the construction site and in this blog post.
Quality control, more fondly known as QC, are often one of the most sought-after positions at any given construction site. This is because they are responsible for approving that work has been done in accordance with the project plan. Whenever someone wants work approved so they can move onto the next steps, a QC inspector is needed to validate the work.
In short, QC inspectors are responsible for auditing work at various intervals to ensure that it meets expectations before proceeding with additional work. It’s a classic check and balance system. However, it can have some unintended consequences in the form of lost productivity.
So what exactly are the five words that you should never hear at a construction site?
“We’re waiting on a QC.”
The QC Slowdown
“We’re waiting on a QC” is a phrase heard all too often at construction sites around the globe. While the language it’s spoken in may change, one thing holds true: waiting on a QC is where productivity goes to die. In fact, it’s a main cause of work delays, which can lead to projects finishing behind schedule and diminishing margins.
In practice, entire crews can be stopped from anywhere between 15 and 60 minutes just to wait for a QC inspector. The ironic part is that once the QC inspector arrives, they will often check the drawings, analyze the work, and say “looks good to me” all in a matter of seconds.
This productivity loss can have a compounding effect over the course of the project. For example, imagine a crew of 8 people standing idle for 30 minutes while waiting for a QC. This sets the project back a total of 4 labor hours, and at an average all-in hourly wage of $100, wastes a total of $400. It’s easy to see how this can get out of hand fast.
To be clear, the purpose of this exercise is not to blame the QC inspectors. They are doing the best they can to verify the quality of work all over a construction site—it’s no small task. Rather, it’s to cast a light on the current way QC inspectors are expected to do their work. They simply can’t be expected to be in more than one place at a time…or can they?
How Technology Can Increase QC Bandwidth
QC inspectors need not develop superpowers in order to be in more than one place at a time. In fact, as technological advancement in the field of construction accelerates, they might not even need to leave their desk to get their work done. Yeah, you heard that right. QC inspectors can actually get more done by doing less…if they’re using technology in the right way.
The key is implementing technology in the field that’s able to capture accurate and reliable quality data. Cameras, sensors, drones, and other types of IoT technology are all capable of capturing the data a QC inspector needs in order to pass or fail a work inspection. By empowering field workers (or autonomous technologies) to capture this data, a work completion can be reviewed digitally from anywhere in the world.
One prime example of this concept is Bluetooth-enabled power tools. By upgrading the tools your workers use to a Bluetooth-connected version, you can set target work values and record valuable manual work data. This ensures that all work is always done according to plan—and that you have detailed digital records of every work completion in the event of an audit.
While the industry as a whole has lagged in digitalization, this use case alone is enough to warrant a change. After all, there is a clear ROI that can be achieved by simply estimating the wasted labor hours spent standing around waiting for a QC. Use this ROI calculator to get a clearer picture of how much money your project might be leaving on the table.
When a QC is able to sit at their desk and quickly review a concise digital record of work completed, everything goes much faster. The ideal connected worker technology will give them before and after pictures of the work, a completed checklist filled out by the field worker, as well as data from sensors and IoT technology.
In short, they’ll be able to review who did the work, how long it took them, and most importantly, if it was done right…all in a matter of seconds. This gives the project a much better shot of finishing on-time and on-budget by maximizing the bandwidth of both QC inspectors and field workers.
A Whole New Quality World
Implementing new technologies can be intimidating—and rightfully so. You want to choose a technology that demonstrably adds to your business’s value proposition, instead of just choosing the latest bright and shiny new toy.
Luckily, project quality is an area where there is a lot of opportunity for improvement. Even if you’re not ready to fully commit to remote inspections, using technology to more effectively capture quality data can streamline the reporting process and still save significant amounts of time.
The other added benefit of streamlining the QC process for routine inspections is that it enables inspectors to spend more time on more complicated and critical inspections. By reducing time spent on routine quality work, inspectors are free to spend their time where it truly matters most. This can only mean positive things for both quality and productivity.
By using technology to maximize the bandwidth of quality and field personnel, it’s one big step forward towards a more proactive quality control system.
For more ideas on technologies to help revolutionize your construction site, check out these 13 technologies that are currently transforming the industry.