May 2014

"Quality and the Consultant - a client's view"


The concept of "Success Factors" was developed by D. Ronald Daniel of McKinsey & Company in 1961.  Critical Success Factor (CSF) is the term for an element that is necessary for an organization or project to achieve its mission.  Michael Ellegood, PE, Contributing Writer, PSMJ Resources, provides a Critical Success Factor teachable moment as guest author this month.  Use the following quality control CSF's to successfully meet your professional practice mission. 

In the world of the client, the Critical Success Factors (CSF's) of most projects can be summed up in a single sentence:  "Deliver the needed capital project on time, on budget with a quality that meets the needs of the stakeholders and with no unresolved issues."  Translating the first two of these CSF's into measurable objectives this means that construction cost growth must be less than 5% of the initial construction contract amount (a measure of design quality) and the project must be delivered on or before the construction contract completion date. (The quality CSF in this context relates more about the features and components of the project rather than the quality of the design, the quality CSF has more to do with the ultimate acceptance of the project by the user than fundamental design quality). 

Using this definition as a starting point, design quality its most often reflected in construction cost growth.  Simply put, design errors translate into construction change orders and claims.  Many clients claim these design related costs against the design firm others simply make a note not to hire this firm again.  In either case, the firm loses. 

Here are some common causes of design error: 

  • Unchecked plans:  The client is trying to make a bid date, the consultant is out of budget and time and so the consultant assembles the plans in haste and "hopes for the best".  This is usually reflected at the interface between disciplines; the HVAC interferes with the structure.  (This is a significant source of problems in design and is very common - it causes the client to be the QC program of last resort.) 
  • Survey Issues:  In this day of GPS and sophisticated survey tools, it is amazing how many construction claims can be traced to survey busts.  While the causes vary from differing datums, missing or relocated bench marks and just plain errors.
  • Poor work by a sub:  Design is often sub contracted from prime consultant to one or more subs.  Too often, the subs work is not checked by the prime.  Their flawed work is integrated into the prime's plan assembly and construction claims result.
  • Field conditions differ from design assumptions:  We design in the office, the facility is built in the field - a very different world and a world that changes over time. 

How to avoid these issues: 

  •  Check your plans!  The client is not the QC program of last resort.  The client often does not even have the capability to check your plans.  They should not have to.  Pay particular attention to where the disciplines interface.  Expect errors to occur.
  •  Be careful of the survey!  Hire a qualified firm, one that stands behind their work.  On field reviews, locate the benchmarks every time you go to the field.
  • Check the work of the subs.  Remember you are responsible for their work - don't assume it is correct.  In the words of a former President, "Trust...but verify."
  • Field check the plans.  Check at the start of the project, check during the project and make a final check just before the project is to go to bid.  Take the entire project delivery team to the field - a construction inspector will look at a project through a different prism than a traffic engineer whose view is different than the drainage engineer.

Check, check, check for quality!  How often do you check your professional credentials, their requirements (Have they changed?), their fees (Have they increased?), your expiration dates (Ooops, did your license lapse?), all because you are stuck in the 20th century using "status quo" methods for tracking and managing your licenses and professional affiliations.  A Critical Success Factor for managing your credentials would be to update to a more cost effective secure credentials management service.  Visit AECredentialing.com for more information.  Sign up now!

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