Team Approach to Quality Assurance Audits
Title: Team Approach to Quality Assurance Audits
Phase(s): Final Design
Date: April 4, 1997
The 7.5 Tasman West light Rail Project in San Jose, California has strong local support. The light rail system extension passes through the Cities of Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, and San Jose in the heart of Silicon Valley. A second extension, the 5.0 mile Tasman East Light Rail project Passes through the Cities of Milpitas and San Jose and is also in an expanding area of the Silicon Valley. A host of participating state federal agencies and private companies are involved in both light rail extensions.
The Santa Clara County Transit District (SCCTD) locally known as the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (or VTA) has included a strong quality assurance program for their final design and construction phase work for the Tasman West Light Rail Project.
VTA has a program management consultant coordinating a general engineering consultant with several major sub-consultants. Additionally, in-house VTA design staff, perform some final design and supervise all construction phase work. The program management consultant utilized a part-time quality assurance manager during the design phase and added a full time quality assurance specialist during the construction phase. The general engineering consultant utilized a part-time quality assurance manger during final design.
Initially, Quality Assurance Audits (QAA) were being undertaken independently by the Program Manager (PM) and the General Engineering Consultant (GEC). Both the GEC and the PM would perform independent QAA's and review the reports of each others audits to ascertain that the Quality Assurance Plan audit requirements were being fulfilled.
It was determined that the QAA program was not being implemented within the proposed schedule or with a sufficient degree of intensity and focus. To rectify this situation and improve audit quality it was decided that a "team audit approach" would be undertaken. At the conclusion of each audit, a consensus regarding the "acceptability" of the audit was reached. The PM and GEC each prepare separate meeting reports and exchange them. The PM and GEC alternately act as the prime auditor but each participant was fully involved in the audit and raised any question or issue they felt was warranted.
2. The Lesson
The "team audit approach" resulted in the following benefits.
- Quality of the Audits Improved - The audit approach was more comprehensive, focused and in-depth because it incorporated the views of more than one individual.
- Quality Assurance Audits were depersonalized - Since there were multiple individuals performing the QAA, the firm and individuals being audited were less likely to feel that there were any personal issues involved. Additionally, the focus of the audit was 'on-the-process' and 'presenting evidence' supporting the quality activities performed by the firm being audited.
- Quality became the focus - Perhaps because of the natural competition between individuals, and the objective and more comprehensive nature of the audit, there was more of a focus on quality issues by all parties. The audits were taken more seriously by the firms being audited.
- Checklist Use Improved - The audit staff used more checklists to incorporate a more consistent approach.
- Surprises and intimidation factors were eliminated - As the use of checklists became familiar to all parties, they anticipated what was going to be reviewed and the material was available at the beginning of the audit. This saved audit time and the parties being audited became more proactive.
A team approach to conducting quality assurance audits can be utilized by all transit agencies who are undertaking large capital improvement projects and especially where program managers and general engineering consultants are utilized.