Concrete blocks: Tackling quality

by Tania Wannenburg
Concrete blocks tackling quality CMA

Quality insurance is an integral part of the construction process – from the manufacturing of materials to the installation thereof.

For every action, there is a reaction. And in construction, if one part of the process fails, the rest of the project is in jeopardy. Especially in times of economic strain, such as what the industry is experiencing at the moment, value for money and the prevention of unnecessary rework or replacement costs are top of mind.

Frans Minnaar, executive director of the Concrete Manufacturers Association (CMA), points out that the outcome of any construction project will always be influenced by all parts of the process and successful execution of each stage is vitally important. This is why quality assurance is an integral part of the total construction process.

Analysing failures
“If one starts to investigate unsuccessful projects, it becomes apparent that the causes for failures or delays are usually a result of the lack of adherence to proper quality assurance systems,” says Minnaar.

It starts with high-quality materials . . .
From both a construction and financial point of view, there is an increased awareness of the value of using products specifically manufactured for construction projects under strictly controlled conditions. Developers cannot afford to procure inferior materials that have been backyard-manufactured, or which are untested. In addition, labourers need to be properly trained to ensure good workmanship.

. . . but it doesn’t end there
“The problem is that in many instances the interpretation of quality assurance is limited to the quality of workmanship only, instead of realising that quality assurance should be an overall concept of service, manufacturing, delivering and installation,” Minnaar states.

Taking the example of the failure to deliver, something that commonly affects large construction projects, Minnaar illustrates how delays and even strikes by workforces are caused by a lack of quality assurance in different aspects of the projects such as poor planning, mistaken procurement, poor human resource functions, poor control on deliveries and more.

The tools exist
“For every single function in any project there are standards available for the implementation of quality assurance in services and production, which have to be enforced both by the client and the contractor. If these are imposed and controlled correctly, then theoretically (apart from natural influences such as weather conditions or natural disasters) there should be no delays or failures,” he explains.  

“Obviously it is human to make an error and it would be fair to expect certain non-conformities, but by successfully implementing quality assurance assessments and surveys during the entire process, correct and timeous completion of projects becomes a given opportunity.”

Taking action: New certification
Playing an important role in preventing the use of poor quality precast products in the industry, the CMA has taken a proactive step by introducing the CMA Accreditation and Mark of Approval.

In future, CMA members will be required to implement a standardised quality assurance system within precast manufacturing plants that will be assessed and evaluated by systems auditors to ensure compliance with applicable South African National Standards (SANS). Products manufactured in accordance with SANS will receive the CMA mark of quality as proof of compliance.

“The CMA wants the industry to be confident in the use of products that carry the CMA Accreditation or Mark of Approval, and be sure that the product complies with the required standards. We also want to see the industry specifying only products that carry the CMA mark and in so doing ensure that good quality precast concrete products are used,” Minnaar concludes.

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to the Concrete Manufacturers Association for the information to write the article.

Awarding quality: Radway Green Project, Eastern Cape
Presented with a community upliftment commendation at the CMA Awards for Excellence in April this year, the Radway Green Project enabled 27 displaced families to build their own houses using local materials while acquiring building skills. The project also employed members of the Department of Rural Development’s Youth Programme.

During the first phase, approximately 50 previously unskilled and semi-skilled participants were trained to appreciate the importance of high-quality blocks and taught how to achieve quality in the production process. In total, 126 000 blocks were made during the project using two Hydraform block-making machines.

Phase two focused on laying the interlocking dry-stacked blocks in the construction of the 64m² houses. In addition, the department’s youth team was taught artisan skills in plumbing, electrical work and carpentry, among others, which were used in the construction of the houses and can now be utilised in other projects.

Caption: Interlocking dry-stacked blocks were used to construct 27 houses as part of the Radway Green Project in the Eastern Cape, during which previously unskilled and semi-skilled participants were trained in quality manufacturing and workmanship.
Courtesy of the CMA Awards

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