We’re often asked why we’re so good at what we do. The simple answer – we produce consistently fine buildings. But that doesn’t explain a lot. Many claim they’re high-quality or fine builders. The much more interesting and important question is, how are we so good at what we do?
‘How’, is the crux of our success and at the heart of our business values – quality.
Imagine you’re a Michelin trained chef. You’re asked to cook at a pop-up restaurant. They ask you to cook a summer feast for 200 people using an outdoor kitchen and they agree to your rate. You arrive at the address supplied ready to flex your foodie muscles and tantalise tastebuds, armed with a van loaded with the finest and freshest seasonal produce. You’re shown to a kitchen with a grubby little fridge, gas powered griddle and smelly deep-fat fryer. You turn your furrowed brow to the owner, who says, ‘We’re catering for 150 meat eaters and 50 vegans. The buns need to be gluten-free and the burgers will be £8.00 with onions and cheese. Fred’s going to supervise everything.’ You have two choices: abandon the job entirely or lower your standards and get the job done as quickly and painlessly as you can.
The moral of this story? Even someone with the highest skills and best experience needs the right environment, management and clearly defined outcomes, otherwise they are unlikely to complete the job. Or they will be forced to cut corners which will jeopardise quality.
What is quality?
Many companies fail in their pursuit of quality because they fall at the first hurdle. To produce ‘high-quality’, you have to define what quality is. And some of those that claim quality often don’t communicate it – clearly enough, early enough or to each trade.
At Hale, we define quality for all members of the construction team and every subcontractor. We share our exacting standards with concise details for each trade, so everyone knows what to expect, can knowingly perform their duties and ultimately take collective responsibility for excellence. This standardised process is only one part of our construction management system, but it’s vital. It ensures we get the most from our subcontractors and produce consistently fine buildings because we can effectively review progress and quality at every stage.
And we mean every stage! Quality management starts with procurement. Our Contract Managers and Quantity Surveyors will produce meticulous tender packs which include everything from Health and Safety information to the Statement of Works and Quality Assurance sheets for each trade.
When dealing with high-end architecture and luxury specifications, the expectations are understandably higher. British Standards are too generic and open to interpretation, so we’ve developed our own specific and detailed quality assurance methods, which we’ve fastidiously refined over our careers, far exceeding ‘off-the-shelf’ guidance; and they’re free from jargon so each trade can easily understand them. Genuine quality is doing things to the highest standards and doing it once. Rectifying problems or sub-standard work can be costly in terms of time and expense, and there could be longer-term defects. That’s why we motivate everyone to do things right, first time, instead of supplying a long list of defects after the event. We can only achieve that goal with clearly defined quality standards.
Our Quality Assurance sheets include every specification and tolerance for each element. For example, when plastering over a three-metre span, we place a rule along the entire length and if there’s more than a two millimetre deviation, we will not mark it as complete or satisfactory. By defining quality so clearly with specific details, and at the pricing stage, it means everyone is more efficient (financially and physically), they can budget, schedule and complete as necessary.
Every one of our projects is bespoke, but we standardise all processes to help us achieve the same high standards. We’ve developed our method from nuanced and expert observation and use an accessible Construction Management System (CMS) to help programmes run as smoothly as possible. It isn’t about ticking boxes or hanging a certificate on the wall, it’s essential in achieving lasting quality.
Our CMS allows us to communicate and monitor quality clearly, helping us to utilise subcontractors’ skills, time and resources in the best possible way. Simply put, we get the most out of them, helping them to be their best.
To be at their best, everyone needs to have the correct information, and that goes both ways. Each individual involved in construction has their own areas of expertise, but we shouldn’t assume everyone else understands what we need. For example, instead of merely asking architects for the latest bathroom drawing, we’ll clearly state what we need: ‘scale drawings of 1:20 for each bathroom, showing each elevation with plumbing, Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning, electrics, sanitary ware and fittings clearly marked’. Missing information can lead to confusion, educated guesses or lost time. With crystal clear instructions, we make sure we complete the job once and to a high standard, preventing any loss of time, resource, materials or subsequent snagging.
Quality from the start
Quality needs to be everywhere: below and above the ground, for every trade, at every stage. There’s no point having the finest of finishes if the structure is substandard. From a pre-works checklist to make sure everyone and everything is prepared and in place before any work starts on site, to weekly site management checklists and handover assessments, our robust and standardised management process ensures we deliver consistently fine buildings, efficiently and collaboratively. And it helps us develop great working partnerships.
Construction is a complex beast and for successful and high-quality completion, each subcontractor, invested party and building phase must be carefully and efficiently managed. That’s our secret. That’s how we’re so good at what we do. Our defined quality standards and detailed management process enable everyone to do their jobs to their best ability. We provide outstanding service and proudly create impressive buildings that epitomise quality in every detail. And we will continue to review and refine so we can exceed expectations wherever possible.