The key to successful inspections is tying bonuses to the inspection results, he says. “When we put the program in place, we assumed it would be followed,” he says. “That didn't always happen. We had to go back and attach a system to monitor whether it was occurring or not, the number of hits at each QC point, and then attach money to it. Then we knew it was happening.”
Plus, division and area construction managers perform random inspections to put another set of eyes on the jobsite. “[The manager] won't be able to catch everything, but just knowing that guy could turn up at any point places quite a bit of pressure on [the super] to do it with the right amount of integrity.”
In 2006, Wilson also is hiring a dedicated quality assurance manager to audit site cleanliness, safety, and construction standards. The position will be outside the construction department and report directly to him.
“We added that position to avoid the situation of having the fox guarding the chicken house, of having it all within construction, especially when there is money attached,” he says. “We need that level of independence and objectivity to further enhance quality assurance. It's expensive, but it's how much we value it.”
Fieldstone values it because the impact is significant. The company uses evenflow project management, and if quality starts to slip and trades have to be called back, Wilson has to delay the whole division.
“Every time I put in a delay day, that's three closings for the year,” Wilson says. “The cost is high.”ADDED BENEFITS
Beyond the savings in cycle time, Fieldstone has seen other significant benefits from its QC program. Trade contractors are anxious to work with the company—and willing to negotiate leaner margins—because they know the builder is well organized.
“They can rely on the fact that if we ask them to be there on Tuesday morning, it will be ready to go,” he says. “They don't have to build any bluff into their bids for dry runs.”
Employee development reviews are easy because jobs are well defined and everything is measured. It's also helped them establish a great rapport with city inspectors, who are willing to come when Fieldstone asks because “they know the site will be clean and ready to sign off on,” he says.
And, of course, it's helped generate happy buyers, who depend on Fieldstone's 49-day promise for everything from locking in a mortgage rate to lining up a moving van.
“We've made this a big deal,” Wilson says. “It's who we are. We couldn't have reduced cycle time without it. It's huge. We compromise on other things, but we don't compromise on this program.”