CE Pro Magazine - January 2007
Guest Editorial: Why You Should Hire a Quality Assurance Consultant
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The Question: What separates a good installation company from the rest of the pack?
The Answer: A Quality Assurance (QA) program.
For 15 years (from 1999-2014) I ran QA inspection programs for communities with 1,000 to 14,000 homes in California and Arizona. On my typical pre-wire inspection I look for basic wiring installation standards such as minimum distance from electrical, grounding, p-rings vs. boxes, nail plates, etc., and local standards such as type of outlets, locations, futures and even color coding.
I also performed trim-out inspections, in which I did basic tone and continuity testing, check terminations and inspect labeling.
Through my inspection program I have seen companies with very poor installation habits become very good installation companies, at least in my communities, because they know their installations will be inspected and passed or failed, which can cost them re-inspection fees.
What disturbs me is when I walk into a home under construction in a nearby community that has no QA program and see the same contractors' installation breaking about every wiring standard on the planet. Why don't these companies perform the same quality of installations in these non-inspected communities?
The answer is really quite simple. Their companies don't have an internal QA program. Yes, most of them have a field supervisor overseeing the installs, but these field supervisors rarely do much more than lay out the house for the installers, show them the options and make sure they stay on schedule.
The field supervisors are normally juggling a number of different projects and just don't have the time to walk every home.
Likewise, the installer is usually a piece-paid employee and is in a hurry to get out of the current house and into the next to make more money. This means that the more short cuts the installer takes, the sooner he gets done.
As for the field supervisor, he can keep on or ahead of schedule, which looks good to his employer and the builder. But short cuts are where most mistakes are made. Too many mistakes may lead the builder to look for another integrator.
The field supervisor's job needs to include a final walk of every house with the installer to make sure the home is wired correctly per the company and code or guideline standards. An installer who "checks" his own install is not going to move a wire that is too close to 110VAC because he didn't have a problem with the wire run when he ran it.
For that reason, it's important to hire an outside consultant to perform the QA function for your company. An outside consultant is less likely to be concerned with the profitability of the job and more concerned with the quality of the install and finished product.
Bottom line here is that every company, no matter how big or small, should have a quality assurance program in place. It will put every installer on notice to do his best and can save the company money by catching potential costly errors.
In turn, QA will make the company more profitable by reducing wasted man hours with fewer return trips and a better reputation with the builder. Likewise, every mega-community over 100 homes should have a low-voltage consultant and guidelines for the builders to follow.