Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Quality problems

As I drove up to the "new" building with the fading paint, I tried to rationalize what I was seeing. A week earlier, the building had new paint applied to the outside, just prior to the new roof being installed. To see that same building with half a good paint job and half no paint, I went through every scenario I could think to justify why. Maybe they found a new color they like better. Maybe they need to re-seal the walls and take the paint off before hand. Or maybe, just maybe, they lined the freakin' roof up flush with the wall face so that when it rained, the water cascaded down the face of the wall and washed away all the paint. As I got to the edge of the building, I looked up and saw that this was in fact the case. To make matters worse, the roof wasn't lined up straight all the way down, meaning that in some spots it was lined up so the water ran straight into the middle of the wall, which I hear is great for the durability of the cheap brick inside.

The problems didn't end there. In one area we are constructing a 600,000 m2 yard for all of the traffic that comes through here. This way, instead of trying to drive through the mud, the convoys can deliver their supplies in an area with a stabilized, modified sub-base. What I saw out there, however, were several pools of water - which are great for swimming, but bad for drainage. The other problem I saw was that they were compacting the sub-base 30 cm at a time. Now, I built my own patio at home, which of course means I am an expert at compacting sub-base. I compacted my sub-base every 3cm, and I was just building a patio to withstand a gas grill and my fat ass after a few beers. This is an area that will have to stand up to the weight of tanks, trucks, and the occasional mortar. Unbelievable Not surprisingly, I used the same equipment for my 600 m2 area that they are using for one 100 times that size.

I've heard of similar problems at other sites as well. It seems that if left to their own devices, the contractors will use the minimum amount of quality that they can possibly get away with. Part of this is because of the "lowest bidder" policy on how we award a contract. Obviously, their bid is the lowest for a reason. So it's up to us to ensure quality is maintained, but its a never ending battle. The other part of the problem is just bad habits by the contractors. They know there is money to be made by cutting corners and they do so, seemingly without shame. Speaking of no shame, I didn't even get into the sewer trenches that always seem to pop up at the construction sites. Nasty.

With this plague of low quality comes opportunity. Opportunity for those contractors who want to deliver a quality product despite having to keep their prices low. Such is the case with one company that has been awarded 4 different projects here. It's a small company run by 5 brothers, all some type of engineer. One of the brothers was a fighter pilot in Saddam's Army, but lost his commission after the 1st Gulf War (has there been a second Gulf War? Because I wouldn't call this a Gulf War. Anyhow, I digress . . .). The motto is this company is deliver a quality product and they do just that, yet somehow manage to keep their prices down. Word of mouth has given these guys opportunity where before there was none, and they are getting projects faster then they keep up with. It's a good story, and I hope with growth they can continue to do what has gotten them to this point.

On another note, I've added some more links to my blogroll on the right. These blogs put my writing to shame, so make sure you take some time and check them out!


XO said...

Nice, it could be worse and they could build IEDs into the walls so that once it's built they can come back and blow it up so you can pay them to build it again....not that any of them would do that.

Seems like the Army fails to utilize a catch phrase that I see a lot in my "real job", a statement that they will only accept a "technically and commercially acceptable" bid. I guess it's hard to have someone who lies either way fill out a pre-qualification form.

Nice poster, I will use it today at work as there has been much grumbling about our Quality process as well....our guys aren't applying enough paint, go figure.

Stay safe your last couple of weeks and thanks for keeping me entertained.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like they've been letting me plan their projects. I didn't understand half of what you wrote. :) I'm a beancounter, though, so I guess it's to be expected. Stay safe. :)

Bag Blog said...

I once heard Alan Shepard speak. He joked about being launched into space in a rocket built by the lowest bidder.

LT Nixon said...

Great de-motivational poster! It can pretty much be applied to anything in Iraq...or the military for that matter.

David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 01/30/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

Huggins said...

count the days, Jason!

Carrie said...

I've always wondered what reserves did in the 'civilian world', so to speak. I like the picture; stay safe, ok?

Mrs. Exnicios said...

Can't believe what a small IRR Army world it is! Thanks for the info relayed through "Aunt Julie" and glad you get to enjoy every moment of terminal leave.

Jason said...

xo - its all about the quality

cat - thanks!

bag - now thats scary!

lt - I think it describes the deployment nicely

huggins - under 50!

carrie - I wouldn't consider myself a reservist. but, I will do my best to stay safe :)

lauren - its crazy how small the Army is sometimes!