Posted by: nedpelger | July 3, 2008

India Musings and Quality Control on the Jobsite

Everything about India seems intense: the colors women wear, the smells both good and not, the spicy tastes and the use of the horn as a near constant tool for driving.

The modern high tech culture seems to have exploded within the traditional religious cultures.Woman in burka with fancy shoes I saw a woman in Mumbai dressed in the traditional Muslim burka, nothing but her eyes showing through a slit in the black cloth. Then I look down and see her gold hi-heels. The huge Indian corporation TATA (that recently bought Jaguar from Ford) posts signs all over the country, selling steel, cell phones and lots more. Yet cows have the right of way in every traffic situation. Buddhist monks avoid swatting mosquitoes because all life is sacred, yet no 911 system exists. If you get hurt, you better have some resources and some friends to get emergency medical care.

I’ve stopped by several building sites and consistently notice the bamboo scaffolding, the random sapling trees used for floor shoring and concrete form tolerances that are, shall we say, quite generous.

Rebar tying

The photos give a visual sense to my descriptions. We came across a fascinating enterprise as we exited a train. Over a million lunches get delivered each day from wives at home to their husbands working in Mumbai with a delivery error rate of one wrong delivery for every one million correct deliveries.

Think about what that means. One million wives make a hot lunch in the late morning all around the outskirts of Mumbai. Then a loose knit group of couriers pick up these lunches, carrying many at a time, hop on overloaded trains and buses and deliver the hot lunch each wife made to where her husband is working.

The couriers use a code system on top of the lunch pails. The photos below show some examples of the lunch pails, carriers and delivery code. Think about that level of quality…one million correct procedures for every fault. Now think about the construction project you are working on right now. Are there many errors on the project?

I’d say the average sized commercial building project has hundreds or thousands of errors. All the items that end up on a punch list, of course, but also many items that get covered up and aren’t quite right but nobody sees. If you’re honest and paying attention, I think you’ll agree that we have too many errors and failures on construction projects.

How do we improve? It’s complicated. Every stakeholder in the game has some responsibility. There is some “Do more and try harder” but there are also systematic changes that need to happen. What do you think needs to happen on your project?

By the way, I’ll be writing about this regularly because it’s a big item for which Construction Supervisors take most of the heat. Hopefully we can get some good discussions going about the theories and realities.


  1. Pardon the buzzword, but a supervisor must create a “culture” of pride in quality work on the jobsite. You must not give in to the pressures of time and money and have the guts to say, “That is not acceptable”, and be willing to stop everything until it gets corrected. You also have to be willing to stand up to project management over it.

    The key to this approach is knowing what the standards are and being reasonable. When you must compromise, just make sure there is a consequence to the offender, even if it only means that you never let him forget it for the rest of the job.

    ; )

  2. Thanks !

  3. Is the first website for women only jobs. It’s a revolution started in India. Join today.

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