The Construction Industry Is Characterised Construction Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.


1.1 Background

The construction industry is characterised by a loosed, fragmented and differentiate system. Professionals and practitioners operating within the industry posses' skills, loyalty and orientation acquired in an environment of specialisation, differing traditions and sometimes conflicting interests. This reason makes integration within the industry to be weak at present, thus, new innovative methods of procurement and operation that would adopt the best ways of delivering buildings to time, budgeted cost and at the agreed quality are required to help Subdue the inhibitive trends posed by the complex nature of construction.

According to Pheng and Ke-Wei (1996), research carried out in the UK by Building Research Establishment reveals that about 50% of construction faults were due to design deficiencies; 40% were due to poor workmanship and 10% were due to product failure. Due to the varying and complex nature of construction projects, it is imperative for all constructions projects to be implemented by considering rational management approach that would assure correct design solutions, which would satisfy clients' requirements, and as well, enable reasonable profit to be achieved by the supplier of construction services. In this respect, the roles of effective implementation of Total Quality Management (TQM) cannot be overemphasized.

Construction industry has been continuously criticized for its poor performance and productivity in relation to other industries since the past decades due to its failure to embrace modern technological and social changes. Unlike the construction industry, TQM is not new to the manufacturing sector; the sector is widely recognised for tight looped system, with a well-instituted quality system. This is basically due to its repeat production processes. While in the construction sector, construction works, e.g. buildings or bridges are undertaken as single batches or projects, which basic processes are repeated from job to job (e.g. concreting and plastering), but specifics of application are always changing.

Rowlinson and Walker (1995) state that construction industry is characterised by its non-standardization due to its one-off products, different production process and design detail changes, which make it difficult to adopt a universal standard or specification that can be applied to the product, thus, quality assurance is greatly affected. Even, the implementation of TQM in construction is a great challenge to Japan that is often referred to as the centre for quality programmes and innovations. Thus, it is no accident that the construction industry has turned to the manufacturing sector as a point of reference and source of innovation.

The introduction of Total quality management (TQM) to the construction industry activities evolved pursuant to persistent pressure for change and improved quality in the construction industry by well-informed clients in the industry and government. However, it is pathetic that most construction services providers in the industry always review and promise their dedication to TQM principles proposed by TQM gurus like Deming, Crosby, Juran, Kaizen, and Taguchi, etc. during the conceptual stage of most construction projects, but they always fail to practically implement it effectively during the construction phase. Then, they hope on miracle of quality to happen, a situation which is pathetic, uncalled for, and unprofessional (Kabul 1994).

There is no universally accepted definition of Total Quality Management (TQM), because there are many quality gurus who gave their own definitions of TQM, some of them have been mentioned above. However, irrespective of their different definitions of the topic, the underpinning facts of all TQM definitions are customer satisfactions and getting the job done right at the first time.

TQM definition given by Haigh and Morris (2001) has been adopted for this study, because it suits the construction industry activities. It states that:

"TQM is a process which embraces the conscious striving for zero defects in all aspects of an organisation activities" (Haigh and Morris 2001).

Customer's requirements in construction projects are growlingly complex and expectations uncertain, the effective implementation of TQM will purposely help to achieve the collective goal of all parties who are involved in a project, and setting the meeting of the customer's requirements as the super ordinate goal, which can be systematically achieved. Apart from meeting the clients' requirements and all other parties in a project, TQM will help to effectively compete in the industry as most clients now give priority to quality, cost, delivery time, safety, and product development in terms of time-to-market and innovations. The successful implementation of TQM in construction is greatly depending on a culture of teamwork and cooperation among all organisational levels and other parties involved.

The achievement of the effective quality management system that the manufacturing sector always boast about can also be achieved in the construction sector by effective implementation of TQM philosophy, which this piece of work intends to enunciate.

1.2 Research Aim

The aim of this research is to examine and critically analyse Total Quality Management (TQM) used in Construction Industry, in order to discuss effective means of implementing TQM and also highlight the potential impacts of effective implemented Total Quality Management (TQM) to the construction business.

1.3 Research Objectives

To study and critically appraise rational for Total Quality Management (TQM) system used in construction industry.

To discuss the factors which affect construction quality.

To discuss a systematic approaches for effective implementation of Total Quality Management (TQM) in Construction Industry.

To highlight Potential positive impacts of effective implemented Total Quality Management (TQM) on Construction Industry business performance.

1.4 Research Hypothesis

Effective implementation of Total Quality Management (TQM), would improve construction business performance with respect to quality of construction products, budgeted cost and time off delivery, which are used as the yard stick for measuring construction project success.

1.5 Scope and Limitations

This study basically focuses on construction firms in the United Kingdom, irrespective of their size and turnover. It emphasizes on how quality management was perceived by chosen firms and the benefit they tend to derive from effective implementation of TQM.

The limitations of this study include inaccessible to require primary data from construction firms that have implemented TQM in their organisation; time constraint, which makes it difficult to develop a model for effective implementation of TQM for the construction industry, test it, and compare it with existing TQM models systematically adopted by different construction organisations within the industry.

1.6 Structure of the Thesis

Chapter 1: This chapter gives brief background information about the construction industry and how TQM is perceived in the industry, aims and objectives of the research, research hypothesis, scope and limitations of the research.

Chapter 2: This chapter presents the methodological approach and strategies to this research. Qualitative methods approach using a case study is discussed in details.

Chapter 3: This chapter discusses the concept of quality management principles, quality assurance, quality control, and factors that affects construction quality in details.

Chapter 4: This chapter would focus on the principles and concept of TQM proposed by quality gurus (Deming, Juran, Crosby, Feigenbaum, and Ishikawa). Existing structures of TQM models adopted in the construction industry, and its essential components would be critically appraised.

Chapter 5: This chapter would focus on tools and techniques used in quality management.

Chapter 6: This chapter would present how TQM can be effectively implemented to improve construction business performance. TQM potential positive impacts would also be discussed in details.

Chapter 7: This chapter would focus on case study analysis of three different construction organisations that have implemented TQM in their process of operation.

Chapter 8: This chapter would present a brief summary of the research and gives overall conclusion base on the overall knowledge gained from the study, and also make recommendations on areas that further study is required to address.



2.1 The Research Approach

A research methodology is the overall method applied to achieve the aims and objectives of a study. A systematic research approach that would specify procedures steps and tools for investigating, collecting, analysing, and interpreting required information/data is needed to guide this project from derailment from its aim and objectives.

The main purpose of this research is to discuss how TQM can be effectively implemented in construction projects and their positive impacts. In order to achieve the aims and objectives of this study, it is necessary to consider a holistic point of view on TQM of construction organisations to be investigated, because available standards requirements are expressed from a generic point of view and most organisations have their different specific ways of meeting the standards.

According to Remenyi et al. (1998), research methodology to be adopted depends on some factors, which include the area of study and the research hypothesis, i.e. the specific research question. Qualitative and quantitative approach could be adopted to investigate or study a research area. For the purpose of this study, it is important to use qualitative approach, in order to gain holistic point of view and fact from selected construction organisations that have successfully implemented TQM to their organisational activities. The processes presented below had been set to guide this work systematically throughout the period of the study.

Literature Review

Background readings about what previous researchers have written or said about TQM would be one of the sources that would reveal the trends of implementation of TQM in the construction industry. The purpose of literature review is to gain better knowledge and understanding of TQM adopted in the construction industry. Literature review will identify the wide area in which the work could be conducted, and give sufficient awareness about the current state of knowledge on the topic, reveal limitations encountered by other researchers on the topic, and help to streamline the research by limiting the scope of the research to an achievable task, and how the proposed research tends to add to what is known (Gill and Johnson 2002).

Hart (2005) conceived that a good literature review would exhibit technical competence in searching and selection of ideas; It possesses clarity of expression and systematically or logically analyses an argument of existing work, thus, relate the proposed research to existing pools of knowledge.

In addition to gaining better knowledge and understanding on the subject, secondary data could be acquired from literature review, which could be used for comparison purpose with primary collected. Articles, research papers, professional journals, magazines, textbooks, and the internet on TQM would be used to collect important information and related data, which will aid the achievement of the research purpose.

Qualitative Approach

Qualitative research approach can be used to investigate or study a research work. It could take the form of interview or/and case studies. Qualitative approach is often regarded to as explorative studies, which its purpose is not to collect specific information or data for generalisation, but to gather enough information or data for better understanding of the topic area. Explorative research using case studies on some organisations that have adopted TQM will give better understanding and impacts of effective implementation of TQM on construction projects.

2.3.1 Case Studies

Case study is regarded to as qualitative research approach, because it is an empirical enquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within the context of a particular topic. It always provides a systematic means of assessing events in depth, collecting data, analysing information and deducing meaningful conclusions. Case studies could be used to provide a description; to test a theory; and also to generate theory. Case studies of construction organisation that have implemented TQM on their construction projects would be selected for a review, data and every information gathered would be critically analysed to evaluate the impacts of effective implementation and benefits of TQM on construction projects.

According to Yin 1994, a single case study on a topic would provide a poor base for generalisation. Consequently, in my capacity to avoid bias conclusion, critical observation and in-depth study of three different cases of construction organisations that have successfully implemented TQM on their construction projects, would be reviewed and analysed to give a wider view/opinion, strengthen and validate my final conclusion.

2.3.2 Interview and Open Questionnaire

A qualitative research approach could also take the form of exploratory research through an interview, discussion and open questionnaires, which are subjective to the respondent personal opinion, perception or feelings about a topic. A structured interview could be conducted by asking questions regarding implementation and benefits of TQM on construction projects with the scope of probing responses by asking supplementary questions to obtain more details about TQM. This could probably be achieved by face-to-face or telephoning the respondent or open questionnaire, which would give the respondents the chance to write out their response, and the data or information expected to be gathered would be very helpful in proving the hypothesis of this research. However, qualitative approach method (Interview and Open Questionnaire) will not be carried-out for this study due to the time constraint associated with this research.

2.4 Conclusion and Recommendations

Assumptions and logical comments would be made from the analysed case studies, and a valid final conclusion will be drawn as regards to the analysed data with the objectives. Recommendations for future research would be proposed base on issues presented during the study.

Objective 1: To study and critically appraise rational for Total Quality Management (TQM) system used in construction industry.

Literature Review

Objective 2: To discuss the factors which affect construction quality.

Literature Review


Objective 3: To discuss systematic approach for effective implementation of Total Quality Management (TQM) in Construction Industry.

Literature Review and Case Study.

Objective 4: To highlight Potential positive impacts of effective implemented Total Quality Management (TQM) on Construction Industry business performance.

Literature Review and Case Study.

Figure 1: Research Model.



Construction industry is a competitive industry, which organizations in the market need to compete for market shares, due to the market structure that takes the form of competitive tendering, which does not allow a potential contractor or supplier of services in the market to take advantage of the market.

Oakland (1993) states that quality is probably one of the most important competitive weapons in today's unpredictable and competitive markets. Consequently, organizations in the market need to win business by using strategic weapons that would give a competitive advantage or slight competitive edge over other competitors by convincing potential customers or client that if given the chance, they would provide exact services required better than others in the market. In this respect, the introduction of Total Quality Management (TQM) on construction projects is one of the vital strategic weapons that could be used to gain competitive advantage in the industry.


'Quality' can be considered from a wide spectrum of areas, because it means different things to different people in a different context, thus, it is regarded as elusive and indistinct (Bank 2000). Even, construction quality is difficult to define base on the uniqueness of the construction end products - once built, it is irreversible, and professional backgrounds of different parties who always involve in the execution of construction projects (Chung 1999).

However, "Quality is defined as meeting fully (or exceeding) the expectations of those to whom you are providing a product or services" (Thorpe and Sumner 2001, p.3). Quality could be viewed from the aspect of the characteristics of a product or services (buildings) that bears on its ability to satisfy stated needs or a product or service (building) that conforms to requirements, i.e. free of deficiencies. It is simply described by Crosby (1984, p.59), as "conformance to requirements".

The price that potential customers are willing to pay for a construction project is always a reflection quality expectation - there is a tendency that inferior materials would be probably settled for in the case of a cheaper project and vice versa, since the aim of construction organizations in the market is to produce quality services in such a way that would enable them to achieve their own business objectives, e.g. profitability, return on investment or capital employed, and satisfying their stake holders.

Most construction organizations in the industry show their commitment to quality services by giving a quality management statement; however, the commitment to a quality management system goes beyond mere statements. Thus, standards such as ISO 9001: 2000, has been put in place to ensure that products or services meet customer requirements, with respect the end product being delivered on time, to budget, and at the agreed quality.

Commitment to quality in day-to-day business is being appealed for continually, this made the international standard organization (ISO), in their capacity to continue to update quality process performance requirements in business, e.g. the introduction of ISO 9001: 2008 to meet the continuous demand.

Figure 2: The Quality Hierarchy


A Quality Management System could be simply defined as a set of a structured system, which its aim is to direct and control an organization for continually improvement, effectiveness and efficiency of its business performance. Thorpe and Sumner (2001, P.3) define quality management system (QMS) as "a formal statement of an organization's business policy, management responsibilities, processes and their controls that affects the most effective and efficient ways to meet (or exceeds) the expectations of those it serves, whilst achieving its own prime business objectives".

According to CIRIA (1996), BS 4778 defines a QMS as the company's structure responsibilities, activities, resources and events, which provide organized procedures and method of implementation to ensure the capability of the company to meet the quality requirements expected by the customer. A Quality Management System (QMS) is seen as an element of Total Quality Management (TQM), this is the basis why Oakland (1994 p.103), defines QMS as "an assembly of components, such as the organizational structure, responsibilities, procedures, processes and resources for implementing total quality management.

Quality Management System (QMS) often takes all tasks associated with the production process from the customer's requirement (both perceived and actual) to the end product, as well as, business needs (internal and external) and objectives into consideration. It defines and ensures that methods of operations of an organization are repeatedly used as laid down by an explicit, controlled, and documented system procedure. Setting up quality management system (QMS) in organizations is very expensive. However, its importance cannot be over emphasizes, since it helps to win business from the competitive market, and assures organizations' capability to meet their customer's needs if implemented effectively.

Quality management system (QMS) adopted in the construction industry is basically implemented to:

Produce a quality construction product that will satisfy the client requirements.

Produce a construction products where quality is related to budgeted price.

Produce a construction products to be delivered on time.

Improve an efficient use of resources.

Enhance communication among project participants.

Prevent risks and reworking of tasks associated to a project.

Improve transparency and accountability in mode of operations.


Figure 3: Quality Management System - ISO 9000: 2000 Process Model


Quality Assurance (QA) is a mechanism strategizes to verify or determine that construction product or services are discharged within the concept of QMS i.e. meet or exceed customer expectations (Kietzman, 2010). This implies that it is the organisational structure, tasks and responsibilities for the implementation of quality management through a process-driven approach that considers design, development, production, and services with specific steps to help define and attain organisational goals. The goal to exceed customer expectations in a measurable and accountable process is definitely provided by quality assurance system, which verifies that customer offering is produced and offered with the best possible materials in the most comprehensive way, with the highest standards.

The introduction of Quality assurance (QA) came into limelight during the World War II due to defects that were inspected and tested in ammunition after they have been produced (Techtarget, 2010). Today, quality assurance is applied in the production processes of all economic facets to track down defects in the process of production before they get into the end product, thus, meet or exceed customer expectations.

According to Kietzman (2010), quality assurance steps is popularly determined by a tool known as 'Shewhart Cycle' or ' PDCA Cycle' developed by Dr. Edward W. Deming, which consists of four steps:

Plan: Establish objectives and processes required to deliver the desired result;

Do: Implement the process developed and measure its performance;

Check: Monitor and evaluate the implemented process by testing the results against the predetermined objectives; and

Act: Apply actions necessary for improvement if the results require changes.


Figure 4: The Deming Wheel / Shewhart Cycle (or PDCA Cycle)

Quality assurance required a high level of detail in its steps for effective implementation. PDCA is an effective step to monitor quality assurance by analysing existing conditions and methods used to produce product or services required by the customer.

Its primary aim is to ensure that excellence is inherent in every component of the production process, and the repeating of PDCA cycle throughout the lifetime of a product or services helps to improve a company internal efficiency (Kietzman, 2010). For example, planning step may involve investigation of construction materials quality to be used; checking may include customer feedback, surveys etc to ascertain whether customer needs or requirements are being exceeded, and considering answering the questions why they are or why they are not and acting could probably involve a total revision in the construction process in order to correct any technical flaw.


Figure 5: Quality Assurance System


Quality control is a mechanism strategized to ensure that products or services to be delivered meet certain level of quality (Madison, 2010). Quality control (QC) activities involve necessary actions embarked upon by organisations for the control and verification of certain characteristics of a product or service for certain minimum levels of quality. The primary aim of quality control is to ensure that products, services or processes provided meet specific requirements and are dependable, satisfactory, and fiscally sound (Madison, 2010).

Quality control (QC) and quality assurance (QA) are often confused with each other, though the two are similar, however, there are basic differences. Quality control is concerned with the product or services by evaluating the product, activities, process, or services, while quality assurance is process-oriented primarily designed to make sure processes are sufficient to meet pre-determined objectives.

In nutshell, quality assurance ensures that a product or service is manufactured, implemented, created, or produced in the right way; while quality control evaluates whether or not the end result is satisfactory.

Quality control in construction is always a great concern to construction organisations because defects or failure in part or wholly in a construction projects could be costly due to re-construction that would probably lead to increased in cost of executing the project, and delays that would affect delivery time. Thus, conformance to quality specified during the preliminary stages of design for component configuration, material specifications and functional performance must be strictly adhered to. With the attention to conformance as the measure of quality during the construction process, the specification of quality requirements in the design and contract documentation becomes extremely important.

According to Hendrickson and Au (1998), Quality requirements should be clear and verifiable, so that all parties in the project can understand the requirements for conformance.

Quality control in construction activities is not limited to construction products or services alone, but also the people, base on the fact that construction industry activities are human intensive. Thus, success in the industry is partly depend on the quality of professionals, whether skilled or unskilled participating in the industry. When quality control is considered in terms of human beings, it concerns correctable issues; however, it should not be confused with human resource issues.

Quality control team is always set-up to administer production process and identify products or services that do not meet a company's specified standard quality. However, it is not the responsibility of quality control team to correct quality issues, there are designated professionals to discover the cause of quality issues and fix them appropriately. Some of the construction quality control inspection activities include:

Setting the quality standard or quality of design required by client.

Ensure high quality construction materials are used.

Planning how to achieve the required quality, construction methods, equipments, materials and personnel to be employed.

Construct the building right first time by ensuring that architect plans and engineers requirement are followed correctly.

Correct any quality deficiencies through designated skill personnel.

Provide for long term quality control through establishing systems and developing a quality culture.

Produce maintenance and defects lists for repair.


Figure 6: Quality Control System


The introduction of Quality Management System (QMS) approach in the construction industry has been dated back to 1979, initially due to the requirements on nuclear power stations (Thorpe and Sumner 2001). Most organizations in the industry fashioned their individual QMS to suit their practice, until the advent of the ISO 9001: 2000, which provide unified standards for QMS approach in the industry, thus, many construction organizations have now converted their QMS's by making necessary adjustment to meet the requirement of ISO 9001: 2000.

Low and Goh (1996) stated that there are numerous factors that have effect on the quality of construction end products, some of which are ranked in their order of importance:

Low tender prices that trigger poor workmanship by the contractor.

Discrepancies in working drawings and specifications, which always result in poor construction co-ordination.

Contractor's attitude to giving priority to time schedule and budgeted cost than the quality of the construction work.

Poor co-ordination among the contractors, the subcontractor, and the nominated subcontractors.

Design 'Buildability' problems from the designer - lack of special construction methods to achieve the tight tolerance caused by site constraints.

Lack of proper planning and work control by the contractor - lacking skills to provide the construction end product in accordance with the design and specification given.

Unrealistic time frame by the client and its consultant.

Unsatisfactory of relevant codes and standard by the design.

Poor materials specifications that do not satisfy the standards or the Building Control Authority.

Absence of quality control system on construction work.

Conclusively, the quality of construction work is greatly dependent on the attitude of the contractors and consultants. Hence, it is imperative to adopt a 'Total Quality Approach' in all construction projects in order to eliminate all factors that could have adverse effect on the quality of construction end product.

Thorpe and Sumner (2001) took critical evaluation of quality control problems or challenges being experienced or faced by the construction industry to be:

What sort of quality objectives is appropriate? - problems of response time to customer queries, design changes request; delivery on time, to budget and at the agreed quality; reduction in accident; and reduction in internal failure or rework.

How can quality objectives be communicated and implemented? - problems of effective briefing of staff to cascade down the quality objectives desired; identifying timescale to achieve agreed targets; developing suitable indicators to measure against.

How do we gather information on customer's views, which will enable organizations to evaluate both satisfaction and dissatisfaction, thus, providing a measure of QMS performance? - problems of obtaining feedback from customers; feedback reports from staff; complaints; warranty claims; inspection and audit reports from customer; cancelled work; and market surveys.

How do we implement a procedure for prevention actions? - Problem of identifying what to prevent during the pre-construction and construction stages e.g. accident, waste materials etc.

This research work would extensively discuss how most of these problems encountered in the construction industry could be effectively and efficiently managed for the purpose of overall business performance in the industry.