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Would construction companies benefit from ISO 9001?

In 2014 the US government calculated that 10% of its total fiscal market was attributed to the construction and building industry. Given the value of this sector to the greater economy, there are several accreditation schemes available to companies working in this field, but these can vary greatly from region to region and country to country, leaving no uniform guarantee of standard of service and overall quality. Given that amongst safety and environmental considerations, quality and cost are extremely important to both the builder and the customer, is it time that ISO 9001 became standard to companies working in the construction sector?

ISO 9001 in the construction industry: The reasons

Leaving aside commercial projects for the time being, most of us are familiar with the average cost of a new home in the area we live. Given the amount of money involved, there are several reasons for ISO 9001 to become a valuable accreditation for companies in the sector. Let’s examine them:

  • Standardize services and product quality: Application of the standard could ensure that build quality, methodology, and adherence to legislation are consistent, therefore ensuring consistent quality of product.
  • Reduce costs for the builder: Improvement of supply chain management and purchasing processes through ISO 9001-approved methods can reduce costs and increase profit margins.
  • Ensure continual improvement: Application of the standard should ensure that your business and associated processes improve year after year, increasing profits and growing the business accordingly.

So, given that these benefits would be desirable for most, if not all businesses, what aspects of the 9001 standard can help a construction company achieve them?

ISO 9001 elements: How can the standard help?

Obviously, a company in the construction sector – the same as in any other sector – will have to satisfy all clauses of the ISO 9001 standard to become accredited, but are there any particular parts of the standard that would specifically help the performance of a construction sector company? Let’s examine this:

  • Planning: The planning element of ISO 9001 would encourage more specific strategic planning on complex building projects. An enhanced focus on how risks and opportunities can be addressed to help meet stated objectives can bring great efficiencies to many construction projects – given the costs of contractors, equipment, and material – the financial benefits of finishing a 12-week project in 11 are massive when multiplied out over the course of a trading year.
  • Supply chain management: “Control of external services” is mentioned in the 9001 standard, and this critical element can be used to performance manage contractors and also ensure that your supply chain meets your price requirements and quality objectives simultaneously. Concentrating on this aspect, developing processes and criteria to both select and manage your supply chain can provide massive financial, quality, and time benefits to your construction company. The article How to evaluate supplier performance according to ISO 9001:2015 can help you understand more about this topic.
  • Performance evaluation: This clause allows a construction company to analyze its performance with a view to allowing it to achieve continual improvement by improved planning and subsequent improved processes and performance. The article How to implement the check phase (performance evaluation) in the QMS according to ISO 9001:2015 can provide more detail on this topic.
  • The process approach: The ability to pull all factors of a complicated construction project together would be extremely valuable in this sector, in terms of managing aggressive timelines and financial budgets. Many public construction projects run over budget and time targets, and this vital element of the ISO 9001 standard can help prevent this. You can read more on this topic in the article ISO 9001: the importance of the process approach.
  • Leadership: One of the key changes in the 2015 version of the standard is leadership. Enhanced leadership providing clear guidance on objectives and shared goals allied to excellent communication channels can help build a “get it right first time” culture within a construction project, ensuring both financial and time targets are met. You can find out more by reading How to comply with new leadership requirements in ISO 9001:2015.
  • Win new customers: Use ISO 9001 as a selling point. If not everyone in the construction sector has yet adopted ISO 9001 principles, use this as one of your unique selling points with a full explanation of its benefits. Reading 10 steps to attract a major customer using ISO 9001 can give you guidance on this element.

ISO 9001: Becoming industry standard?

The explanation above illustrates how ISO 9001-compliant processes can be used to improve performance, both internal and external, in your Quality Management System to realize both financial and quality performance benefits. Whether ISO 9001 becomes “industry standard” in the construction sector remains to be seen, but companies in this sector who do choose to implement will surely have an advantage. Using ISO 9001 principles to improve performance and quality and reduce cost is a possibility for every company in this sector, and selling your organization as an accredited organization is surely of great potential benefit in the eyes of a client. Isn’t that enough motivation to get started?

To learn more about the business benefits of ISO 9001, read this free white paper: How can 9001 help your business grow.

Advisera John Nolan
John Nolan
John Nolan is a Fellow of the Institute of Leaders and Managers in the United Kingdom, and Prince 2 accredited with a background in Engineering and Electronics and Data Storage and Transfer. Having studied and qualified as both a Mechanical and Electronic Engineer, he has spent the last 15 years designing and delivering Quality Systems and projects across many sectors in the UK, including both national and local government.