The National Academies

NCHRP 10-83 [Final]

Alternative Quality Management Systems for Highway Construction

  Project Data
Funds: $500,000
Research Agency: University of Colorado at Boulder
Principal Investigator: Keith R. Molenaar, Ph.D.
Effective Date: 8/19/2010
Completion Date: 11/30/2013
Comments: Completed. Published as NCHRP Report 808..

Project delivery methods in the construction industry have evolved and so have quality management systems. Changes in the roles of owners and contractors in delivery systems range from the highway standard design-bid-build system to design-build/public-private partnership agreements where the responsibility for quality management is shared to varying degrees between the contractor and owner. The design-bid-build system uses the traditional highway quality management system (referred to in this project as the baseline quality management system) with detailed contractor quality control requirements strictly monitored by the owner.  The attraction of alternative project delivery methods is the transfer from owner to contractor of some measure of project responsibility that may include design, finance, and/or quality management. These alternatives may result in substantial savings to the owner from lack of design error and omission claims, lower cost of capital, and reduced employment of project management and inspection forces. These alternative project delivery methods have proven to be efficient and effective in many types of construction and are increasingly making inroads into the highway construction arena. One aspect of alternative project delivery methods that may be applied to highway construction now is the application of alternative quality control systems that emphasize contractor quality control and assurance.  These new systems allow owners to have confidence through a verification of contractor quality system process. As an example, a formal quality management system, under the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)--ISO 9001 Quality Management Systems--Requirements integrates quality management from the suppliers through the contractors to the owners. It requires post-project reviews and publishes ratings of contractor performance. During the project, the owner verifies that the contractor’s quality management plan is in force, rather than providing extensive, detailed specifications and conducting the on-site tests required by the baseline quality management system. Another alternative method is the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers’ quality management system.  This system provides extensive, detailed specifications and permits on-site testing by contractors. Research is needed to provide guidance on the use of alternative quality management systems for highway construction projects.

The objectives of this research are to (1) identify and understand alternative quality management systems and (2) develop guidelines for their use in highway construction projects.
Phase I
(1). Based on a domestic and international literature review and a survey of appropriate agencies/organizations, identify and describe quality management systems that are used in the construction industry, with emphasis on those that can be applied to highway construction.  This should include an examination of ISO 9001 and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approaches, as well as other systems that merit investigation. (2). Describe the integration of quality management systems identified in Task 1 with various project delivery strategies, such as: design-bid-build, best value, design-build, public-private partnerships, and others. (3). Gather additional information from stakeholders either through interviews, case studies, or other means to allow for a comprehensive evaluation of alternative quality management systems. (4). Identify and discuss the advantages and disadvantages to the contractor and the owner of each of the alternative quality management systems. Consider contractor factors such as consistency, productivity, costs, risk management, employee awareness, on-time delivery, staffing levels, timely completion of testing, product performance, risk alignment, strengthened business capabilities, more consistent management structure across jurisdictional lines, and reduced claims. Consider owner factors such as product performance, inspection costs, staff allocations, overlapping work activities, use of contractor incentives and disincentives, and risk assignment. (5). Contrast each of the alternative quality management systems with the baseline quality management approach.(6). Prepare an interim report on the results in Tasks 1 through 5. The interim report shall also contain an updated work plan for Phase II. The research plan shall provide a 1-month period for review and approval of the interim report. An interim meeting of the project panel to discuss the report with the research agency will be required. The research agency shall not begin work on the remaining tasks without NCHRP approval.
Phase II
(7). Based on panel direction, develop guidelines to match selected quality management systems to the appropriate types of construction projects and alternative project delivery methodologies. For each recommended quality management system and the appropriate project delivery method, describe the potential implications to owner organizations and the highway construction industry if owners were to adopt it as a standard practice. Identify the barriers to implementation and ways, if appropriate, to overcome them. (8). Identify how the baseline quality management system could be incrementally improved by potentially incorporating portions of alternative quality management systems. Identify adjustments to each alternative quality management system that could be implemented to accommodate traditional low-bid contracting and public-private partnership projects. (9). Prepare a final report that documents the research and includes the guidelines for applying alternative quality management systems to various highway project delivery systems.
The final report, Guidebook on Alternative Quality Management Systems for Highway Construction, was published as NCHRP Report 808 and is available here.

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