Quality Control in any project construction site is as important as any other project related activity such as design, execution (of construction activities), planning and so on. Quality control succeeds quality assurance. QA & QC have already been discussed in good detail in one of the earlier posts. This site has a number of useful articles on diverse quality related topics like definitions of quality control and quality assurance, various QC laboratory testing apparatus (or equipments) relevant to civil work in construction sites, calibration of laboratory equipments, nonconformity reports ( NCRs ) etc.
Once the required quality personnel for a project are available, the first and formost responsibility for them is to set the “quality” ball rolling, ie, to set the process of ensuring quality in motion. The “quality” domain broadly consists of two subdomains namely quality control and quality assurance. A major step in setting the “quality” ball in motion is to create the very important subdomain called QA. Unless QA is in place QC can’t be initiated and continued properly.
That’s because QA means creating the necessary quality framework so that using that or taking guidance from it the process of QC can be successfully initiated, continued and completed in a systematic and timely manner. Performing QA or creating the QA framework means identifying all the quality parameters or quality targets for a project; identifying and obtaining all existing general quality documents such as codes, specifications, local quality related regulations or norms (if any) relevant to the project; preparing new project specific quality documents such as Project Quality Plan or Quality Assurance Plan, Inspection & Testing Plans (ITPs), Quality forms, Job Proceedures (JPs) etc.
Equipped with these QA documents and the necessary quality control personnel such as QC manager, QC engineers or QC inspectors, laboratory technicians etc., the process of quality control can now be set in motion. Of course, one of the most important step into this is establishing a good quality control laboratory at the project site at a convenient location. That’s a must for any mid-sized to large construction project.
For a small project or one involving quite less civil works, it could be more practical or economical to get the quality tests done in some other QC laboratory existing nearby rather than establishing a new one. For a large project site a fully-fledged QC laboratory is the backbone of most of the QC activities. In fact, often there are more than one laboratories in such project sites.
An effective quality control laboratory is incomplete without all or, at least, most of the quality control laboratory apparatus or equipments relevant to the civil construction activities in the project. High-quality laboratory apparatus of reputed brands are of utmost importance for a standard QC laboratory. Several lists of important civil quality control laboratory equipments have been already mentioned in some of the earlier posts in this site. To read them go to the “QA/QC” category of this website. Further, there are also other useful technical info such as calibration and maintenance of quality control laboratory equipments.
Note that sometimes even in a reasonably-sized project it could make more sense to rent certain quality tests to other testing agencies or laboratories. Examples of concrete cube (or cylinder) crushing tests or tests related to strength of reinforcing steel bars etc. can be cited in this regard. This is because the cost of these testing equipments are much higher as compared to most others. These matters largely depends on convenience, economic etc. factors.
Establishing the site quality control laboratory is the responsibility of the QC personnel. Once the QC laboratory facility is in the place the QC manager, inspectors etc. need to follow the already established QA framework / guidelines. This includes, but is not limited to, conducting all the necessary laboratory tests as per codes, specifications etc. at prescribed frequencies; periodic calibration and maintenance of testing and measuring equipments (or instruments), QC documentation, reporting, quality review meetings and so on. This also often includes other quality control activities like quality audits, training personnel on quality matters, reviewing or improving the existing QA framework etc.
Ideally, fully-fledged quality assurance and quality control divisions should operate in a project separately. Many organisations or projects have these two in place.
That’s because, even though QA and QC are branches of the same domain named “quality”, the nature of responsibilities or duties for both are different. While QA group formulates quality policy or quality guidelines the QC group’s job is to implement the same accordingly. QA primarily revolves around documentation, ie, preparation of PQP or QAP, ITPs, JPs, quality forms and so on whereas QC goes round laboratory testing, field inspection, calibration etc. Whatever QC documents generated are mostly products of those field activities.
Also, while providing the framework for controlling all project related documents is a responsibility of the QA people, implementing the same, ie, the job of actually controlling it is the responsibility of the QC personnel. Similarly, a QA engineer may not have a lot to do with the details of various laboratory quality tests (even though he should be familiar with them) as conducting these as per codes is the responsibility of the QC personnel.
It’s another matter that in some projects, especially in the smaller ones, the same quality personnel sometimes perform both quality assurance as well as quality control activities. That doesn’t mean that both are the same thing.
Yes, quality assurance and quality control are the two sides of the same coin named “quality”. Without one the other is meaningless.