A construction quality management system - why do you need one?

By Georgia Galloway | 3 May, 2022 | 8 minute read

There are many different benefits to using a construction management system.

One of the main reasons it's so beneficial is that it can help you stay organised throughout all stages of your construction projects.

Three construction contractors in front of a Taylor Wimpey new build property plot review their project tasks via construction quality software on a tablet device.

This increased organisation includes helping you allocate resources effectively, coordinate activities with others, and manage tasks on time.

Additionally, having a construction quality management system in place makes it easier to keep track of the progress of your project and ensure that everything stays on time and in budget.

What are the benefits of better quality management in the construction industry?

Briefly, here are some of the key benefits that better quality can bring:

  • Your main contractors expect it.
  • It reduces customer care costs.
  • It increases the likelihood of the site winning NHBC awards.
  • It increases your reputation, gaining more work at better prices.
  • It makes you more efficient and can reduce costly mistakes.
  • Increases consistency.

What is Total Quality Management?

The term 'Total Quality Management' doesn't necessarily mean to assure 'good quality' but is a more general definition to ensure that a company can deliver 'a consistent level' of project quality. 

Many businesses aren't aware of all the individual processes that form Total Quality Management and, as such, may only do one or two elements of it. The problem here is that an incomplete process usually results in unexpected or uncontrollable outcomes. 

Some businesses inaccurately label their Total Quality Management as 'Quality Control', but this may confuse your staff, your main contractors or other stakeholders, so it's always best to try and use the correct terminology where possible.

Total Quality Management is a 4 part process.

The four key quality management processes used in Quality Management are: 

  1. Quality Planning
  2. Quality Control
  3. Quality Assurance 
  4. Quality Improvement

Total Quality Management focuses on every part of quality in your business. From how you identify what you should be doing, tracking what your staff are doing, reviewing how they are doing it, defining what products or tools they use and how you manage the whole process to achieve a consistent level of quality.

What is Quality Planning?

Quality Planning is the set of activities that define your quality policies, objectives, and requirements to explain how these policies will be applied, how these objectives will be achieved, and how these requirements will be met.

Here's an example:

If your main contractor wants to reduce faults in a specific area, perhaps to reduce customer care costs, then you need to know what areas the causes are. Once you understand the reasons and the areas the main contractors need you to focus on, you can plan how you will meet those needs.

What is Quality Control?

Quality Control is the ongoing effort to maintain the integrity of a process to maintain the reliability of achieving an outcome. It's all about making sure you've got a process that works. 

Here's an example:

To ensure your contract managers are inspecting the correct number of subcontractors across the right number of plots, you need to review it periodically. You also need to ensure that communicating issues with your staff is effective so that the process is working. These are the processes that control your quality outcomes.

What is Quality Assurance?

Quality Assurance is the consistent, planned actions and activities necessary to provide enough confidence that your service will satisfy the given requirements. Quality Assurance is the 'doing' part of the quality process.

Here's an example:

To ensure your staff are completing their work accurately, you will need to inspect their work and relay information back to the subcontractor for them to rectify the problem. These are the activities in which you ensure your quality control is working.

What is Quality Improvement?

Quality Improvement is the purposeful change of a process to improve the reliability of achieving an outcome.

Here's an example:

What happens when you realise something doesn't work? You change it. Perhaps you've identified a problem with materials; they could be simply the wrong or substandard materials used on a site. Maybe it's due to a main contractor's supply chain and not your fault, but it will be your problem if you don't try to improve it as it directly impacts your quality.

If you don't have a process for communicating a materials issue with your main contractor, then you need to improve that. A quality improvement would be to ensure you can identify potential material issues, agree with your main Contractor on how you will communicate this in the future, and then do it. 

Quality Assurance Program 

This procedure aims to outline your company's construction Quality Assurance program. This procedure will give an overview of the program, describing overall responsibilities, areas to be covered by the program and a general list of criteria that will be used to determine when this QA program will be needed.

The process is simple:

  1. Plan 
  2. Implement
  3. Monitor
  4. Feedback
  5. Report

To implement your Quality Assurance program, you'll need two supporting documents: Company Quality Standards & Main Contractor Specific Quality Standards. Templates of these documents are supplied. 

1. Your Company Quality Standards 

How do you want your staff to do things at your company? Write a document explaining how you want your staff to work to ensure a consistent approach to their work. If you don't write it down and communicate this to them, they won't know. 

Examples might be: Always read and understand the 'Main Contractor Specific Quality Standards' before commencing work on site. Ensure you clean your work area before you leave. Always use a nail gun in preference to a hammer.

2. Main Contractor Specific Quality Standards

How do your main contractors want your staff to do things on their sites? Suppose the main contractors haven't provided a Quality Standards document to you. In that case, it's your responsibility to write a document explaining the leading contractor's specific basics of how you want your staff to work to ensure a consistent approach. Again, if you don't write it down and communicate this to your team, they won't know.

Examples might be: On Taylor Wimpey Sites, ensure you space the noggins 120m apart. On Barratt Homes Sites, ensure protective coverings on all doors.

Quality Planning

Consider the main contractor's quality requirements.

  • Consider what you have done for them before on similar projects.
  • Consider what we have done for other main contractors and what, if anything, is relevant to this project.
  • Consider what else you should do for them on this project.

Confirm expectations with the main contractor.

  • Confirm with the main contractor the quality scope.
  • Confirm how you will communicate quality issues with the main contractor.
  • Confirm who all points of contact are.
  • Confirm what reports are required and how often they will be communicated.

Establish how to implement the quality requirements.

  • Establish how and when you will communicate any quality requirements to your contract managers. 
  • Establish how and when you will communicate any quality requirements to your staff.
  • Establish how and when your contract managers will monitor quality. Consider how frequently they'll complete full audits, or will it be spot inspections only targeting key areas of concern? 
  • Create a list detailing all the causes of problems that interrupt or stop you from being able to manage your quality. This list will be a document to be added to over time as and when you find new problems to overcome. It's important to remember that even when you can't do anything to avoid the interruption, simply 'knowing' it's a problem means you can be better prepared to deal with the inevitable outcomes.
  • Now on the same list, describe how best to resolve each problem, including who needs to be told and in what time frame. Ensure these answers are available to anyone who may need them. 

Who's in charge?

Decide who will be responsible for managing the Quality Assurance programme in your company and who's their second in command if they're unavailable. 

Quality Control

Checking the checking! 

You need to know that any process will take time to perfect, but having one in the first place is the first step. The great thing about a quality control process is that once you have one, you can improve it, adapt it to suit new situations or throw it away and start again if it doesn't work.

But how will you know if it doesn't work? Document issues with your quality process using a simple Excel file called the Quality Process Log. (quality-process-log.xlsx) 

Quality Assurance

Quality Inspection 

It would be best to audit plots consistently to identify your quality standard. Spot checks should only be used when your quality is already at a good level and when you only need a 'light touch' to your quality management style. Until you've reached that good level of quality, you'll need to inspect a fixed number of plots regularly.

How many plots and how regularly depends on how important you deem good quality to be, how important your main contractors deem it to be, how many previous quality issues you've had, your available resources and what you've agreed to do with the main contractor. 

It's crucial when auditing plots that you record key details you inspect so you have proof of your activity should the main contractor require it. The key information for each includes: Date Of Visit, Time Of Visit, Site, Plot Number, Fix, Inspection Item, Any Issues Identified, Subcontractor Responsible, Whether The Issue Is A Customer Care Risk, Health & Safety Risk or NHBC Recordable Item Risk & Actions Required. 

If the subcontractor is working in the plot you're auditing, you should still record the issue as above, but it makes sense to ask the subcontractor to rectify the problem there and then. 

Quality Analysis 

Once you have a list of issues, you need to take action to resolve them, and the first step is to analyse the inspection data you've collected. The best place to do this is in the office. 

You can take two approaches when analysing your inspection data. Firstly, filter your reports to identify the most critical issues and aim to resolve those first and then methodically go through all the other non-critical problems.

Tip: Plan your Quality Analysis into a calendar so it becomes a regular activity, as tackling it in bite-size chunks is much easier to keep on top of. Depending on your company size, you may want to do this daily or weekly.


So you know what's happening on your sites, great, but without providing consistent feedback to your staff, they won't know what they need to rectify. It's not just about fixing quality issues, either. This systematic approach to managing your staff allows you to enhance their understanding of what your company requires and ultimately builds you a better construction team.

The process for this is as follows:

  • Feedback.

Tell the subcontractor the issue as quickly as possible whilst it's fresh in their mind.

  • Ownership.

Agree with the staff that they must take ownership of informing you when they have completed the issue. Explain to them that everyone's job relies on consistent quality, and you need them to help you help them.

  • Check

Ensure you are checking the quality of the issues rectified. Do not relax this checking process too quickly; everyone must understand that this is how we do things here. 


The hard work is now done, and you're managing your quality more effectively. Don't be fooled; there will also be a couple of surprises, especially when you realise your quality may not have been as good as expected. That's ok.

Don't panic; your main contractors aren't stupid, and they know your company makes mistakes, as does everyone, but it's how you rectify your errors that you'll be judged on.

You can only improve if you know where you need to improve.

Main contractors will respect you for taking the time to implement your quality control process; they may not say it, but they will think it.

The contractors who improve build quality, reduce customer care costs, help win awards and ultimately sell more houses are more likely to win more tenders regarding quality.

Don't forget the staff either, without them you wouldn't be able to build anything. Praise goes a long way to reinforce what they are doing right, and targets go a long way to raise their game when they don't meet your standards.

Reports allow you to relay the information you've been gathering back to main contractors and staff in a straightforward and easy-to-understand way.

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