Chapter 1: Introduction

1.1 Guideline Objectives and Background

This report was developed in 1992 and subsequently updated in 2002 under the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) sponsorship to assist transit agencies in developing quality management systems and plans for their FTA-funded transit capital improvement projects. FTA regulations require each FTA funded major capital program to submit a Program Management Plan (PMP) for FTA approval. These regulations also stipulate that a Quality Plan must be referenced or included as part of the PMP.

FTA maintains oversight for the grants that it awards, but assigns the grant administration and management responsibility to the grantees. FTA's Office of Program Management delegates the responsibility for oversight of nearly all capital grants to the appropriate FTA Regional Office.

The Quality Assurance and Quality Control Guidelines is one of several initiatives undertaken by FTA to enhance the management of the projects that it funds. The initiatives have included guidance to grantees on topics such as insurance and value engineering; assignment of Project Management Oversight Contractors (PMOC) to provide technical support to FTA; and the development of the Project and Construction Management Guidelines [Ref. 38].

The Project and Construction Management Guidelines includes a brief description of QA as a part of a management control system. It suggests appropriate contents of a QA/QC program in preliminary engineering, final design, construction, testing, and start-up.

This Quality Assurance and Quality Control Guidelines document expands upon the QA/QC program guidance contained in the Project and Construction Management Guidelines. Its major purpose is to promote the development of grantee quality management systems consistent with contemporary FTA practices to affect successful implementation.

Before undertaking the 1992 effort, information was gathered through the PMOCs to determine the state of QA/QC programs for FTA funded capital improvement projects. Some 40 different projects were covered in this investigation, ranging in dollar value from less than a million to several billion. The findings were as follows:

Conducting a similar study in advance of the 2002 update was not a requirement of the FTA because it was already keenly aware that nearly all of the conclusions of the original study were still valid. The only exceptions were on the positive side and consisted of the knowledge that in 2002 all of the larger grantees now had QA/QC programs and had staffs dedicated to QA/QC activities.

The remainder of this chapter defines a number of the quality concepts, gives a historic overview of their development and their relationship, and discusses QA/QC in the context of project and construction management. This chapter also includes a description of what makes up an effective Quality Management System, perspectives on quality from the standpoint of the service provider and user, a description of the inter-relationships and balances among quality, costs and schedules, an overview of the barriers to QA/QC and suggested resolutions, and directions for using these guidelines.

1.2 QA/QC Definitions

Following are definitions of various terms used in the quality field.

Quality Policy

"The overall quality intentions and direction of an organization as regards quality, as formally expressed by top management." [Ref. 52]

Quality Management

"That aspect of the overall management function that determines and implements the quality policy." [Ref. 52]

Quality Management System

"The organizational structure, responsibilities, procedures, processes, and resources for implementing quality management." [Ref. 52]

Quality Procedures

Written instructions for implementing various components of the quality management system. Procedures should identify what is to be done, who should do it, how, where, and when it should be done.

Quality Manual

The typical form of the main document used in drawing up and implementing a quality management system. The quality manual should contain the quality policy and written procedures. In larger properties, there can be more than one quality manual. For example, there could be a corporate quality manual, divisional quality manuals, and specialized quality manuals for design, procurement, and construction activities, prepared by those responsible for the work.

Quality Plans

A written description of intended actions to control and assure quality. The Quality Plan defines applicable quality policy for the project and applicable quality procedures. For new projects, Quality Plans should be developed consistent with all other requirements of a grantee's quality management system.

Quality Program

The coordinated execution of applicable QA and QC plans and activities for a project.

Quality Control

"The operational techniques and activities that are used to fulfill requirements for quality. " [Ref. 52] These techniques are used to assure that a product or service meets requirements. QC is carried out by the operating forces. Their job is to do the work and meet the product or service goals. Generally, QC refers to the act of taking measurements, testing, and inspecting a process or product to assure that it meets specification. It also includes actions by those performing the work to control the quality of the work. Products may be design drawings or specifications, manufactured equipment, or constructed items. QC also refers to the process of witnessing or attesting to, and documenting such actions.

Quality Assurance

"All those planned and systematic actions necessary to provide adequate confidence to the management that a product or service will satisfy given requirements for quality." [Ref. 52] QA emphasizes "upstream" actions that directly improve the chances that QC actions will result in a product or service that meets requirements. QA includes ensuring the project requirements are developed to meet the needs of all relevant internal and external agencies, planning the processes needed to assure quality of the project, ensuring that equipment and staffing is capable of performing tasks related to project quality, ensuring that contractors are capable of meeting and do carry out quality requirements, and documenting the quality efforts.

Quality Oversight (or Quality Surveillance)

A dictionary definition of oversight is "watchful care; general Supervision." Quality oversight is conducted by an organization that is ultimately responsible for project quality where other organizations have been assigned QA and QC. Quality oversight can range from an informal process of keeping in touch with the QA organization to a second layer of QA activities, depending upon the circumstances. Quality oversight verifies the execution of the quality program. Quality surveillance means the same thing as quality oversight.

Total Quality Management

An organization-wide effort that involves everyone in the effort to improve performance. It makes quality a primary strategic objective. TQM is achieved through an integrated effort among personnel at all Levels to increase customer satisfaction by continuously improving performance.

Major Capital Project

A Project that:

  • Involves the construction of a new fixed guideway or extension of an existing fixed guideway; or
  • Involves the rehabilitation or modernization of an existing fixed
  • guideway with a total project cost in excess of $100 million; or
  • The Administrator determines is a major capital project.

1.3 A Historical Overview of QA/QC and TQM

Dating back to the early crafts, product quality was a very personal product characteristic. Craftsmen earned their reputation by producing quality goods for each customer. With the industrial revolution and mass production, there was no longer a one-to-one relationship between craftsmen and customer. Specifications or standards for how to produce a product became the substitute for the craftsman's personal touch. QC was the function of inspecting the end product to determine if it met the specification or standard.

Standards became important not just to ensure that pieces fit together, but also to ensure the safety of the final product. As early as 1914, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) developed codes for boilers and pressure vessels. Use of these standards for boilers resulted in fewer failures, even as performance improved.

Quality standards began to be applied to the nuclear industry in the late 1940's, and in 1954 the ASME published ASME NQA-1, "Quality Assurance Program Requirements for Nuclear Facilities." This publication listed eighteen criteria for a QA program. In the nuclear industry QA refers to the entire QA/QC process.

Despite this earlier start, the real push for QA programs is thought to have come in the 1960's, when Robert McNamara introduced the concept in the Department of Defense (DOD) [Ref. 23]. McNamara wanted to cut the budget by transferring QC responsibility to DOD contractors, primarily manufacturers. DOD then had the QA responsibility where the purpose was to assure that the contractors carried out QC. The idea eventually spread to the construction sector of DOD and the Corps of Engineers instituted its own program in the late 1960's. With the Corps program, the construction contractor is responsible for QC while the Corps handles QA.

The Japanese adapted the statistical QC procedures promoted by W. Edward Deming, and the managerial performance approach advocated by J.M. Juran. These concepts combined with a highly educated Japanese work force, and with the Japanese approach to continual quality improvement, led to Japan establishing itself as the leader in quality in the electronics and automobile industries.

The Japanese went beyond concepts of QC and reliance on inspection and testing, to the point where high quality work is expected from the start. Japanese corporations expect an extremely high level of quality from their suppliers, and long-term relationships are built with those suppliers that can meet quality expectations. The Japanese use management techniques to involve the entire work force in quality improvement efforts. They make a continuing effort to understand the desires of the customers to ensure that they are building the right thing as well as building it right. Because of its broad scope, the Japanese quality programs have been described as Total Quality Management or TQM, rather than QA/QC.

TQM, QA, and QC represent a hierarchy. A quality program for inspection and testing of product is a QC program. The addition of QA activities should improve upstream processes as well as provide for verification of QC activities, and should greatly enhance the probability of compliance with quality goals. TQM will improve management procedures and processes in order to further improve quality and reduce costs. In the early 1990s, the transit industry appeared comfortable with QC, but was in the beginning stages for establishing QA programs.

1.4 QA/QC in the Context of Project and Construction Management

The function of project and construction management is to assure acceptable quality while executing the project on-time and on-budget. For an FTA grantee, acceptable quality has a broad meaning ­ it means meeting the needs of the public and satisfying all of the regulatory and operational requirements outside and within the agency.

The major reason for emphasizing the need for a Quality Plan in addition to the PMP is to explicitly recognize the importance of quality in constructed projects and in procurement. The job of project management is to manage schedule, budget, and quality of a project. However, since schedule and budget are easy to measure, and thus have been the traditional focus of management, quality processes have often been overlooked. The requirement for a specific Quality Plan for a project helps to address this imbalance.

1.5 Quality Management System (QMS)

Transit projects can involve many processes that vary in nature: planning, engineering design, systems design, software development, construction, and manufacturing. The manufacturing industry, which generally utilizes processes that are repetitive in nature, can easily make use of quality programs that are based on statistical QC techniques. The statistical nature of these types of quality programs facilitates process improvements though continual experimentation.

Planning, engineering design, and construction, on the other hand, often involve "one of a kind" projects where a quality management system that emphasizes effective management practices is more appropriate. Similarly, software development and systems design are related processes that require unique quality management systems and specialized quality tools and procedures.

1.5.1 Characteristics of A Quality Management System

An effective Quality Management System is not just one where good products and services are delivered. Rather, it is one that continuously seeks to improve the products and services being delivered and the corresponding delivery processes used by the organization. In order to establish an effective Quality Management System, the following characteristics are required:

The Quality Wheel.  This figure illustrates the point that QA/QC is at the heart of the asset acquisition and management process, and should be applied throughout the asset lifecycle.The current move towards performance specifications contracting in the engineering and construction industry has been extended into the quality assurance/quality control programs to formalize the expanded definitions of quality within the project development process. As a result, agencies are instituting strong construction and procurement oversight programs in order to assure that quality design and workmanship is provided in a timely manner.

Traditional theories and practices of QA/QC have been effective in delivering successful project results. However, these theories have been somewhat limited or 'static,' focusing on the traditional project detailed design specifications. Industry experience illustrates that QA/QC is at the heart of the asset acquisition and management process. QA/QC lends itself to each stage in a project life cycle and should be thought of as a continuous or 'dynamic' process that should be applied throughout the asset life cycle. This concept becomes more apparent as we move towards performance specifications of the traditional civil elements and extend the concept into the vehicle and systems asset types. The quality assurance life cycle approach extends into the operational aspects such as warranty provisions, preventive maintenance and safety programs and the rehabilitation and replacement of each asset type as it fulfills its life cycle design specifications.

As more focus is placed on performance specifications, under a systematic, life cycle approach, QA/QC becomes incorporated earlier in the project development process, starting at the project planning and engineering stages. The emphasis on QA/QC starts to expand, complementing the traditional QA/QC approach, as the project goes into engineering, design, procurement, construction, systems installation, operations and maintenance, and asset rehabilitation and replacement. Another distinguishing characteristic of a systematic QA/QC approach is the ability to address the root cause of non-compliance problems arising during the life cycle of a given project, rather than treating the symptoms of such problems, as is the case with the traditional approach. The importance of a systematic QA/QC approach is further emphasized in a Design-Build project development environment, where the project moves through its lifecycle stages in a ‘continuous’ rather than ‘discrete’ fashion.

1.5.2 Involvement

As stated above, a Quality Management System is one that is all encompassing. As a result, every person within the organization must participate to the extent that his or her job responsibilities dictate. This includes members of grantee senior management, functional management and project management, functional, office and shop personnel, including engineers and purchasing personnel, programs personnel, quality personnel, and operations personnel. In addition, all consultants, contractors and suppliers must become part of the process.

1.5.3 Implementation Process

In order to implement an effective Quality Management System, the following general steps should be followed:

1.5.4 Tools

There are many tools available to program/project managers and project and quality personnel to solve problems, control processes, improve products and services, and assure project success. A summary of those tools may be grouped into three broad categories:

Utilizing or requiring consultants and contractors to use these tools will allow grantees to more effectively manage their projects resulting in reduced costs and efficient on-time performance. According to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) proposed standard ISO 11462-1, some of the ways that effective implementation of Statistical Process Control SPC reduces cost and increases profit are [Ref. 6]:

A detailed explanation of each of these tools and how to use them is beyond the scope of these guidelines. However, these topics are covered in numerous textbooks, military and international standards, and quality control handbooks. Further, experienced quality control and quality assurance personnel are typically familiar with and know when and how to use and apply these tools.

One concept, however, that will be defined here is the concept of accuracy vs. precision:

When requirements for data are established, it is not enough to identify only accuracy or precision; both are needed. Further, when addressing data, it is not enough to say that it is accurate or it is precise; statements about both are necessary.

1.5.5 Root Cause Analysis

The tools identified in Section 1.5.4 will assist the project manager in identifying problems, quality or otherwise. Once a problem is identified, it is necessary to determine the cause of that problem. Sometimes the cause is very obvious and the resulting fix is very simple to implement. Sometimes the cause is not so obvious and the project manager needs to dig deeper to determine the cause. This process is known as Root Cause Analysis.

Root cause analysis is the concept of analyzing a problem beyond the obvious symptoms manifested by the problem and identifying the actual cause of the problem. A piece of equipment that is not able to produce product to the specified tolerance, at first glance, may appear to require adjusting, or replacement. However, the root cause of the problem could very well be operator error, incorrect drawings, unrealistic requirement, incorrect material, factory conditions, or some combination of all of these. Fixing the most obvious condition may not solve the problem and could result in further complications or delays. Consequently, all possible conditions and combinations must be explored before a problem can truly be eliminated and the equipment adjusted or replaced. Note that this is true whether the problem involves a piece of equipment, a process, or an individual.

1.6 Quality From Service Provider and User Perspectives

The definition of quality varies from grantee to grantee, from customer to customer, from contractor to contractor, from supplier to supplier, and indeed, from person to person. Depending on what a person sees or values in a product or process or project, the definition can vary vastly. It is virtually impossible for all parties to agree on one definition that satisfies everyone. Given the inherent “subjective” nature of the definition of quality, the need to utilize performance specifications becomes paramount. Performance specifications are geared towards product functionality, whereas prescriptive specifications are geared towards specifying the characteristics of a given product. Often times, it is this prescriptive methodology that limits the desired functionality and leads to higher costs to arrive at the desired quality. Research has demonstrated that quality expectations have been met (or exceeded) when agencies employed performance specifications in their procurement documents. By focusing on the functional elements of the end product, rather than the detailed characteristics of each subcomponent, the owner agency provides the contractor/manufacturer the needed flexibility to utilize their expertise in delivering a quality product that will not only meet the owner agency’s expectations, but also in a cost effective manner. The transit industry has been moving towards the implementation of performance specifications in the procurement of capital projects in order to reap the benefits of this approach. Nevertheless, within the transit industry, the definition of quality has definite connotations from the service provider and user perspectives. Following is a discussion of those perspectives and a description of the benefits of a successful quality program for the service provider and for the owner.

1.6.1 Product Characteristics

Each grantee project will have its own unique product characteristics or design features, even in those cases where the project involves similar product deliveries, such as buses or rail vehicles. A quality project or product is one that delivers to the grantee all of these features in a timely, cost effective manner. Not only must the product contain the requisite features, but also these features must effectively integrate and operate within the surrounding infrastructure in which the product will be utilized. As a result, the quality of the system or product should be evaluated, not as a stand-alone unit, but as integrated system. Additionally, the delivered project or product should be evaluated in light of its associated support materials, such as documentation, training, test equipment and spare parts. Although the user and service provider will view most of the product characteristics similarly on the surface, the underlying product characteristics and support material will not be viewed at all by the user. Individual product characteristics are too numerous to list, but may be broadly described as features related to the product’s design and its associated support materials.

1.6.2 Service Characteristics

In addition to product characteristics, each grantee project will require its own unique service characteristics. These service characteristics, when viewed by the service provider, will differ from those that will be expected by the user of the system. They differ in the sense that they represent the service delivered by the consultants, contractors, suppliers, etc. on the project. The user, on the other hand, views service characteristics by how well the service provider performs. Although some of the language that describes quality may be the same, e.g., on-time performance, the deliverer of the service will differ. Essentially, in one case the grantee is the recipient of the service and in the other case the grantee is the deliverer of the service. Some of the service characteristics are:

1.6.3 The Service Provider

The service provider is generally the transit agency or port authority that provides transit services to the public. The grantee and transit agency are generally one in the same. However, within the transit agency is a broad range of functional and administrative departments, all of whom are typically customers and service providers to one another. For example, the construction management and engineering departments are typically involved in the procurement of systems and equipment that will be used by the operations department to deliver service to the riding public. Thus, the construction management and engineering departments are providing a service to the operations department that is providing a service to the public. Reversing the process, the operations department must provide their operating requirements to the construction management and engineering departments so that they can be translated into contract specifications.

At the opposite end of this cycle is the maintenance department that also provides a service to the operations department. Each of these departments, along with all those departments not explicitly mentioned, report to or provide a service to the administration of the transit agency. Thus, it is safe to assume that each and every individual in the transit agency is a “service provider” in some capacity ­ operations, engineering, construction, maintenance, procurement, etc.

1.6.4 The User

The user of the system is the public. In most cases, the public has the option to use or not use the services offered by the transit agency. Thus, the transit agency is competing for the dollars that will be spent by the public on transportation. These dollars are vital to the long term success of the transit agency and thus, the user is a necessary ingredient to that success.

1.6.5 Benefits to the Service Provider

When transit projects are successfully accomplished in a quality fashion, they offer the following benefits to the service provider:

1.6.6 Benefits to the User

When transit projects are successfully accomplished in a quality fashion, they offer the following benefits to the user:

1.7 Inter-relationships and Balances Among Quality, Costs, and Schedules

1.7.1 Quality Attributes or Dimensions 

As noted in Section 1.6 above, the definition of quality varies depending on who is doing the defining, be it grantee, customer, consultant, contractor, or supplier. Nevertheless, it is imperative that the grantee clearly identifies the “attributes or dimensions of quality” in their contract specification and purchase orders. By so doing, they can make clear to their consultant, contractor, or supplier their quality expectations and they will maximize the probability that the product or project they are procuring will satisfy their needs. Examples of quality attributes that can and should be specified include:

In addition to specifying these quality attributes, it is imperative to specify the support materials that will allow the service provider to cost effectively maintain the system in a manner that will assure continued delivery of quality service to the user of the system. Examples include:

1.7.2 Quality Costs

Quality costs fall into two broad categories, the price of conformance and the price of non-conformance. The price of conformance is also known as the cost of detection and can be further divided into prevention costs and appraisal costs. The price on nonconformance is also known as the cost of lesser quality and can be further divided into internal failure costs and external failure costs. Figure 1-1 identifies examples of each of these categories.

As Figure 1-1 depicts, quality costs cover a wide spectrum and occur during all phases of the project. Although most nonconformance costs are borne by the contractor, the grantee may also experience unwanted costs as a result of nonconformance, such as loss of revenue, project personnel cost increases due to longer project duration, and extra force account costs associated with supporting the contractor. In addition, overall life cycle costs for such items as maintenance and spares will be typically higher for the grantee as a result of nonconformance issues that could not be resolved.

Grantee costs associates with conformance quality activities include design, process, and document control, inspection and testing, and audits and training.

Figure 1-1 ­ Summary of Quality Costs

Quality Costs


1. Price of Conformance/Cost of Detection


A. Prevention Costs (Associated with assuring the product or project meets requirements)

Design analysis & reviews
Systems analysis
Planning activities

B. Appraisal Costs (Associated with determining the degree of product or project conformance)

Design checking
Incoming inspection
Supplies inspection
Field inspection
Reliability/maintainability/safety analyses & testing

Quality Costs


2. Price on Nonconformance/Cost of Lesser Quality


A. Internal Cost of Defects or Failures (Associated with problems discovered prior to product or project delivery)

Assessment costs
Schedule delays
Cost of extended financing

B. External Cost of Defects or Failures (Associated with problems discovered after product or project delivery)

Warranty repair costs
Customer complaints
Product liability costs
Transportation costs
Labor, equipment, and materials
Force account costs

1.7.3 Balancing Quality, Costs, and Schedules

It is evident from Figure 1-1 that the conformance activities are not just related to quality, but also fall into the category of good project management practices. Thus, it is difficult to clearly define how much is being spent on purely quality activities. Nevertheless, industry studies have shown that preventing defects avoids or reduces unwanted project costs and improves delivery performance. One rule of thumb is that every dollar spent on prevention saves $10 in appraisal and failure costs [Ref. 8]. Further, quality expert Philip Crosby, in his 1979 book, Quality is Free, espoused the philosophy that the cost of poor quality is greater than the cost of preventing poor quality. Thus, he concluded that quality improvement efforts will more than pay for themselves [Ref. 15].

No discussion of quality costs would be complete without mentioning the impact of poor quality. Grantees are generally both consumers and providers of products and services. If the grantee accepts a poor design or approves nonconforming workmanship that does not satisfy their own requirements, they can be certain that the resulting product or service will not meet the requirements of their customers, the public. This can have serious consequences resulting in the loss of ridership, the potential for liability, the loss of productivity, and an increase in life cycle costs.

Quality-related efforts are beneficial to the success, overall cost, and delivery performance of the project and that project managers must demonstrate diligence when making decisions that affect the quality-related efforts outlined in the 15 quality elements.

1.8 Barriers to QA/QC and Suggested Resolutions

1.8.1 Management Awareness

Managers have the responsibility for guiding the organization. They set the direction for the organization, establish the goals, and inspire the attitudes that drive their individual teams toward accomplishing the organization’s mission. Most employees will focus on issues that they believe are of primary concern to their bosses. This attitude moves up and down the chain of command. There is no doubt that management is interested in providing quality products and services to their clients; however, the degree of interest is directly proportional to the actions of management. Simply put, actions speak louder than words and merely saying that you, as a manager, are interested in quality is not enough. Rather, grantee managers must:

1.8.2 Cost and Schedule Concerns

Although tight budgets and challenging schedules have historically been cited for not implementing quality programs and conducting quality efforts, the tide has changed over the years to where most transit agencies have dedicated quality departments and follow sound quality practices. However, at the individual project level, project managers are still faced with day-to-day decisions that must balance their short-term requirements with the agency’s long-term goals. Further, although Section 1.7 purports that the long-term benefits of quality far exceed the short-term costs, these project managers are generally evaluated annually on their short-term performance. This may tend to impact their decision-making. The following suggestions may help to mitigate this concern:

1.8.3 Resistance to Change

Many people and organizations are apprehensive of change and consequently are slow to change. It is only when the negative consequences of not changing outweigh the consequences of changing that change takes place. In fact, it was only after the Japanese auto industry successfully applied quality improvement concepts and posed serious competition to the American auto industry, that quality began to make serious strides in the United States. Thirty years later the FTA required grantees to seriously incorporate quality concepts in their projects and the result has been the successful application of these concepts and improved project performance. Thus, we can see how slowly change can take place.

Even though significant strides have occurred, there is still room for improvement in the transit industry. Some of the rules suggested by Juran to avoid resistance to change include [Ref. 34]:

1.8.4 Lack of Training

As noted in Section 1.5.2, a successful management system involves all personnel at all levels within the organization and even personnel outside the organization, especially those entities that supply funding. It was further noted that everyone within the organization should be trained in order to know what role they play in implementing an effective system. Training should start with senior and project management and work its way down into the organization. The quality department should receive parallel training in order to be in a position to help implement initiatives and provide additional levels of leadership within the organization. At the individual project level, the entire project team should be trained regarding the unique quality requirements of the project. As the project evolves, training should be expanded to include consultants, contractors, and suppliers, as required. Inspectors and other personnel may require specialty training or certification when performing critical functions, such as welding or inspecting pressure containers, etc. Finally, training is not a one-time event. Rather, it is an on-going process that helps to assure that all members of the organization, in general, and the project team, in particular, can successfully implement, and assure the success of, the organization or project’s quality goals and requirements.

1.9 How to Use These Guidelines

Grantees should use these guidelines in the development of their quality plan. In order to develop an effective quality plan, the grantee should:

  1. Read the guidelines in order to understand what constitutes a quality plan.
  2. Seek advice and counsel from the regional FTA representative and personnel from other agencies about the development of a quality plan.
  3. Collect source material that may be useful and applicable.
  4. Determine which of the fifteen elements apply to the grantee’s project(s).
  5. Begin to establish the plan following the direction of these guidelines and the applicable elements.

Grantees should develop unique quality plans and quality procedures that satisfy their individual needs. The FTA recommends seeking the advice and counsel of other grantees who have developed successful quality plans in order to learn from their experience. However, the examples in these guidelines and other sources should only be used as reference material and should not be copied by grantees.