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Well-planned quality control helps alternative project delivery methods succeed

April 28, 2021

By Vinay Polepalli

A rigorous quality control and quality assurance program helps infrastructure projects achieve the highest quality

Alternative project delivery (APD) methods are gaining wide acceptance. To support these projects, it’s essential to develop and implement a well-thought-out design quality management system. That system is crucial for the successful delivery of design phase of APD projects.

Typically, APD project teams consist of several design firms with diverse qualifications and experiences. This teaming arrangement can create a challenge to achieve quality in project delivery. The solution is developing a quality management system, including a design quality management plan (DQMP). This system must be shared with the entire project delivery team during the early stages of the project development to help achieve quality from the onset.

To achieve quality during the design phase of a project, the design quality manager must develop thorough quality management (QM) processes and procedures that includes quality control (QC) and quality assurance (QA). These processes are designed to subject the different aspects of a project to intense checks, backchecks, corrections, verifications, independent technical reviews, and quality audits.  Below is an overview of QC and QA—the two major components of a typical design quality plan. 

The design quality manager must develop thorough quality management processes and procedures to achieve quality during the design phase of a project.

Quality control

QC involves subjecting the project deliverables to a thorough checking, backchecking, correcting, and verification process. Typically, the design team lead of the package submits the documents to the identified checkers for a detailed inspection. Checkers relay their comments to the design team lead. The lead backchecks the documents and responds to the checkers’ comments. This back and forth between the lead and the checkers removes errors during the initial stages of the project.

After resolving the comments, the documents are forwarded to the technician for corrections. Eventually, a verifier confirms that all the comments are addressed. This completes the internal QC. Various milestone submittals―such as interim, released for construction, and as-builts―are subject to different levels of QC intensity. Earlier submittals are subjected to the highest level of scrutiny.

In addition to the internal QC, inter-discipline checks (IDCs) are performed to solicit comments from a variety of the APD team discipline leads, including the contractor. The goal is to identify and address any potential issues with one discipline’s design impacting another discipline’s design. Any IDC comments are addressed by the design delivery team. This collaboration eliminates potential issues prior to submitting the documents to the client for their review and approval—and helps avoid potential claims later.

As a next step to the internal QC, independent technical reviews are performed by subject matter experts who are not involved in the project development. The goal is comments from experts who bring a fresh perspective. The comments generated by these reviews are addressed and quality documents are saved for future use.

Quality control involves subjecting the project deliverables to a thorough checking, backchecking, correcting, and verification process.

Quality assurance

After the QC step, the process moves into quality assurance. QA processes and procedures are applied during this step. QA staff audit the project packages to confirm that the delivery team has executed all QC steps and addressed the comments. Any comments generated during the audit are shared with the design team lead who will then take the actions to correct issues. The QA team further documents the nonconformance episodes and communicates them to the project manager, with the goal of eliminating them in the future.

For example, on a design-build project for the Bridging Kentucky Program, Stantec’s team includes several consulting firms. We are representing the owner, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC), to oversee the program development. Our team is assisting KYTC with quality verification, which is a variation of QA effort. During the initial stages of the project development, we assisted KYTC to review and approve the design-build team’s DQMP. Once the DQMP was approved, our team acted as a quality verifier. We documented any nonconformance episodes and shared them with the owner. They would relay this information to the design-build team to prevent those episodes from happening again. The goal is to enforce quality expectations on a regular basis to eliminate any errors.

After the audit is complete and the comments are addressed, the package is ready for submittal to the client for review and approval.

Monitoring quality throughout the design and construction phases of a project is one of the main goals of thorough QM processes and procedures.

Why quality management matters

We repeat the QM process for each submittal during the design phase of the project and on all plan revisions during the construction phase because of notice-of-design changes and field-design changes. As the as-built plans are developed after construction, it’s crucial to use the QM process again to verify that the as-built plans are developed and documented correctly.

The goal of thorough QM processes and procedures is to eliminate errors during the early stages of the project development and monitor quality throughout the design and construction phases. This rigorous practice maximizes the success of APD teams, supports the delivery of the highest quality projects, and strives to eliminate any potential claims. 

  • Vinay Polepalli

    Working with our team in Louisville, Kentucky, Vinay is a design quality program manager. Specializing in alternative delivery, he leverages technical expertise to develop processes and procedures that manage design workflows for project delivery.

    Contact Vinay
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