How to get QA right

  • September 18, 2023

PlusCon partner with tier 1 and 2 constructors to work on the structural shell of buildings, specialising in concrete & carpentry. First introduced to CONQA on a Ryman Healthcare project, where the digital Quality Assurance (QA) system was stipulated in the tender, PlusCon upgraded from paper-based checklists and became excellent users of the platform. We caught up with Iain Chapman, Construction Director, about their journey so far.

“We think of quality as an end to end process. People talk mostly about Quality Control, as opposed to a QA system. Before CONQA we were trying to get the paper checklists out there as quickly as we could, to actually do the checks at the right time, but obviously that’s very difficult to manage.” says Iain.

Now that the QA requirement is easier for his team to manage, and with the ability to upload photos, Iain benefits from reliable record keeping. “I can quite comfortably sign off on the work. As a business we can stand behind that quality, and having that confidence actually means we don’t need to lean on the records much. There’s no head-scratching moment, we know we’re fine because we can find out how the work was closed out and who approved it- through that we get a lot of cost recovery.”

And while typically the site foreman or manager is running QA, with a simplified system like CONQA, that everyone can access on their phone in real time, Pluscon are empowering more staff to take responsibility for quality. “We’ve had instances of delegating QA to an apprentice and it’s worked really well. Often with quality, if it’s the same person inspecting the work who’s undertaken the work, any issue is contained and easily remediated. And if there’s a genuine variation, they’ll be able to explain it or reference it there and then, closing the loop.”

More engagement with quality processes prevents errors. “We had a moment working on a floor slab where a foreman noticed the DPM (damp proof membrane) called for was a lot thicker and used a different type of tape than we were expecting. We would’ve put the whole thing on, reinforcing steel on top, and it wouldn’t have been until the very end that we realised it was wrong. QA is as simple as that- understanding your spec, your drawings, what we priced for, what needs to happen.”

And completing the checks as you go, with photo evidence in a centralised system, makes it much easier to quickly understand what an issue actually is and how to fix it. Iain shares an example of a fire door not working correctly: “we can trace back and see that the stops were causing the issue, and fix those directly. Up to that point everything else was done perfectly: the installing, the fire sealant, the margins were all fine. It immediately breaks it down into a smaller problem.”

Clearly, PlusCon have driven a great culture internally around quality and are not afraid to use ‘Fails’ to flag issues in CONQA, address them, and then provide the final pass to prove the good work done. “We all make mistakes, we learn from them and move on. We’re strict on very costly mistakes or any safety risk but otherwise we don’t see a ‘Fail’ as a terrible thing. Because we control quality in CONQA, there are even times where we open ourselves up to experimenting with new methodologies- a recent example of this was successful and instantly increased our margin by 20%.”

For PlusCon, a tech-enabled toolbelt of various point solutions like CONQA designed for a specialised purpose (such as quality, safety, labour productivity) works well. “The best part about CONQA has been setting up the checklists in the way we look at work, not some generic thing with language we wouldn’t use.”

The efficiencies gained from the technology support Iain’s ambitions: “We’ve been in business for about 2 years now and have had a large growth trajectory. I’m motivated to be able to step up and deliver on anything the client puts forward. But given the stage we’re in, we never have the back of house staff we need. That’s where CONQA comes to the fore. You spend a bit of time upfront and then give it a red hot go. Given the takeup from the team, we’re now self-sufficient and able to build our QA program on the go as projects come on.”

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