When it comes to quality, we often hear “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.” But what exactly does this mean? Is quality defined by customer satisfaction or compliance to building standards and specifications? Is it completely “in the eye of the beholder?” Or is it just about being better than your competitors? The truth is it’s all of the above – and more.
In our culture, it is difficult to truly define quality, but if we can’t, how can we develop a metric for measuring it? And if we can’t agree on what quality is, then how can we set about improving it? This is particularly critical in an era of residential building where we measure failures by the amount of post-construction defect litigation. A shift in our thinking process is in order, as well as a renewed commitment to building quality into our projects.
Kaizen is the Japanese word for “improvement” or “change for the better.” It refers to philosophies or practices that focus on continuous improvement of processes, which can apply to such areas as manufacturing, engineering or business management.
The cycle of kaizen activity can be simply defined as:
- Standardizing an operation and its activities
- Measuring the operation
- Gauging measurements against results
- Innovating to optimize performance based upon knowledge learned
- Implementing the new, improved operation standards
- Continuing the cycle ad infinitum
So why does the definition of quality and the process of quality control matter to a residential builder? The obvious answer is that consumers would prefer to purchase and reside in a home of quality construction as opposed to one rife with deficiencies and problems. But beyond this obvious point is the fact that residential builders in California and other states have been plagued with post-construction defect litigation for over 30 years, resulting in increased insurance costs, additional internal costs and eroded consumer confidence. In short, quality equals currency.
The culture of “build it like we’ve always built it” is a bankrupt paradigm. With the push towards tighter building standards, green building codes, and a more informed consumer base, a cultural shift – whether a kaizen approach or just a company-wide commitment to a more robust quality control strategy – is mandatory in the 21st century building environment. Markets are slowly coming back, building permit activity is on the rise, and those builders that fail to recognize this shift in process are destined to revisit the failures of our past.
Former Director of Business Development, Xpera Group
This article was originally published by Xpera Group which is now part of The Vertex Companies, Inc.