By Rich Stoffels, Project Manager

Let’s be real, we all hate to talk about punch lists. This “to-do list” is often generated during a walk-through with the owner and lists all of the items that need to be addressed before final occupancy. Essentially, this list is a list of defects…things that do not conform to contract specifications. It seems to have become an industry standard to accept these lists. Think about that: you’re accepting there will be defects.

At Vogel Bros. Building Co., we are striving for better than that. The walk-through should not be a discovery session where the client and architect point out remaining items for completion. Their expectations were already clearly communicated. The client should get what they wanted and how the design was intended. This belief is why Vogel Bros. project teams strive for a Zero Defects List.

Vogel Bros. does not accept that the final task in delivering a successful construction project is a list of defects. We hold ourselves to a higher standard: zero defects. It’s a challenge to the status quo, and a differentiator in how we do business. But how can we achieve it?

Having a list with zero defects (simply) comes down to the work performance. On a recent project, the Project Superintendent and his expert team of subcontractors were able to achieve a zero defect list on the last two phases of a four-phase bathroom renovation in an occupied office building. It required the entire team working together to deliver a project to be proud of. This started with me, as the Project Manager, setting the Superintendent up for success. He and his subcontractors gained a solid understanding of the owner’s expectations and they were able to troubleshoot items that could be potential concerns before they became a defect. A great example on this project was the coordination of the specific cleanout location in the restrooms. (After all, who wants an unsightly cleanout in a new restroom in the first place?) The Superintendent took the time and due diligence to make sure the final locations were discussed before installation. Planning like this results in zero defects.

Another big contributor to achieving a zero defect list, was the Superintendent’s ability to monitor quality control. At Vogel Bros., we believe we are in charge of our attitudes and that our actions make a difference. This Project Superintendent fully embraces this belief and is as hands-on as they come. This is not only reflected in his work, but also in that he demands the same type of excellence from the subcontractors. He sets the bar at a high level and constantly “measures” performance against that bar while installs are going on. If things are not right, he ensures that they are corrected immediately. Performance like this results in zero defects.

Understanding the owner’s expectations, proper planning by the Project Manager and Superintendent, communicating the expectations to our teammates, “measuring” their work as it occurs, and remedying work that is not up to standards immediately are all highly feasible actions that can help us achieve a zero defect list. As a project manager, very few things are sweeter to hear than an architect looking at an owner saying “I got nothin’!” as we finished a walkthrough. Congrats to the project team that made that happen!