Visual evidencing is a crucial step in quality assurance (QA). It involves collecting images during the construction of buildings to ensure that all construction processes and actions are completed correctly.
However, traditional QA approaches miss a huge opportunity to improve workmanship quality throughout all stages of a project – and beyond.
In many – if not most - construction projects, QA is carried out by project managers, site managers and surveyors. The latter is a slightly different category, as their work is also a step in ensuring that a project follows applicable rules and regulations.
All three groups are tasked with the same thing: to certify that work is carried out correctly.
Most often, the process includes inspection throughout the different construction stages. The main goal is to capture defects or non-conformance, often through photos. The next step is relaying instructions on found issues – potentially including advice on how to fix them.
For the on-site contractors, sub-contractors and company employees, the process can feel like a schoolteacher grading their work and solely focusing on the mistakes.
One of the significant issues with a traditional approach to QA is that it removes ownership of quality from the people carrying out the actual work. Furthermore, the scope of visual evidence gathering is limited to focusing solely on things that go wrong.
Instead, QA should aim to capture as much picture evidence as possible throughout the project lifespan. It should include documenting workmanship as well as any errors. For example, workmanship quality can be graded on a sliding scale or as ‘good,’ ‘acceptable,’ and ‘bad.’
The picture evidence and descriptions should be stored and easy to search through and analyse later.
Through these steps, you form the best foundation for getting the most out of visual evidencing – including using it to raise workmanship.
Why focus on improving workmanship, you might ask. Especially if your company mainly draws on contractors and subcontractors that vary from project to project.
One reason is lack of focus on workmanship accounts for more than 25% of defects during construction.
One way of counteracting this trend is to put visual evidencing in the hands of those carrying out the work, or, at a minimum, the team/gang leader/foreman.
For example, a bricklayer installing a cavity tray will pay extra attention if they are told that a photo must be taken once installed and that the image will then go to the project manager.
However, this is only the first step. Visual evidencing can be used as a teaching and learning tool to analyse how to improve workmanship quality and work more efficiently. This further incentivises workers to find ways of improving as it improves their skills.
We refer to this latter version as true visual evidencing. To implement it, companies should focus on three things:
Furthermore, look to engage everyone and encourage quality ownership through visual evidencing. Finally, aim to enable and support workers to increase their workmanship quality throughout existing projects - and beyond - through visual evidencing and relevant professional sparring.
Reduced defects, saved time, increased quality consciousness, valuable data and photographic evidence are some of the benefits you reap on a company level from this approach.
Doing all of this by hand is impossible, so your company needs to find the best upgrades possible to your current setup. When looking to upgrade your software setup, many things require attention. A quick checklist includes: