The Rising Importance of Total Quality Management in Construction

The Rising Importance of Total Quality Management in Construction
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Total Quality Management in Construction

The construction industry is the backbone of any nation. Total quality management in construction ensures quality and productivity. It is basically a way of thinking about the concept, visualization and achievement of goals.

Total Quality Management (TQM):

Long back itself, TQM was considered as a management tool in the manufacturing and service industry and was extensively used. But in the construction industry, it is being considered as an effective tool only in recent times. TQM is a concept in which organizations, processes and people are interwoven in the correct format so that right things are done rightly at the correct time. TQM gives emphasis on innovation and adaptation of new technology to improve quality.

Elements of TQM:

Customer: The customer is the ultimate user. He wants a quality product at a reasonable price. The business of a company exists for the customer.

Leadership: The top management should have vision, commitment and leadership.

Recognition and rewards: Employees’ outstanding performance has to be recognized and suitable awards given to them so as to inculcate a sense of belonging among them.

Education and Training: To upgrade the knowledge of the employees, training has to be imparted at regular intervals. It is the fundamental building block of successful implementation of TQM.

Feedback Mechanism: Customer’s feedback must be invariably obtained, analyzed and corrective steps taken wherever necessary.

Team Work: In an organization, interdepartmental conflicts should be avoided. The employees should work in unison as a united team to achieve common goal.

Total Quality Management in Construction

Compared to manufacturing and service industry, the construction industry is more complex involving many labor skills, different materials, and complex technical and management skills. Since the work is normally carried out in open, uncertain weather conditions to a certain extent affects the progress of construction. Quite often, the construction overshoots the target date and also exceeds the budget estimate.

Using a TQM approach, the causes of the defects can be scientifically analyzed and remedial measures taken to ensure the safety in construction. The mindset of the employee has to be changed from one of only monitoring to one of continually looking for improvement.

Implementation of Total Quality Management System:

The basic steps are:

1. Get the commitment of the client to quality

2. Prepare project quality assurance plans for all levels of work

3. Generate awareness, educate, and change the attitudes of staff

4. Develop a process approach toward TQM

5. Initiate steps for continuous improvement

6. Promote staff involvement and contribution using quality control circles and motivation programs

7. Review quality plans and measure performance.

Difference between traditional management and TQM:

The main differences between TQM and the traditional management system are:

- TQM is a process oriented approach as against the traditional result oriented approach.

- In TQM quality, flexibility and services are dominant objectives in place of cost, technical efficiency and partial productivity.

- Traditional management proposes hierarchical and vertical organizational structure whereas in TQM, a flatter organizational structure is adopted.

- TQM views customer as the most dominant resource.

- TQM takes into account that profits follow quality and not the other way round.

- A leader in a TQM set up requires the following skills – commitment, collaboration, continuity, conversation and conscience.

Limitations of TQM

It must be clearly understood that by adopting TQM in a company, results cannot be achieved instantaneously; it requires time to adapt to the set up and environment. In implementing TQM, it requires an organizational change that would modify the culture, priorities, processes and beliefs of an organization. Top management should themselves get involved and then try to inculcate a sense of importance of the system among the employees.

By training, teamwork and timely feed back no doubt the full benefits can be achieved by the implementation of Total Quality Management in Construction companies.

Credit (photo):


Construction Engineering Management, S Seetaraman, Umesh Publications, Delhi, 2007