Implementing quality management for error-free work

Posted in: Bridges, Transportation

quality management chart_bodyImplementing integrated quality management throughout a project improves engineering design quality. Great quality management practices help transportation engineers better address client needs and significantly reduces errors and oversights.

It’s not uncommon for great engineering design to go unnoticed. The general public doesn’t see when a stormwater system drains exceptionally well or when a foundation is well placed. But in reverse, they’ll certainly notice a flooded street or a building that appears to be tipping.

Quality management is more than combating design errors and unfavorable public reception, it’s about delivering a great project.

As I mentor young engineers, I find that too often, quality management is viewed as the last step in delivery. They don’t yet understand that small errors in the early stages of design can snowball into larger problems. These problems are time-consuming, costly and can ruin your reputation with a client.

You can follow these three steps to make quality management a priority in your project:

Choose a champion

Just like the Red Viper offered to serve as Tyrion Lannister’s champion in Game of Thrones, each project team needs an adept leader to step in and oversee the quality management process. This champion works with the project manager to define project-specific quality processes, establish budgets and schedules, and verify proper execution. The champion also educates the delivery team on quality requirements and provide training where necessary. Every designer is responsible for quality, but it is the champion who establishes the direction and guides the team to a successful completion.

Avoid icebergs

The project delivery path is long and can be cluttered with obstacles. Even the engineering marvel known as the Titanic could not complete its maiden voyage without disaster. Knowing that icebergs exist, spending time throughout the project’s life verifying quality can help steer it away from any potential mishaps. Experienced leaders provide direction and guidance by setting intermediate milestones, asking probing questions, and monitoring schedule and costs. Setting a course to avoid icebergs and manage project delivery will reduce rework, and keep the project on time and within budget.

Bring it home for the win

Once the initial engineering design is complete, accuracy verification and design criteria compliance should commence. This may include discipline checks, interdisciplinary reviews, senior technical reviews and constructability reviews. Quality assurance is then performed to verify that the quality plan was followed. Only after these quality control and quality assurance steps are completed should the final design be delivered to the client.

I work closely with my team to deliver quality designs that integrate seamlessly with existing infrastructure so the public continues to overlook our work. I challenge you to strive for the same on your next project.



Keith Farquhar, P.E., brings nearly 20 years of project and quality management experience to transportation projects. He has championed the quality management process for multiple design and construction projects. When not mentoring young engineers at work, Keith can be found at home mentoring four future engineers with various degrees of success.

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