Construction Nonconformances – 7 Steps for Managing Them
A construction quality control plan should contain a systematic process that can be used to manage construction nonconformances, whether they’re simple or difficult. This will enable you to deliver quality results consistently. It will also instill confidence in your customers that you will control specification deviations tightly while you look for suitable resolutions.
In some industries, the term nonconformance is not used for all defects but we term is rather reserved for defects that you can’t fix cost effectively or quickly to meet the project’s quality standards.
An example of a simple construction nonconformance would be if you poured a concrete foundation an inch too wide. To fix this you would have to remove the extra inch or rework the whole foundation to make it right.
As this scenario might not have an adverse effect on function, fit, or form, reworking the foundation probably doesn’t make sense. If you however decide to use the foundation as is, your customer will have to approve the change. As this additional step means you will not be able to handle the defect easily and quickly, you’ll have to treat it as a nonconformance.
Here are 7 steps you can use to handle construction nonconformances.
1. Mark Construction Nonconformances
You should first mark the affected area clearly to prevent use or accidental cover-up. This is important as getting a customers’ approval or deciding on the right corrective action may take a while.
The foundation construction nonconformance used as an example should probably be marked with barrier tape. For other types of nonconformances, you can use a tag, tape, paint, or any other signal that can be observed easily. Irrespective of the type of marking you decide to use for a nonconformance, ensure that it can’t be covered accidentally.
You should also let inspectors and superintendents know they should mark nonconformances.
If continued work can affect quality adversely or obscure the defect, you should stop work in the area affected until you can fix the construction nonconformance. Your staff on site should decide which, if any, limitations should be placed on continued work in the area.
It is also best quality practice to inspect similar work previously completed to ensure it doesn’t have similar defects.
3. Record Construction Nonconformances
Once you have marked and are controlling the area where the nonconformance occurred, you need to create a nonconformance report. In the report you should describe the deviation and then submit it to someone who has the authority to make a disposition i.e., a decision on what the next steps should be.
The nonconformance report will also serve as a record of actions performed. These will include the marking and controlling of the nonconformance as well as decisions made on the disposition, corrective action, and preventive action.
4. Decide on a Disposition
The next step is to decide on the nonconformance’s disposition.
Nonconformance are normally disposed in one of four ways: replace, repair, rework, and use-as-is. The descriptions below will help you decide on the best course of action.
- Replace: This is done when the nonconforming material or product is replaced with a conforming material or product that will correct the defect.
- Repair: This is done when the nonconforming product is re-machined, reassembled, reprocessed, reinstalled, or the required operations completed to correct the defect.
- Rework: This corrective action is used when rework will make the nonconforming product acceptable for its intended use, although it might not meet all specifications. Customers typically need to approve reworked products.
- Use As Is: This corrective action is used when the nonconforming product is suitable for its intended use. A typical example would be a product that still performs as expected, but there is a defect in its aesthetic aspects. Once again, customers need to approve use as is products.
5. Corrective Actions
Once you have performed the corrective action required for the construction nonconformance, you must verify that the problem has been eliminated or corrected to the level required by the disposition shown on the nonconformance report.
Corrective action training may sometimes be required. It may be that staff aren’t familiar with the type of rework or repair that must be performed, or they don’t know how a replacement should be installed.
6. Reinspect Construction Nonconformances
Once you have fixed the nonconformance, you must reinspect the work and then remove the markings.
It is however not enough to fix problems identified during a quality inspection. You should always be looking for ways in which you can improve quality and prevent similar issues from occurring again in the future.
You should evaluate the detectability, severity, and frequency of the nonconformances you’ve identified on both your current and your past projects as part of your systematic process. This can easily be done by reviewing customer feedback and company quality records.
You should also not overlook training as one aspect of preventing construction nonconformances. Once the causes of nonconformances have been identified, include toolbox talks and/or regular training aimed at preventing similar future occurrences.
The construction industry will always have nonconformances and defects as there are a normal part of doing this type of work. Using a systematic approach to find, resolve, and prevent future construction nonconformances will make the difference between being an average construction company and a top-notch one.
Apart from managing nonconformances, there is much you can do to prevent them. This article on Manufacturing Nonconformances explains some of the actions you can take to do this.