Better Quality Homes Begin with Better Quality Digital Processes

Inconsistent quality control has been a longstanding challenge for UK housebuilders and developers, and one of the root causes is a distinct lack of digitalisation within the building process. Manual methods, paper-based documentation, and siloed information still dominate, with key data either stored incorrectly or nebulously. This is before you consider the inevitable degree of human error. 

With regular reports in the media of quality issues in housing, and ebbing public opinion, it is a situation which needs to be urgently addressed. Those who persist with the traditional approach to quality management are unnecessarily increasing risk to themselves and everyone else in the supply chain, right through to the buyers and residents themselves. 

The good news is that poor quality control can now be stemmed, particularly as there are now a few powerful digital quality management platforms already available on the market to solve it. Crucially, these digital systems enable housebuilders to end their reliance on manual processes and introduce a standard structure to inspection processes and quality control. It’s helping to increase efficiencies and drive down errors, as well as building brand credibility and better customer experience. 

Even better, these innovative tools can draw in multiple, previously disparate, siloed data sets into one easy-to-navigate location, from Part L compliance, to snagging and defect management to on-site health and safety and regulatory-driven tasks, all in in one place. 

As a New Homes Quality Board (NHQB) accredited supplier, this article takes a closer look at quality in the housing market today, what is being done to improve it, and review how digital technology is helping to achieve higher-quality developments, alongside other action being taken by the industry.

Taking back control

There’s no doubt the latest ConTech is helping housebuilders gain more control over their quality management processes, get better results from subcontractors and tradesmen, as well as obtain more accurate evidence for regulatory compliance, achieve faster handovers, and, most importantly, reduce costly rework. 

Often, it’s as simple as making physical procedures digital ones, for example, digitising Quality Assurance Inspection Forms. By bringing these into a pre-set, online document, available in the cloud and through field applications, housebuilders can significantly expedite a once tedious protocol and set parameters that can reduce the margin for error. The ability to customise forms when required, means they can scale and adapt in line with the business itself, and ensure information can be captured using predefined criteria. This provides a simplified and standardised approach to managing build stage forms, capturing site data using mobile devices, and ensuring data validation through efficient workflow methods.

Having a good platform in place can help tackle everything from inspections and checklists to the defect itself and resulting resolution. Inspections can now be done simply, efficiently, and even remotely, with employees, subcontractors, and management teams able to collaborate in real-time, identifying, logging, recording, and resolving snags and communicating back to buyers/residents. This can also save vast amounts of time and resources, essential during an era of tight budgets, but also means projects are more likely to be given the green light for occupation at handover.

Quality Management platforms are also pivotal in achieving regulatory compliance, an issue that has grown in significance over the past decade. A prime example is the Part L Photographic Evidencing Requirement of Approved Document L of Building Regulation 40. This has become a headache across the residential construction sector since its introduction last year. 

With a good Quality Management platform, where a digital tool built for purpose, it can be used to capture and save geo-located and time-stamped images from multiple locations in one place autonomously. These photos and supporting documentation can be linked back to a plot and project, as well as who did the work and when. Not only does this allow housebuilders to meet mandatory regulatory requirements but can also be used for project progress tracking and monitoring works onsite, which allows users to share incremental evidence with assessors in real-time, for immediate approval or remediation. A straightforward solution, but one with a substantial impact on the housebuilder community and quality control. 

Promoting universal protection

Readers may ask themselves is digitisation the way to go, and why should we change what we have always done to move to digital processes? Well, by not doing so, in the current socioeconomic landscape, may make a business more vulnerable, liable, and painfully inefficient. It can also support a business on the road to digital transformation covering the four key points to actively mitigate risk.

Hazard Mitigation: Standardising workflows and centralising reporting will help deliver greater consistency through the supply chain and standardise processes across a business – plot-to-plot and site-to-site. This increases the probability of getting things right the first time around and, even better, dovetailing with the industry’s ‘Golden Thread’ aspiration by establishing a single source of truth by migrating all existing forms within one convenient easily accessed location.

Keeping compliant: These systems equip teams with the tools they need to comply with the UK’s evolving regulatory framework. Digital records and evidence can be collated and maintained in one place. Records can also be edited to ensure all information is kept up to date, tracking and sharing changes are recorded for auditing, as well as providing evidence of work done so businesses can stay on top of processes. 

The efficient secret: The elimination of error-prone, paper-based processes and manual tasks is a massive win. The ability to pre-set workflows, accelerate approvals, and get signoffs on work done without compromising on quality is always a win-win. 

Greater insight: The ability to collaborate on a single platform increases transparency, leading to better communications and higher-value outcomes. With the customisable dashboards and analytics function on offer within quality management platforms, users can get a better overview of project performance to make tangible improvements on-site. 

With a case for digitalising your quality management processes, the benefits are myriad and the capacity to seamlessly integrate a platform into an existing tech stack makes these systems an attractive option for housebuilders looking to tighten up their processes. Maintaining the status quo can only cause unnecessary levels of project risk, but it has never been easier to remove it, particularly when housebuilders and developers can progress their digital journey.