Redefining Quality; It’s About the Process

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The word “quality” is perhaps the most overused term in construction. Practically every website or advertisement in construction uses the term. I’ve been thinking about the definition for months as we planned our updated website. I’m sure we use “quality” more than I care to admit; builders can’t help themselves.

But what does it mean to our clients?

Results often speak for themselves but if you dig deeper, quality is derived by the process. I can walk in a very nice home of good quality, but the issues are apparent. Did the painter spray or brush the trim? Was it prepped properly and sanded? Did you notice the large filler at the end of the cabinets or perhaps the wedge of crown that was tapered to fit the out-of-level ceiling?
Along our 35 year journey of quality, Natelli established standards that are often unspoken but clearly apparent when I see the results of our work. We have somewhat of a company joke: If a vendor tells one of our employees, “that’s the way we’ve always done it,” we are probably not going to use that vendor. Quality is the result of small failures that have been observed, evaluated and re-tested job after job. If we can’t succeed by learning from those failures, we might as well say, “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” We will never say that.
Rather than go on about the process, I thought I would share one photo. A random photo from a daily report by one of our supervisors. Quality starts behind the walls and even under the floors; just look at what he’s done. I wonder if you see what I see:

  • First – the job is spotless. I can’t say enough about our cleanliness. Owners and vendors walk in the project and they understand what is expected. You walk in organized and clean, you leave organized and clean.
  • Everything is labeled. Cabinets are drawn to dimension on the subfloor, every wall stud, pipe and duct is marked for future reference after drywall.
  • Cabinet blocking was noted on the floor so the carpenters knew what to do.
  • Firestopping completed around all small gaps such as the range hood and plumbing pipes.
  • Plans are available to anyone on the job, hung on the wall for easy access.
  • Details about a specific appliance, in this case the range hood or perhaps a document in the adjacent powder room. Information is abundant. There are no unknowns.
  • And my favorite- “level ceiling” is written on the floor. Look carefully at the new tapered wood on the existing ceiling joists. This is a renovation so our supervisor knew the cabinet fillers and crown would look horrible unless he leveled the entire ceiling. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked in a remodeled kitchen or even a new home (none by Natelli Homes) and saw how out of level the ceiling was. It might be the most apparent flaw in a new kitchen. All it took was someone who cared, evaluated the situation and addressed the issue.

So, quality to me is a journey, a process and yes, perhaps a result. My point today is that quality can’t be achieved unless the process leading to the final product is scrutinized, evaluated and pro-actively enacted.