Adobe Stock / Mikael Damkier

Creating quality standards that are stated, understood, and evaluated at all steps of the job process can help eliminate the need for a punch list at the end of a job. While quality can be perceived as a subjective measure, if a company creates objective and measurable standards, it can deliver better jobs and more satisfied customers, according to Todd Ullom of Builder Partnerships.

“It is so much easier [during any job] if we are proactive in this process than if we are constantly reactive,” Ullom said during his education session “The Demise of a Punchlist” at the 2020 International Builders Show in Las Vegas.

Ullom said the construction industry suffers a great deal from “Just Enough Syndrome,” where each trade does just enough work to get to the next step of production. Just enough, however, does not bring quality work and often favors speed of work in lieu of quality. This leads to large punch lists. Instead of being fixed in real time, these items are left until the end of a project or until they create a larger problem in a home.

To avoid long punch lists and seed out issues in real time, a greater emphasis needs to be given towards quality, Ullom said. Quality has many different definitions to customers, markets, and businesses. However, the first step to ensuring that quality is delivered on every job is defining it for your business. To distill quality into an actionable goal and measurable outcome, it needs to be quantified, either through checklists, examples, or standards.

“[The] goal is to identify problems and correct defects in real time and not at the end of the process,” Ullom said. “Delivering quality is a team sport. It’s starts with the executive management and a quality-focused company culture.”

Ullom concluded his session by sharing five steps to ensure quality is at the forefront and to help eliminate punch-list headaches. The first step occurs before any hammer has been swung and relates to specifications. Every person in the organization needs to know how to build and install items correctly and understand the specifications for a particular job. The next step is engaging the entire team and defining the “right way” of doing things for the organization. Next is the importance of constant training of your workforce, either hands-on or through images showing best practices.

“Quality can’t just be some buzzword that we throw out there, it truly has to be part of company culture,” Ullom said.

Another important step, which occurs during the job, is verifying the quality delivered meets expectations. This involves using standardized checklists for all jobs, reporting defects in real time, and ensuring corrective action is taken as the job is being completed.

The final step, according to Ullom, is a 360-degree follow-up process after a job. This includes analyzing where defects occur in the process and where they most frequently occur. Identifying these pain points and sources of delays can inform what needs to improve on future jobs. This review process is also essential to maintaining defined standards of quality expectations.