what is really the meaning of an NCR (Non Conformance Report) in construction ?
You may probably find some very fancy definitions on the internet but because we are talking about Construction Industry it’s always better to simplify things and be practical.
We can simply describe it as a Report which outlines:
· what went wrong (this is the “nonconformity”),
· why it went wrong (Root Cause) and
· what can we do in order to avoid that from happening again (corrective action).
As simple as that!
So, what can go wrong in a Construction Project?
But let’s try to make a list of what can go wrong (from a “quality point of view” only) in a construction site/project:
1. Something was not built as per the approved Design Drawings or it’s not within the tolerances specified in the design drawings
2. The approved methodology (Method Statement) was not followed during the construction
3. The approved Inspection and Test Plan (ITP) was not followed
4. Any other approved documentation was not followed (Quality Procedures, instruction from the Client etc)
5. A different material than the approved one was used on site
6. A test on a material or anywhere else failed
7. A Design failure
8. There is no available documentation to cover an activity (Method Statements, Design Drawings, ITPs, Risk Assessments etc) or the existing documents do not describe the activity sufficiently
and the list can go on and on according to the specific contractual requirements, applicable standards or legislation.
2 main categories of NCRs in a Construction Site:
An NCR (nonconformity Report) is a nightmare for everyone in the construction industry (eventhough it shouldn’t be…).
It’s a nightmare for the guys on site because their work is being judged and they probably have to spend time (and money…) to rework or repair.
It’s a nightmare for the commercial guys of a Project because an NCR might lead to significant claims and compensation events sooner or later.
It’s a nightmare for the Designers who have to assess a nonconforming situation and spend time on investigating the case.
And finally…it’s a nightmare for the Quality Professionals on site who have to keep a balance between Client’s representatives requests and the progress of the works.
Closing an NCR on site could be extremely easy and quick or it could be extremely difficult and time wasting for many people.
The main categories of NCRs in a construction Project are:
1. Use As-is.
3. Demolish and rework
You may probably find other diferent fancy terms depending on the project and the system but the meaning (and use) is more or less the same.
In reality these terms could easily be explained as follows:
Use As-is: “Ok…we messed it up but there is nothing we can do to correct it. So, we have to accept that fact somehow, ensure that it is acceptable by our Client and move on, ensuring that it’s not gonna happen again”
Repair: “We messed it up but we found the way to repair it and bring it to an acceptable level. The repairs will be inspected and accepted in order for the NCR to get closed.”
Demolish and rework: “We cannot leave it as it is or we cannot repair it at all. The faulty structure/item has to be demolished/removed and reworked before we move on. The new structure/item will be inspected for closure of that NCR.
These categories are pretty obvious on what they actually mean on site.
But we should categorize the NCRs a bit differently:
1. NCRs that are easy and quick to close (approx. 20%):
· The NCR refers only to an entity directly related to the person who identifies the NCR (colleague, same company, same shift etc). The corrective action or the correction is applied easily and quickly on site with mutual understanding between both parties. Good job….happy days!
· The NCR is blocking the next phase of the works and it has to be closed very quickly. Everyone needs to move on in the project and they give their best in order to close it quickly. Good job….happy days!
· The NCR is identified by the Client (or Client’s representatives) and it is communicated to the Contractor through a formal letter or other way of communication. However, this doesn’t mean that the NCR can easily be closed but in general it makes things move a little faster on site because it’s mainly the only case where the Senior management might get involved in the whole process.
2. NCRs that are difficult or it takes too long to be closed (80%):
· The NCR requires the Designer’s opinion in order to be closed. For some reason, the NCRs on site are not considered to be a responsibility of the Designer . In my opinion, it should be clearly stated in any Design Contract that deviations from the Design that consist of an NCR have to be reviewed by the Designer. However, whenever the opinion of the Designer is considered critical for the closure of an NCR it might take weeks or even months for the site to get a reply. The reason? Giving opinions to NCRs is considered as an additional task by the Designer (and to be honest it is). Who wants to do extra job because of someone else’s faults? Nobody…
· The NCR is raised against a party that is not directly related to the person or entity that raised it. This is usually applicable to NCRs that are raised to Subcontractors. The only way to close them out quickly is to link NCRs with payments. It works 110%…
· The NCR is linked with a Third Party : utilities company, ministry or other public authority. Their opinion is usually needed to close some NCRs that affect their assets. But they are slow…
NCRs follow-up and closure in a construction project can be a quite adventurous and time consuming task.
That is why all the people on site should understand the concept behind raising and closing an NCR. There shouldn’t be any blame culture or “it’s not my fault” attitude.