How Digital Transformation in Construction is Driving Quality Assurance
By John Biggs
When it comes to construction projects, quality is king. A recent Procore poll found that production teams spend close to 30 hours a week on quality assurance, a figure that rises to as much as 70 hours for large businesses.
Falling short on quality expectations can result in time-consuming rework due to issues discovered too late, or faulty builds that can result in dissatisfied clients, or worse, present potential safety issues to occupants. To help ensure the highest quality work at every step of the construction process, companies are leveraging digital transformation to support their quality assurance outcomes and build better business models.
These and other pressing topics around using digital transformation to improve and streamline quality assurance were the subject of a recent webinar, Three Ways Digital Transformation is Driving Quality Assurance, hosted by Will Twomey, Senior Manager of Solutions Consulting for Procore. He was joined by Steve Boulos, Head of Operations for Piety Group; Emile Cloete, Digital Lead of Construction for Woollam; and Martin Davies, Quality Manager for Martinus Rail.
Examining the Now
Companies know the importance of quality assurance, and have taken steps to examine their current processes for potential areas of improvement.
“Twelve months ago the business made a decision that we needed to get better in [quality assurance], so we employed a full-time quality manager to digitise our ITPs and QA system. We also went ahead and invested in iPads for all of our foremen and site engineers to make the transition easier for our staff,” said Piety Group’s Steve Boulos.
“The company has invested a lot in this field, so we needed to ensure that we provided the right training and communicate what we hope to achieve as a result of digitising this process. What we found is that foremen and site engineers are now using these initiatives on their own and not having to be prompted in getting out there and completing these forms with our subcontractors.”
Founded in 1884, Woollam has a storied history in construction, and a strong reputation it’s keen on preserving over its next 100 years.
“In the context of quality assurance, it was really essential to align business planning with the outlook for the next 100 years to make sure our processes, and particularly our digital processes, are able to deliver that same quality assurance. The best way we can do that is to really get that information out of our digital ecosystem and to feed that back into how we build,” said Woollam’s Emile Cloete.
Martinus Rail works on some of Australia’s largest railway infrastructure projects, so digitising key processes has made a “massive impact” on how the company does business, according to the company’s Martin Davies.
“When you’ve got a lot of people coming in, they’re all bringing forms and systems from previous companies to projects, which can go rogue quite quickly. When you digitise processes, you find you have a lot more control. So in terms of bringing people in from different backgrounds and being able to control the inputs and outputs system, it’s made a massive impact on the way we do business,” he said.
“When you digitise processes, you find you have a lot more control… it’s made a massive impact on the way we do business.”
How Technology Plays a Role
Critical to implementing any new technology is getting workers at all levels on board. A recent Procore quality industry poll found 46% of respondents find it difficult to have staff comply with new digital processes, and 41% of site managers said they don’t know how the information they collect is being used.
“That was at the forefront of our thinking last year,” said Boulos.
“We didn’t want to impose a whole new system because the staff will just get overburdened and overwhelmed, so it was a step-by-step process. Arming site teams with iPads to work off Procore ensures they’re working with the right drawings, the right specifications, but also using the digital forms that have been set up. We’re finding the engineers and foremen are being proactive now, which saves them time because they’re not carrying around forms and having to figure out which form is for which subbie, etc.”
Cloete pointed to the importance of giving workers a chance to adapt to new technologies, and listening to feedback when it comes to such rollouts.
“There’s a limited appetite for some of this digital change. I think we’ve got to be open to getting that feedback and adjusting the pace at which we deliver it,” he said.
Davies echoed Cloete’s point, emphasising the importance of having people on the team who are enthusiastic enough about the changes that they’re willing to shepherd those who are more reluctant.
“There are some people out there who have a very limited reception to those digital processes, and everyone’s keen to get those champions in to pilot those schemes. I think it’s important to have the dinosaurs in there as well, you need that varied feedback to get a full picture,” he said.
The Procore Journey
Cloete said Woollam underwent a digital audit to examine their digital leadership and governance, working closely with Procore and an external consultant to look at levels of utilisation within the platform.
“When we started our Procore journey it was more of a standard deployment. What we were looking to do is understand which tools, users, and roles were in engaging with the platform in a particular way. One element that stood out was that the platform is under-utilised. It was deemed a critical part of our process, but there was an opportunity there to increase utilisation. We aligned our core roles within the company with Procore’s certification tool and went through a process where we tried to get everybody trained in a role-specific manner,” he said.
“You’ve got to work with people. There’s a rate of change and an appetite for change, particularly digital change, which is really important to take on board,” he added.
The Big Three
Transparency, communication, and consistency are the three main stool legs supporting quality assurance efforts, and digitising these elements results in higher quality across the board, particularly when it comes to juggling multiple projects.
“For us, consistency is key. If you’ve got every project doing something different, it’s very difficult to draw that data in and look at trends you need to analyse. So the system needs to have that flexibility to add project-specific questions, and Procore does that very well. If you’re not getting consistent information, you’re not getting the full picture,” says Davies.
“For us, consistency is key… So the system needs to have that flexibility to add project-specific questions, and Procore does that very well. If you’re not getting consistent information, you’re not getting the full picture.”
Rework is a consistent threat to project schedules and companies’ bottom lines, and digitisation is helping companies reduce or eliminate entirely this budget-busting obstacle.
“What we’ve noticed over the last year rolling out digital forms and using technology to improve our QA system is that we’re identifying problems much earlier. Any construction site has issues, but we’re able to capture those issues early so we’re not going back and ripping up completed works; we’re finding the issues earlier, so we can deal with the issues earlier,” said Boulos.◾️
Originally published at https://www.procore.com on June 6, 2021.