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Quality Program Lunch and Learns

Posted on September 26, 2013 in Blog
The snapshot of the installation model above shows the window flange set in a continuous bead of sealant.

The snapshot of the installation model above shows the window flange set in a continuous bead of sealant.

Embarking on a large project involves coordinating a number of moving parts.  These parts are more than materials and machines.  The first ones to get moving are our teams of people involved in the project – the superintendents, the subcontractors, our manufacturers and vendors, and our architects.

We’ve worked for a number of years with a core group of architectural firms, and in an effort to better connect them with our process and the steps we take to protect the quality of their design, we’ve developed a “Lunch & Learn” presentation.  Led by our Corporate Quality Director, Matt Kamstra, it creates a dialog between the KBS team and our architects, assuring us that we’re hearing their voice and letting them know how far we go to put their work in place exactly as it was designed.  Specifically, it makes them acutely aware of the steps that we take and the advancement of our quality program.

Much of this dialog centers on our use of the KBSiQ Quality Assurance App.  This unique iPad app, specific to KBS, allows our on-site teams to monitor and impact work flow on a job site quickly and efficiently.  We demonstrate to the architects, using real-life experiences, how we’ve documented deficiencies on sites, notified subcontractors of unresolved issues, and created 3D mock-ups to provide expectations for specific details.

Matt says of this demonstration, “The architect is often left out once construction begins.  We can show them how we use the app, and more specifically, how the app has allowed us to improve our quality standards, increase our productivity, fine-tune work flow on the job site, and most importantly, properly execute their vision.”

Another tool that Matt uses for the Lunch & Learn presentation is to walk the attendees through some of the steps that we take prior to starting a project.  One of them is our Manufacturers Meeting.  “We’ve installed thousands of windows over the years, and the basic process stays the same.  But each manufacturer is different, and meeting with them gives our team and our subcontractors the chance to hear about design features or materials that may be unique to their product.”

It’s also customary to create a mock-up of a specific design feature, allowing those on the project to have a vision of what something should look like.  We take it a step further, and often create entire sections.  This allows us to look at materials, a sequence of steps, and create a quality expectation for the finished product.  We may create an entire wall section, showing interior and exterior with transition details (like stone to brick) to examine possible issues with flashing.  We may create a corner section or even install a window.  “I’m certain that you’ve done this a million times before, but this is how we’ll do it on this project,” is what Matt often tells our superintendents and subcontractors.  These mock-ups often examine the highly repetitive details we experience on large projects.

This step also allows us to establish some criteria for our Quality Assurance.  There are certain items that are industry-standards and long-held expectations.  But our inspections also take into account manufacturing differences, like James Hardie Backerboard having a different set of characteristics than those of a competitor.

As part of our pre-construction process, we also conduct a mock-inspection meeting.  We’ll gather our team and have them go through a process like installing a window.  We’ll review the manufacturer’s specifications and requirements.  We’ll fine-tune the sequence of installation.  We’ll nail down the tools and materials required.  Then we’ll go through an inspection, using the KBSiQ app, and walk through the steps of documentation and resolution of any defects.

Bringing the architects in for these Lunch & Learn sessions shows them the steps that we take on each project to ensure the quality of the build.  It creates an important dialog, involving them in the process.  It also paves the way for us to deliver an exceptional building to our client, and one that fully represents what the architect had originally committed to paper.