Quality control programs will reduce warranty risk

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Across many industries and building types, the pace of construction projects is increasing due to the high demand for new space.

Without a strict plan for quality control and assurance, accelerating the construction process can lead to mistakes and costly warranty work. Repairs following a building opening can be expensive, disruptive and, in many cases, difficult to accomplish. Reducing warranty calls through a systematic approach to quality control is good for the building owner, the contractor and the trades.

Training is key. Some of the best training any company can utilize is from its own team members. A recent survey of our employees showed most of our seasoned workforce desire opportunities to pass along their skills to the next generation. The combined years of experience within our trade divisions is staggering. Internally, we have access to a wealth of knowledge, which is an invaluable resource. Actively supporting training and mentorship to educate the next generation should be encouraged by employers. There is no better training ground than the ever-changing environment of an active construction site. Teaching real-time, hands-on training from one team member to another is a critical part of any quality management program.

For smaller companies with fewer employees, internal resources and trainers, other opportunities for skilled trade professionals can be found through external training and education. For example, the Associated Builders and Contractors Western Michigan Chapter offers great training opportunities that range from skilled trades to leadership development. Training opportunities will grow significantly over the next several years with the opening of the West Michigan Construction Institute.

Training and education also should be dovetailed with a strict program for quality management. As the old saying goes, “things that get measured get done.” Our quality standards manual (QSM) guides project teams through critical “pre-start” meetings for major milestones on construction projects.

For example, before beginning concrete foundations, a mandatory meeting is hosted by the project manager for the field manager, concrete foreman, batch plant representative, architect, structural engineer, testing agent, building owner and affected trades. At this meeting, a checklist is reviewed that covers everything from site conditions, mix designs, concrete psi, needed reinforcement and embeds, the pour sequence and so forth. These meetings, which can be as quick as 30 minutes, can save thousands of dollars and hours of costly mistakes. The tradeoff of time dedicated to the front end is well worth the savings down the road.

The other component of the QSM, which reduces warranty risk, is baseline specifications for building systems. Ultimately, the architect and engineer are responsible for specifying building materials and details, but contractors are responsible for means and methods. In other words, the architects show us what to build, but we are responsible for pulling it together. In the absence of specific details or specifications, EV Construction has worked with industry leaders to create a baseline for how common systems should be assembled. For instance, we use industry-standard spacing for drywall expansion joints in the absence of specific details from our designers. This guards against unsightly cracking and annoying repairs in the future.

Finally, an effective quality control program should include input from professionals. Building systems continue to get more and more complicated as designers push building designs further and building codes become more stringent. Gather input from trades, vendors and industry experts. Before a project begins, ask for input from your trades on the schedule. Secure “buy-in” from the teams that will do the installation. For many systems to perform as designed, time is a constraint. Take the feedback seriously or you could be left spending more on a warranty repair.

Over the past seven years, EV Construction steadily has decreased our annual warranty costs. In 2021 our warranty repairs will equal just .0001% of annual revenue. We attribute this decrease in warranty expense to the men and women who oversee our field operations, the trades supporting our projects around the country and employing the tactics shared above. In the fast-paced world of modern construction, contractors are most efficient when they can quickly move from one project to another. Revisiting projects for warranty repairs is inefficient and expensive. Teams, including our architects, engineers and building owners, all can work together to avoid these issues through active management of quality throughout the project.

EV Construction has received numerous industry accolades, which include being named to the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) 2019 List of National Top Performers, winning the ABC Safety Pinnacle Award in 2018 and the ABC Safety Excellence Award in 2017, and being a two-time winner of the Michigan Contractor of the Year award through the American Subcontractors Association of Michigan.

The firm also has been named nationally as a “Best and Brightest Company to Work For” 12 years in a row, even winning the coveted “Best of the Best for a mid-sized company” award. Founded in 1945, the company recently celebrated 75 years in business.

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