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The aims of quality assurance
Quality assurance is concerned with developing a ‘formal’ structure, organization and operational procedures to ensure specified quality throughout the total building process. The construction industry can be divided into five broad sectors where quality assurance is applicable:
1. Client in the production of the project brief.
2. Designer in the design and specification process.
3. Manufacturers in the supply of materials, products and components.
4. Contractors (and subcontractors) in construction, supervision and management processes.
5. User in the utilization of the new structure.
There are few standards and codes that affect the client and the final procurement and use of the building, the majority of quality assurance applications being present in the manufacturing sector of the construction industry.
CIRIA(1989) highlights the responsibilities towards quality assurance:
Quality cannot be inspected into a product or project; it must be built in.
Responsibility lies with those doing the work-the client, the architect, the architect, the engineer, the contractor, the operatives, the materials suppliers and the sub-contractors.
BS/EN/ISO 9000 series quality systems provide a framework for the five sectors noted above .Successful implementation provides a system which has obtained certification by the recognized body. This in turn provides monitoring and enforcement authority to an independent third party.
The BS/EN/ISO 9000 series provides a certificated structure with which all systems seeking certification must comply. The framework for qualify assurance has become fully developed and operational in Europe. In summary, the essential features of the BS/EN/ISO 9000 series are:
1. The appointment of a senior manager (generally known as the quality manager) in the organization, who is responsible and instructions.
2. A well-documented system of procedures and instructions.
3. Records of all inspections and audits.
4. Adequate training of all staff.
5. Segregation of rejected products, materials and documents/ drawings so that they cannot be used by mistake.
6. Adequate packaging for delivery.
PSA/DOE(1986) note that ‘Only when Quality Assurance encompasses all stages of a building’s life i.e. design, construction, final evaluation and maintenance will maximum benefit be achieved.’
Quality systems and performance
The British Standards Institution (BSI) is the largest and most important certification organization currently involved in the development of quality assurance systems, having led the way towards improving quality standards throughout the 1960s and the 1970s, and publishing BS 4891: ‘A Guide to Quality Assurance’ in 1972 and ‘A National Strategy for Quality’ in 1978. The BS/EN/ISO 9000 series is now the UK’s national standard for all new quality assurance certification schemes. The introduction of quality assurance systems provides an organisational framework to attain the required level of quality consistently.
Cost implications of the certification process
Potential benefits from establishing and maintaining a certified quality assurance system are not secured without costs to the organization. These costs are both direct and indirect.. Significant direct costs are incurred in
l developing the quality assurance system;
l producing the quality documentation;
l establishing the implementation system;
l maintaining the internal audit system; and
l independent third-party assessment.
Indirect costs are difficult to assess but can include
l liaising with the certification body;
l changes to operational processes and procedures to accommodate certification requirements;
l some demotivational aspects associated with staff and the implementational process; and
l the consumption of organizational energy and efforts during the drive for certification.
There are also the costs of maintaining the system and surveillance visits by the certification body. Certification bodies specify their various registration fees, which are subject to some variation depending on the following factors:
l size of the company and number of employees;
l structure of the organization;
l diversity and range of the company’s activities;
l nature and complexity of the quality system; and
l complexity of the documentation.
Problems associated with implementation
This section focuses on the practical problems associated with implementing a BS/EN/ISO 9000 series quality system. The findings are based upon a comprehensive literature review and field research conducted on 100 construction-related firms, all certificated under the series. The previous section has established that the main advocated advantages of implementation do exist in practice. However, the implementation process can be a most problematic one. The following establishes the problems and suggests solutions designed to ease the implementation process for construction-related organizations. Senior management support is the most vital element in a successful implementation process. If senior management support is not forthcoming, the quality facilitator/manager (the person charged with the implementation of the quality system) could also face further problems, such as:
l a lack of adequate authority
l insufficient funding for the project
l a lack of sufficient time allocated for the project
l resistance to
l documentation gathering
l implementation during the project.
A successful implementation process is dependent upon the strong commitment and involvement of the senior management of the host organization. That commitment also needs to be demonstrated through ‘policies’ and ‘support’. If organizations are to avoid problems pertaining to resource issues, senior management must provide the necessary resources. The two most important resource issues are those of adequate funding for the project and allowing sufficient time for people to participate. Participation is necessary when the quality facilitator is gathering information to write the quality and procedures manuals. The participation of staff is also vital during the implementation phase of the project. It should be noted that time allocation and funding are not mutually exclusive. A lack of funds can mean that money is not available to release staff when participation is requested. Issues of authority and overcoming resistance to change are also not mutually exclusive. ‘If appropriate
Authority does not accompany managerial responsibilities and duties, the manager’s effectiveness within the organization is impaired’ (Glassman, 1978).
Glassman suggests that managers be delegated sufficient authority to complete their allocated tasks. Senior management needs to ensure that middle managers are not asked to perform tasks for which they have not the necessary authority. There may well be some resistance to change within the host organization. Coalitions of resistance could develop, and if they are linked to a power bade they could impede the implementation process. It is worth nothing the differing strategies that could be adopted for the implementation process and the likely outcome of each. In order to do this, an overview of modernist and postmodernist organizational theory is required.
The UK government has acknowledged the problems of the construction industry by accusing it of lacking customer focus and being ready to use any excuse to pursue so-called claims against government (The Guardian, 8/11/95). TQM enables construction companies to fully identify the extent of their operational activities and focus on customer satisfaction. Part of this service focus is the provision of a significant reduction is costs through the elimination of poor quality in the overall construction process. If a construction organization can overcome the implementation problems, then a sustained competitive advantage is the prize. Figure 4.24 provides an overview of the TQM implementational process and should b of great value to construction organizations pursuing TQM.
It should be noted that the BSEN ISO 9000 series of standards is being amended. The new set is to be published in November 2000, therefore the content of the new standards will not be known until after publication. However, the broad aims of the new standard are the same as the current BSEN ISO 9000 series.