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How effective are corrective actions in the construction industry

The effectiveness of corrective action in the construction industry

Progress indicator

How effective are corrective actions in the construction industry
Published: 15 Feb 2024

K. Amarnath takes a look at the effectiveness of corrective actions, especially in the construction industry where tackling nonconformities is a never-ending challenge.

Over the past few decades, the construction sector has undergone significant changes. Meeting clients’ expectations, handling agile situations, working within tight schedules, upgrading technology, and collaborating with various stakeholders have all been a constant challenge for the workforce.

Effective quality management – especially managing nonconformities – is crucial in all stages of a project, right from initial design and planning through to workmanship.

Nonconformities are an inevitable part of construction. Their number and frequency are largely influenced by a shortage of skilled personnel; a lack of coordination between design, engineering, and actual execution; and the planning and the carrying out of activities by untrained professionals.

Once the root cause of a nonconformity is traced – using standard procedures such as the 5 Whys and the Fishbone Diagram – corrective actions can be taken to ensure they don’t happen again. Such corrective actions provide a structured approach for identifying and eliminating the underlying causes, but, if they are not effective, then this can significantly impact construction progress, product delivery, and cash flow, potentially leading the project in an undesirable direction.

Ensuring effectiveness

There are many ways we can improve the effectiveness of corrective actions:

  1. Check to see if similar nonconformities or root causes reoccur, over a period of at least six months.
  2. Conduct internal audits on the same processes and tasks that led to the nonconformity.
  3. Review the findings of external and client audits.
  4. Analyse management walk reports and quality surveillance/observation/walk reports.
  5. Consider customer feedback and service evaluations to ensure that they do not highlight similar issues that led to non-conformities.

In the construction industry, one of the reasons that corrective actions might not be effective is the large level of disorganisation in many parts of the world. This is because of factors such as the perceived quality of construction, competency levels in the region, and monetary concerns.

Other actors that can potentially hinder the effectiveness of corrective actions are:

  1. Inadequate communication or awareness of the corrective action among process owners, for example, engineers, foremen, and so on.
  2. Changes in equipment or personnel.
  3. Competency of personnel involved in the operations.
  4. Failure to incorporate or update applicable procedures, drawings, method statements and inspection test plans.
  5. Lack of training for staff on revised SOPs, method statements, and inspection test plans.
  6. Gaps in planning and execution of works.

"In the construction industry, one of the reasons that corrective actions might not be effective is the large level of disorganisation."

K. Amarnath, Quality Assurance Quality Control Engineer, KEO International Quality Consultants

Application of PDCA to corrective actions

Deming's Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) cycle is a useful tool to ensure that corrective actions are effective and helps prevent the recurrence of non-conformities. It has four stages:

Plan: In this stage, appropriate corrective actions are planned to address the root cause of the identified issue.

Do: The planned corrective actions are implemented in this stage. This may include training, induction, revision of drawings, procedures, and other related tasks.

Check: The effectiveness of the corrective actions is assessed using the above-mentioned methodologies.

Act: If any of the corrective actions are found to be ineffective, the causes or attributes that made them ineffective are investigated. The corrective actions are then revised or amended accordingly.

Preventing reoccurrence

There are several things we can do to help prevent non-conformities from happening again.

  1. Ensure all members of the project team, including newly appointed or replaced personnel up to the foreman/supervisor level, are inducted early for the project’s quality requirements.
  2. Conduct a training-needs assessment, establish a training plan, and put in place a robust system to monitor it. This may include special training on NCR awareness and its impact.
  3. Provide on-the-job training for specialist work, such as repairing, waterproofing, welding, and painting.
  4. Carry out statistical analysis of the root causes of the non-conformities and discuss them in management meetings.
  5. Establish realistic key performance indicators to measure NCRs and their attributes.
  6. Plan QMS audits/construction practice audits to assess non-conformities.
  7. Ensure that the latest SOPs/operational documents are updated in the server/library and accessible to the project team up to the supervisory roles.
  8. 8. Record lessons learned and share them with the project team for better awareness.

In conclusion, it is vital to identify the underlying causes of non-conformities and take appropriate actions to address them in order to ensure successful project delivery.

By implementing effective corrective measures, the recurrence of issues can be prevented, which not only keeps the project on track, but also prevents financial losses, poor performance indicators, and reputational damage to the organisation.

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