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On site quality goes digital

Charles Versi

Charlie Versi, Buildcorp’s Group Quality Manager, discusses how the pursuit of a defect-free project handover led him to the world of technology and app development.

As the leader of Buildcorp’s continual improvement in quality, what is your key challenge?

Quality delivery has always been something Buildcorp has been known for. Our repeat business and MBA Awards are evidence of that. But as we have grown, we now have more teams at varying stages of their development and we wanted to broaden our approach to quality management to include a greater focus on faster communication and sharing of our lessons learnt and experiences on other projects. The objective is to learn, not only on one project, but apply this to all future projects through systems that will optimise quality outcomes and drive improvement.

It is not often you’re seen in the office without an iPad? Explain?

iPads have been a really interesting addition to the quality system because all of a sudden we had a tool the team could use at the workface and we could communicate and provide them with the information they need to make better decisions.

About three years ago we began seeing iPads change the workflow and communication flow of a construction site and today you will find them everywhere. And it is not just our team; subcontractors, suppliers and design teams are all using them.

But you don’t just use iPads, it seems you may have created an app to rival Angry Birds…

This began initially because we were looking at products on the market that could make our Site Supervisors’ lives easier, offering a mobile quality management system that could customise to the way we run our business. It was a pretty simple objective: save a supervisor one trip back to the office to check some information and you save them 10 minutes. More importantly, you keep them on site for more time where we know they will have an infinitely greater impact on quality.

As we trialled and tested products, we found that they all had been designed by a technician, not a builder, focused on the amazing things you can now do with technology. For our test teams, all this resulted in was more complications, which went against our original objective of making their days a bit easier. So we started working with a design team and our own app was born, now fittingly called ‘Onsite’.

Talk us through what Onsite does?

In its broadest sense Onsite provides project information, captures data and offers us a truly unique insight into the various aspects of quality across our projects.

It provides our site teams with correct and up to date project information at their fingertips, so they have the tools they need to ‘get it right the first time’. What’s more, the teams have the ability to capture quality incidents and project data as they go, which is easily communicated to the business, subcontractors and consultants.

How does that work?

At the start of each project we break the site up into its various phases and then into levels and areas. Then the team allocates specific information such as drawings, specifications, samples and benchmarks for the proposed work within that area. Additionally, we use the requirements of the project and our lessons learnt to assign quality controls to trades within those areas.

This means the supervision team has the drawings and paperwork they need, specific to that area, along with a series of checks from our quality control system specifically related to the work planned for that area.

The team then supervises the activity, updating the status in the app, where they can also identify and report issues with the design, subcontractors’ work or test protocols, delivering supporting photos or reports via email to allow the issue to be rectified quickly. During the handover process, the Client can use the same areas to identify potential defects and create a defects list that we can quickly and easily allocate, close out and process within the team.

Buildcorp Onsite app in action
The Buildcorp Onsite app in action

What is unique about this?

Plenty of products do similar things but the main difference for us as a builder is how easy it is to use. It’s simple at the frontend and the backend, to customise and adjust, and crucially, at any point in time, we own and control all of the records. This means we are able to generate meaningful, quality data on problem areas and tasks, which then enables us to make informed decisions about how to better manage these at both project level, and at a wider company level.

I have said from the beginning that I want to remove red tape, not add it, and that is what Onsite enables me to do. I can make informed decisions about implementing processes that really make a difference and save time on those that don’t. Why should we waste time inspecting something that we have successfully installed over 2,000 times without issue? I would much rather focus our Supervisors’ time on what we know is a risk or a potential risk which could really impact the business and the project outcomes.

It sounds like there is much everyone can learn from that data, not just Buildcorp?

Later this year we are launching something called the ‘Buildcorp Alliance’ to do just that. We will partner with selected design teams, suppliers and subcontractors and share all of the data from the project, showing where design details were consistently unclear and where repeated re-work was required of our subcontractor teams. The hope is if we can help everyone improve, we won’t have to deal with these issues ongoing. This is the real power of Onsite – continual improvement for all. Because the more everyone improves on a Buildcorp job, the more frequently we will achieve outstanding quality results.

Buildcorp Onsite is currently being tested on select projects across Australia. If you would like to know more about Onsite and how it will improve the quality of your upcoming project contact Matthew Armstrong for a full demonstration or tour of a current test project via email onsite@buildcorp.com.au.