Total quality management in the civil engineering consultancy industry in South Africa
Botha, Danie Van Rensburg
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Consulting Engineers worldwide, and in South Africa, render a professional service to clients consisting of project feasibility studies, planning reports, design, documentation and construction monitoring for infrastructure projects. In rendering this service, consulting engineers are subject to certain project risks that can have a huge influence on their company’s success and hence their profitability. Quality Management is an instrument through which the risks associated with consulting engineering can be mitigated to a certain degree, if a Quality Management System (QMS) is successfully introduced and continuously managed. The QMS must conform to the requirements of a recognized system like the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and in this particular case ISO 9001, which is a model for quality assurance systems in design, development, production, installation and servicing. The quality system requirements of ISO 9001 are aimed at preventing nonconformity at all phases of the product life cycle from design and/or development to servicing. The study was carried out by obtaining a convenience sample of qualitative questionnaires among professional civil engineers in consulting management positions, testing their experience of a QMS. This study has indicated that a QMS can only be successful in a company if the users have a positive attitude towards the system, and if they believe in the benefits thereof. It is therefore required that the system be launched and maintained in a user-friendly manner, with the emphasis on real risk-reducing aspects. As one of the requirements of ISO 9001 is continuous improvement of the system, recommendations are made in this study towards improving the QMS of the particular company. The influence of a QMS on the frequency and extent of Professional Indemnity cases against a company was investigated and reported on by studying 20 case studies of projects that have experienced difficulties, and have resulted in lawsuits against the consulting engineer.