Over the years the role of the construction inspector has changed from a relatively straight forward role to today’s multi skilled person encompassing leadership skills, construction knowledge and communication skills.
The construction industry continues to experience the expansion and implementation of quality control / quality assurance (QC/QA) programs impacting the role of the inspector. The traditional role of inspect, test and report is now becoming communicate, collaborate and support. Special inspector individuals have typically specialized in specific scopes of work i.e. welding, concrete structures, soils and asphalt etc. Today’s inspector must be multifaceted, capable of inspecting and testing multiple scopes of work and the ability to provide the client with explanations of test results and observations. This approach to quality has been effectively in use for many years on Federal projects including Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) projects and has progressed through the construction industry. The adoption of the design-build delivery system on many large scale heavy civil projects with QC/QA has played a significant role in this direction of inspection. The inspector is now skilled in communication. Participating in a team environment with an inspection team reporting to them daily and finding themselves in a leadership role as a focal person on the project involved in meetings, scheduling, document control, audits, and safety. Many projects have bonus incentive programs based on quality. Inspectors are now familiar with performance related specifications tied to statistical quality measures impacting the projects budget and the client’s satisfaction on inspection performance.
The project quality managers specifically seek out and build a support team with a key inspector who possesses experience and knowledge on certain items beyond his or her own to help navigate the large volume of specifications, requirements, QC/QA manuals, codes and updates.
Electronics have also changed the landscape of inspection with instant communication and the sharing of documents taking place through smart phones, lap tops and tablets. This has also lead to the gradual elimination of hard copies of plans and specifications all now accessed by the mobile devise. The sophistication of Inspectors today are now at a high level of expertise unimagined 20 years ago and are sure to continue.
Richard (Rick) Howland is Twining’s Director of Infrastructure Operations. With more than 15 years of experience in performing estimating, project management, and field supervision duties on municipal, transportation, and public works construction projects, Rick is responsible for management of all of Twining’s infrastructure field inspector’s.