Quality is priority # 1! To have quality, you have to “Be Proactive”. This is Dr. Covey’s world-famous Habit # 1. To be proactive in the truss industry, you have to also practice Habit # 7 at the same time and “Sharpen the Saw”.
Here at Gould Design, Inc., we have carved the path from Habit # 1 to Habit # 7 by training our design team to be proactive by incorporating a Quality Assurance (QA) mindset into their design process. We also looked at metrics for determining when a Request for Information (RFI) is needed. You can find those articles here and here.
As we delve further into this subject I want to take a stab at answering the question, who needs QA? QA of course is Quality Assurance. It is a measuring process against a specific standard in order to check for errors and omissions, not only from our work, but from the regional preferences and the architectural plans.
What are some things we look for?
- Correct building code in the “Design Info” tab
- Wind load case
- Snow load
- Heel heights
- Cantilever conditions
There are many other things we look at but at the face of it this list seems pretty basic, right? So, obviously QA is just for beginner designers because veteran designers aren’t going to miss this stuff, right? Actually, that is completely and totally wrong. Everyone makes mistakes, even veterans. Sometimes it is the veterans you have to watch more closely. Yes, I really said that. Why? One word: Complacency.
In my field experience, I’ve found that the people that have been injured by their power tools weren’t the new guys; it was the carpenter with 20-30 years under his belt. Why is this? Because they’ve grown too comfortable with the danger and have forgotten the basics of safe practice. The same can happen in truss and panel design.
Here at GDI, we take Habit # 1 seriously and provide Professional Development for our team members, showing them how to build in a QA process into their design. This carries them all the way to Habit # 7. Click here to read a (so far) 20 part article series written by folks that have been through our design orientation.
Additionally, each and every production job our customers send us is then reviewed and QA’d thoroughly by one of our managers, allowing another set of eyes to pass over the project and assure quality.
The takeaway for any component designer, in terms of your own internal QA, is to maintain a sense of healthy fear so that you constantly hone your risk-mitigation processes. Ask yourself, “What am I missing” or “How can I make this better” and look for what you can do. I’ll address that topic further in a later article.
The goal of QA is to find mistakes regardless of who the designer is. The person conducting the QA should not be a novice, but doesn’t necessarily need to be a veteran. I mentioned already that QA is a measuring process against a standard; usually your companies design criteria or SOP, along with the job plans, building codes, etc. A newer designer can continue in his development through QA because he is applying the basics that he is learning to the QA process because most mistakes that occur are basic mistakes.
One impediment to the QA process is EGO. Not the waffle, but that sense of self that can become bloated and unhinged from reality. Whether we find ourselves designing or performing QA we need to keep our ego in check and guard ourselves from the mindset that we can’t make mistakes. Someone with an inflated ego will also resist correction and become unteachable. Remember you are on the same side and working together to deliver a product that is error free and exceeds the expectation of your customers. Keep that ego in check and learn from each other.
In summary, QA is for every designer. No designer is too good and no job too small to avoid this scrutiny. One of the worst things that can occur is on a small, easy job that incurs thousands of dollars of back-charges because it was so easy no one bothered to design or check it properly. Complacency set in and the ego took over.
What are your experiences? What process does your company use for QA? Any bad experiences that made you re-think QA?
Tim Hoke – Design Professional
Gould Design, Inc.