How Can Technology Improve Site Inspection on Construction Projects?

Ensuring the quality of completed works on construction sites not only a must objective for achieving successful project delivery but also a contractual obligation for the contractor to comply with. The contract drawings and specifications are the two documents that details the quality requirements for a project. Drawings identify materials that will be used on the project whereas specifications describe those materials.

Specifications are the written contract documents which define the quality and types of workmanship and materials upon which the construction contract is based. After contract award, the contractor will submit details of all materials, equipment, suppliers’ and subcontractors’ qualification, manuals and other requirements set in the specification for approval before procuring and installing those products on the project.

Project drawings are graphic representation of the work which will show: Sizes, Forms, Shapes, Materials, Quantities, Locations and Connections. After contract award, the contractor will produce and submit for approval what is known as shop drawings which will detail how the work will be executed.

Using project management information system (PMIS) like PMWeb, the organization can implement a comprehensive project quality management system. PMWeb is widely used to manage the quality assurance requirements through the submittal process and the quality control requirements which include three processes, site inspections, non-conformance reports and snag list or punch list for final acceptance. Some organizations might also consider the request for information (RFI) and quality review meetings, which are available by default in PMWeb, as part of the project quality management system.

The Submittal Process

The submittal for all items required in the specifications including shop drawings will be done through the submittal management process for which there will be a predefined process for submitting, reviewing and approving those submittals. This process could vary depending on the specification section, submittal type among others. The submittal process should be aligned with the project’s integrated master schedule to ensure that the submittal approval process does not delay the procurement and installation activities that depend on the completion of the submittal process. It is a must that the contractor has the detailed submittal log as part of the project’s integrated master baseline schedule submission.

PMWeb submittal module will be used to capture the data for the submittal process to provide a real-time status of the submittal log. For each submittal item, PMWeb will enable the user to capture the submittal particulars, link to the relevant project schedule activity along with the procurement lead time, attach the submitted documents such as shop drawings, catalogues, certificates, warranties among others, link the relevant CSI specification sections among others. The submittal will have a conditional workflow for which branches are created to map the different levels and authorities assigned to the submittal process as per the project’s responsibility assignment matrix (RAM).

The Site Inspection Process

The Construction Specification Institute (CSI) which is widely used in the MENA region organizes project specifications in 49 divisions. Those specifications will establish the standards of workmanship associated with the installation of materials, equipment, and components, and define the installation requirements. The project’s engineering consultant should have predefined checklists for each specification section detailing items to be inspected whether at site delivery or installation. The checklist will detail the contractual requirement as set in the project’s contract documents for accepting this work. Having those predefined inspection checklists will expedite the site inspection process as well as insure the completeness and correctness of the site inspection. PMWeb custom form builder will be used to create the inspection form for each specification section. This will enable the inspection team to use their smart phone device, for example iPad, to do the on-field site inspection and report the compliance of each line item in the checklist along with comments made and whether the inspection is approved or rejected. Comments can be added using “Speech To Text” function of the iPad and other smart phone devices.

The inspection form will have a field to identify the location of the inspection which could be which tower, floor, room among others. Those locations which are defined at the project level will be aligned with the locations field available in the daily report and snag list modules of PMWeb. In addition, the location field will be added to the non-conformance report. The location field which is defined at the project level and usually is aligned with the locations as identified in the contract drawings to ensure clarity and avoid ambiguity.

The site inspection form could also be designed to have other data fields that could be of interest to the organization. For example, it can have link to the project schedule activity that relates to the work at this particular location and type of work as well as the WBS level, it can also have reference to building information model (BIM) object number and it can also have a field to capture the asset reference number which could be of value during the asset management stage of the project life cycle among others. In summary, it is up to the organization to decide on the data that is needed to be captured when the site inspection is done.

Attachments such as pages of the relevant specification sections and shop drawings as well as links to relevant submittals will be part of the site inspection form. Using a smart phone device like iPad, the inspector can also take pictures and/or videos of inspected works and upload to the inspection form.

As soon as the site inspection is done, the inspector will submit the inspection form electronically using the predefined workflow process. The workflow will detail the workflow steps needed to ensure that all intended recipients will have immediate notification and access to the site inspection result and details.

Tabular and graphical reports can be designed to reflect the performance and status of site inspection process for each CSI specification division. For example, they can provide a log of all rejected or failed site inspections or it can provide histograms to detail the number of site inspection requests issued each week as well as the total volume of site inspections completed to date group by status as what was accepted and what was rejected. As long as the organization have access to real-time trust worthy inspection data, the organization can analyze and report on the inspection data in any desired form or format.

Conclusion

Adopting the concept of predefined checklists for site inspections can be easily expanded to other processes in the capital projects delivery. For example, the same approach can be done for design stages deliverables, BIM models deliverables, permits and non-objection certificates, project closeout and handover, progress invoices, technical bid analysis among many others. The principle is that instead of depending on project team members on what needs to be done to approve a product or a process, there will be a predefined checklist that is aligned with the contractual and technical contract requirements as well as the knowledge gained from performing similar processes. Not only will this well help in expediting the performance of those processes but will also eliminate the argument of what should be done as well as eliminate the risk of failing to check what should be inspected.