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USACE leads CQM course to sharpen quality control

USACE
Published March 19, 2013
WIESBADEN, Germany – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District has kicked off its 2013 slate of Construction Quality Management courses, conducted quarterly for contractors awarded projects requiring this certification.

The first took place Feb. 25-27 at the Wiesbaden Entertainment Center on the Army installation in Hainerberg. About 25 individuals completed the course, including students from Denmark, Romania, Germany and Bulgaria.

CQM is key to promoting quality-control measures at work sites while strengthening partnerships and trust with local contractors, said Tim Anderson, team leader for the Quality Assurance Branch of the district’s Engineering and Construction Division. The process ensures construction is performed safely, according to plans and specifications, on time and within a defined budget.

“It’s the Corps’ way of doing business,” he said. “It’s a specification that lets the contractor know how they should manage a construction project to achieve the goals of a quality product. … The contractor has to submit a quality-control plan, and that outlines how they’re going to achieve this goal that we have before actual construction can begin.

“As we all know, our workforce has been reduced dramatically. We rely on the contractor to perform quality-control activities, tests and inspections – and then we ensure their system is working. … We rely on partnership with the contractors, and we have good partnerships. Both the Corps of Engineers and the contractors want the same thing. We both have the same goal.”

Europe District has six certified instructors to lead the CQM course. Occasionally, training teams from Wiesbaden will travel to Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East to teach it.

Anderson said it’s required for all quality control managers on USACE construction projects – they must be on site any time construction activities are ongoing. The class also is open to any personnel who could benefit from a stronger understanding of proper contract quality-control procedures, guidelines or the Quality Control Systems.

“Basically, our QC managers review contract plans and specifications, they select material and equipment – they’re the main point of contact from the contractor, and they are to be a technical expert on construction activities,” he said. “He or she has a lot of responsibilities.”

Managers also analyze and approve submittals, oversee quality-control tests, track deficiencies and file daily quality-control reports.

In the course, they learn about USACE’s three-phase inspection system, which differs from what’s typically found in the private construction industry, Anderson said. Within those agencies, there is no standardized inspection system – it’s based solely on stipulations in each contract. For USACE projects, he said, evaluations must be made during the preparatory, initial and follow-up stages.

After finishing the course, contractors are able to use and implement the system on Europe District work sites.

“The one thing that all three phases hit upon is safety,” he added. “We take safety very seriously.”

Other strategic elements within the CQM course are the pre-construction conference, which happens before any project begins to clarify all plans and specifications; definable features of work; and USACE reporting guidelines, covering contractor quality-control and government quality-assurance requirements.

“Our job is to make sure the contractor’s quality-control plan and system are functioning,” Anderson said. “The CQM system is a very efficient and proactive way to complete construction contracts and activities.”

Instructors spend additional time focusing on submittals, construction schedules and payments.

Anderson said the CQM class typically draws contractors from Greenland to Georgia, and some go to Afghanistan afterward. The certificate is good for any USACE construction site on the globe. A shorter, refresher course is necessary every five years for recertification.

Lisbet Qvist traveled here from Denmark to attend last month’s class. She works as a project assistant for Mt Hojgaard, which is involved in a dorm project under way at Thule Air Base, Greenland. Qvist said she’ll manage quality-control aspects for the company in the near future.

“I need to learn more about a time-scheduling program to put that into our Quality Control System,” she added. “We work with it a lot. This is primarily to get everything in the correct order. The course has all the procedures described in detail.”

Sokol Vasili of Albania said he signed up for the course to gain more insight into quality control management, its basic rules and the steps involved in delivering high-value projects.

“This will give me some better guidance and procedures in my position with our company,” he added. “It just extends my knowledge. The subject material is not difficult. It’s a lot of material to learn in a short amount of time. You cannot really elaborate on everything. But it’s very helpful.”

Remaining CQM sessions this year are set for May 20-22, Aug. 12-14 and Nov. 11-13 at the Wiesbaden Entertainment Center. The cost is 50 euros per student. Class space is limited to the first 25 people who sign up, and the registration deadline is two weeks before a start date.

For more information about the Construction Quality Management for Contractors course, visit http://www.nau.usace.army.mil/BusinessWithUs/Contracting.aspx.