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Quality Assurance in Construction: Toyota's Way

Toyota is world famous for its quality assurance processes, that not only are they implemented in their manufacturing line, but throughout the whole organization as well. This same quality assurance model has been benchmarked and replicated in many other industries and companies, saving millions of dollars across the globe. The construction industry should be no stranger to this framework. In this article we highlight some of the ways your construction project can benefit from Toyota's Kaizen. 

In a statement published by Toyota UK, we are able to absorb the basic concepts of Toyota's quality assurance processes and ideologies. Dozens of authors, a great number of universities, and other groups have analized Toyota's way and studied its benefits for years. If you have not yet implemented this framework to your construction projects, then here are a few ways you can start reaping the benefits:

Don't leave quality assurance at the very end

One of the core processes in Toyota's Kaizen is to check for quality from the very beginning. In the 1940s, Toyota took it upon itself to save costs in quality, not only by complying with recalls, reimbursements or simply discarding vehicles that did not meet quality standards in the end. This was just too costly. Therefore, if they could detect flaws throughout the process before it did any more damage, they could correct the error and save millions. 

In construction, this can work in a very similar way. Instead of waiting for government officials and inspectors to go through the edification trying to find flaws, train your personnel to "push the red button" and alert others if there is anything they find wanting in quality or if they detect any errors. At Toyota, this is called the "Andon Cord" and it is a literal cord that runs along the manufacturing line. Any line worker that detects an error must pull the cord, and the manufacturing line stops to assess the error. Your construction project could have a similar "cord". You can use software, such as BuildBinder, to enable employees to communicate in real time with the rest of the team. 

Line workers are key

As previously mentioned, line workers at Toyota are responsible to watch out for flaws along the manufacturing line. After all, they are the ones in direct contact with the product itself and its parts. The same is true for construction workers. They are key to find any flaws in processes and materials before they actually cause any serious damage to the project as a whole. 

Get to the root cause

When flaws are found, employees at Toyota don't just repair it, they find the root cause of the problem. They ask "why" at least 5 times. When a flaw is found in your construction project, empower your team to ask "why did this happen" at least 5 times. Not only will you find the core cause of the problem, you will also make sure the problem won't happen again in the future. 

Accountability does not mean punishment

Since all employees are responsible for detecting flaws and communicating them to the rest of the team, they are also accountable for the process itself. However, this does not mean that if they found a flaw they somehow need to be punished or lashed at for it. Quite the contrary, there needs to be a sense of cooperation. Accountability in this case just means that this person needs to make sure that the problem is detected in time and solved properly. 

Kaizen is not only for the manufacturing department, the whole organization should adopt it

Finally, Toyota found that quality assurance must follow two principles: quality must be built in every stage of the project, and quality needs to be continually improved. This in turn was called "Kaizen", and they decided to not only implement it at the manufacturing line, but throughout the whole organization. If your construction business does this, it means that communications, cooperation, preparation, and other key factors will become amazing tools that will render your company a success. Make sure you apply quality process throughout. 

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