Building Airplanes vs. Building Buildings – Part 3 (The Missing Link)


So far in this series of posts I’ve discussed the well-orchestrated construction of airplanes as compared with the improvisational construction of buildings in Part 1. In Part 2 I explored the differences in inspection and monitoring for the two processes. In Part 3 I’ll discuss Construction Verification‘s role in providing project partners with the means to drive their defect rates down significantly, perhaps to levels that compare favorably with those of aircraft manufacturers.

When it comes to the development of process systems, the biggest advantage that Boeing or Airbus have over a general contractor are volume and duration. When you are planning on building thousands of aircraft over a period of ten or more years, you can justify a sizable effort in developing a sophisticated process instructions that describe the installation of every wire, nut and rivet. The payoff for this intensive process development comes in the form of reduced defects, lower rework costs and of course, safer aircraft.

In construction neither owners nor general contractors can benefit from high volume or long duration as aircraft manufacturers can. While construction partners can invest in their own individual management systems, there is no economic payoff for them if they invest in systems that govern the movement and monitoring of individual contributors on a construction site. Why pay to develop specialized process instructions for every construction operation on a building when you can’t apply that information to your next building? That is, of course, if there even is a next building? Expenditures in systems development, testing, training and implementation cannot generate a positive return on investment during the time line of a single project.

Construction Verification, however, can make up for lack of process control available to the building constructor. By monitoring all significant building systems with images and data, CV offers a contractor the means to evaluate critical operations in near real time. Thus, afford him the ability to make corrections early before work is covered, averting costly rework in the process. Early detection can also reduce the quantity of errors as timely process or design changes can reduce multiple instances of the same problem.

By recording the Construction Verification data in a database, the contractor has the power to investigate quality defects like never before. If the contractor suspects that any particular error might be “the tip of the iceberg,” he can confirm or refute his fears without leaving his desk by searching the data base for multiple instances of the same defect. For example, if there concerns about quality of the roofer’s work the contractor can zero in on all work performed under division code 075000 to view every significant membrane roofing operation without leaving his desk.

With this type of information at his fingertips, the contractor can take advantage of his improvisational environment to enact process revisions on the fly.  With a few barks into a radio, process corrections can be conveyed to the superintendent and on down the line within minutes. Try that in an airplane plant.


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One Response to “Building Airplanes vs. Building Buildings – Part 3 (The Missing Link)”

  1. Allen Taylor Says:

    Nice writing. You are on my RSS reader now so I can read more from you down the road.

    Allen Taylor

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