- Record Keeping: Proper selection and inspection records for all materials used in production.
- Shop Drawings: Clear and complete shop drawings for the production and erection of products.
- Samples: Use of proper sample procedures for finish selections where appropriate for specified finish.
- Concrete Mixes: Proper design and batching of concrete mixes approved by the engineer of record.
- Dimensions: Control of dimensions and tolerances as outlined in Appendix B.
- Reinforcement: Proper placement and securing of reinforcement verified by 1) Third party inspection; or, 2) Engineer of record.
- Embeds: Suitable selection and usage of attachments and proper location of all cast in or other hardware items verified by 1) Third party inspection; or, 2) Engineer of record.
- Concrete Placement: Proper handling, placing and consolidation of concrete.
- Curing: Suitable curing methods.
- Erection: Proper erection procedures as outlined in the “Tilt-Up Bracing Guidelines.”
- Finishing: Consistent finishing procedures.
- Delivery: Proper handling, storing and transporting of materials incorporated into the system.
1. Show the Company organization chart. Include names, titles, and description of duties.
- 2. For each of the factors (1-13) give a detailed description of the personnel, methods, recordkeeping and standards for each item.
Excerpt from the current draft of the Quality Control/Quality Assurance Manual for the Production of Tilt-Up Concrete Structures|The TCA Certified Construction Company Program, copyright 2012.
Checking quality in craftsmanship and abiding by the management practices established to maintain that quality is important in any industry. But even more so in the concrete construction industry—particularly in tilt-up construction—as it is the foundation of structural support.
Producing high quality tilt-up structures is achieved through strict adherence to specifications, design, and construction techniques. Every tilt-up contractor has always practiced his or her own form of internal quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) checks. The Tilt-Up Concrete Association (TCA) is formulating a QA/QC manual as part of its Company Certification program for tilt-up contractors. This manual will present a common framework of standards and information related to quality control and assurance.
Recently Ed Sauter, James Baty, Clay Fischer, Shane Miller, and Shawn Hickey discussed why a universal QA/QC program will benefit owners and contractors and their goals for the checklist.
Why is a universal QA/QC checklist important to incorporate into the tilt-up construction industry? What are our goals?
Miller: It’s good to have an underlining baseline. We use QA/QC to bring people up to speed quickly and to convince the owners and design teams that we are able to consistently deliver a great finished product. It’s another tool in the box. If we can define the lowest common denominator then we will not give tilt-up a black eye when someone does screw up.
Sauter: We’re trying to make a program that’s as simple as possible, but it still has to have some teeth.
Fischer: If we don’t raise the bar we’re going to hurt the whole industry, because there are always some guys in the industry who are just running around without direction.
Hickey: We use our QA/QC program to promote our quality and to educate our new staff.
How does TCA establish a QA/QC certification program?
Miller: The best QA/QC has one perspective for construction and another for design. Although design teams are the hardest to convince that QA/QC is necessary.
Sauter: It’s necessary to have a separate entity or third party to manage our QA/QC certification. The key is that it must be one step removed so that it is not just TCA performing the certification. Hickey and Fisher have already applied for the program. The certification consultant will be traveling periodically, validating contractors’ qualifications. Reference checks, including those from completed projects, will form part of the broader program.
It seems like we’re focused on a certification program, which is not the goal of QA/QC. QA/QC is just one component of certification. What does QA/QC mean to the industry?
Sauter: QA/QC transcends the certification. It’s just one part of it. It’s a benchmark. Everyone should have a QA/QC program just like they have a safety program. There is value in the document that is being created—it is a point of reference for the industry.
Who does QA/QC apply to?
Sauter: It extends beyond the superintendent. Job technicians, equipment operators, and everyone involved in the project should be included in the QA/QC program.
Miller: Tilt-up staff first, and then extend out to everyone involved with the process.
Hickey: I view our company QA/QC program as a business model and a process in which we operate our corporation. TCA Certification validates our program and provides a third party review and endorsement of our quality. The majority of the items noted on our QA/QC checklists are errors that have been made in the past. It’s not only to ensure quality; it also limits the repeated mistakes. It helps to alleviate some of the field construction frustrations.
Additionally, design professionals are downloading more responsibility to others as their fees continue to erode. Contractors are becoming design savvy as we carry the warranty on the construction, despite our views on the design elements and products specified. Our QA/QC program assists our staff with understanding our corporate guidance regarding issues, such as vapor barriers under slabs, concrete mix design, etc.
How do you implement it?
Hickey: We could contract out of responsibilities through our agreements with subcontractors, but as the general contractor, we are still perceived as the industry expert.
I have more issues with the overall project design than I do with the construction. I have more checklists on the design side than the construction side. Unfortunately, I fear we could not find 12 design professionals to discuss what QA/QC programs they have in place. They just stamp their approval.
QA/QC is more important these days; it helps from a liability aspect, since we haven’t established a set of corporate standards related to tilt-up construction.
Fischer: QA/QC is more a matter of putting up the best product for the least amount of cost, and using redundancy—have different folks check it.
We have redundancy in our QA/QC. We have three different people checking our panels before they are poured, for example. QA/QC is also educational for crew members. Once they understand what’s important when putting up a wall or a slab, they can address QA/QC. When they get that checklist they learn how to master other areas. That’s how we find how we can promote people. If something does get by, it can be extremely expensive and embarrassing to fix a problem. Construction is like a bunch of old ladies gossiping over the fence, it’s not long before everyone knows about your mistakes.
Miller: How many superintendents do you have in your company that started out by pushing a broom? You give them a piece of paper and ask them to read it and follow the checklist. Next thing you know you’re training future QA/QC inspectors. We empower our guys to be part of the plan.
Also, if your owners aren’t asking for QA/QC, then you should educate them on how effective it is.
Will there be one final checklist for all involved in tilt-up to follow?
Hickey: QA/QC is not a list of what we’ve done right—it is what we’ve done wrong. So we need to work together and share our checklists. Somebody may have done a brick insert and they need to share what they learned. What do we as contractors do wrong all the time? These errors can be put in an industry-wide quality control program.
How long does it take to make this list?
Hickey: It never ends. There’s not one list. For our company there’s a list on our server that is constantly updated by all staff, so you download a new list for the next job. Checklists must be current and constantly refined. Learn from your mistakes by getting those mistakes into the checklist or system, so others don’t repeat them. Also, suppliers, manufacturers, and our industry as a whole are constantly improving. Our process must be fluid enough to adapt to new processes and research.
Fischer: I think it will be great for the industry. It will separate the real professionals from the others.
Miller: You’re not further ahead in your industry if the contractor down the street has a problem. The competition should have the list, too, otherwise it will bring down the industry.
Sauter: All successful tilt-up contractors have implemented some type of QA/QC internal programs, so this is merely industry-wide, similar formatting—it’s not new in tilt-up, just the metric and how it is measured—that is what is new. How we can judge and hold contractors accountable is new and how the list is communicated is new.
TCA is currently working on both a certification program for tilt-up companies and a tilt-up QA/QC manual that can be shared and easily updated. Through a third party company, QA/QC checks will be made to ensure compliance with standards. QA/QC has always been a large part of a tilt-up project and will become an even stronger part with these methods. For more information on how you can get involved in the tilt-up QA/QC development process, contact Ed Sauter, firstname.lastname@example.org, or James Baty, email@example.com, at TCA, 319-895-6911.
Kari Moosmann has written about the concrete construction industry for more than 20 years. She works as the AEC editorial manager for Constructive Communication, Inc., a marketing firm for construction and engineering industries.