Chapter 3: Organization of a Quality Management System

FTA grantees use many different organizational structures for carrying out capital projects. All work, including design, procurement, construction management, and construction may be done in-house or by outside suppliers or contractors. The organization of a grantee quality management system may also be structured in many ways; however, all of the applicable quality management system elements should be incorporated into the activities of the organizational entities involved in the program. The measures instituted should give serious consideration to minimizing the disruption to continuing grantee operations.

3.1.1 General Principles

In Chapter 2, the quality element "Management Responsibility" states that a person should be designated as a representative of management who has the responsibility and authority to assure that the management's quality policy is implemented and maintained. Those responsible for verifying that quality activities are performed in accordance with established requirements and procedures should be independent of those directly responsible for the work.

The fulfillment of management's responsibility suggests that:

It is important to distinguish between responsibility for the quality policy and responsibility for quality of a project or activity. Each person responsible for a project or activity is also responsible for the quality of that project or activity. On the other hand, the QA staff is responsible for participating in the quality processes and for ensuring that these processes are working. If the processes are working properly within a project, there is more certainty that the project quality objectives will be achieved.

The QA staff should be seen by the PM as part of the team. The QA staff and the QC activities should be seen as helpful in preventing errors which could lead to significant problems and increased cost. The organizational structure should reinforce the concept that the QA staff is part of the project team.

An appropriate approach to carrying out the "Management Responsibility" element is for the grantee to have a "Director of Quality Assurance" reporting to senior management. Where the QA role is focused on capital projects, the Director of Quality Assurance should report to the manager responsible for the implementation of the capital projects. The advantages of such a structure are:

The Director of Quality Assurance should be responsible for verifying the implementation and maintenance of the grantee quality policy and detailed quality procedures. The Director of Quality Assurance should provide oversight of all quality activities, assistance to the PMs in the development of project Quality Plans, prevention and resolution of quality problems, oversight of contractor QA/QC programs, QA training programs, QA oversight, and QA audits.

As stated previously, FTA requires that major capital projects have a PMP that includes or references a Quality Plan for the project. Responsibility for quality within a capital project and for the Quality Plan should rest with the PM for that project. The PM should have access to QA and QC personnel to assist with project quality activities. A concerted effort to comply with quality requirements by those performing the work can significantly reduce the scope of a formal QA oversight activity.

The matrix organization for project management provides a mechanism for the PM to have access to QA staff assistance, and for the quality oversight to be provided at a higher management level. Figure 3.1 depicts a matrix organization in which line departments with functional responsibilities are shown vertically and project organizations with project responsibilities are shown horizontally. The QA personnel work in partnership with representatives of engineering and construction on particular projects. This structure allows the QA representatives to be partners in the quality management system, rather than outsiders who are there to find fault.

Some grantees divide up the QA responsibilities and assign them to functional areas such as engineering, construction, or procurement. This approach recognizes the specialty skills that are appropriate for QA in these various areas. Indeed, in larger grantee organizations, it makes sense to have functionally specific quality manuals. However, it is less desirable to split the QA organization because it results in multiple quality programs and procedures within the agency and a less visible program overall. Such a program can still provide adequate QA/QC at the project level, however.

There are situations where a grantee may not have a permanent QA staff. One example is where a grantee undertakes a one-time capital project where the quality function is a discrete activity developed solely as a part of the project. In general, a lack of a dedicated QA staff can cause a problem if the project faces budget or time pressures. A lack of a dedicated QA staff has often resulted in weakened quality programs.

 Figure 3.1 ­ Matrix Organization

This figure depicts a matrix organization in which line departments with functional responsibilities are shown vertically and project organizations with project responsibilities are shown horizontally. The QA personnel work in partnership with representatives of engineering and construction on particular projects. This structure allows the QA representatives to be partners in the quality management system, rather than outsiders who are there to find fault.


3.1.2   Project Management Plan Guidelines

FTA requires that its grantees undertaking a major capital project must submit a PMP for FTA's review and approval, both initially, and as changes are made throughout the project. Although FTA has some discretion in determining which capital projects are considered major, they generally include projects like construction of a new fixed guideway segment, extension of an existing fixed guideway, or modernization of existing fixed guideway systems pursuant to a full funding contract. As part of the PMP, FTA requires that the grantee include QA and QC procedures and define QA and QC responsibility for construction, system installation, and integration of system components [Ref. 38].

While PMPs are required only for major capital projects, they are encouraged for all projects because they are a very useful project management tool. Similarly, significant benefits can be derived from a Quality Plan even where the project is not considered major.

The PMP should be produced at the end of the Project Planning phase or at the beginning of the Preliminary Engineering (PE) phase of the project. The timing is essential for the Quality Plan as well, since the requirements for QA/QC in design should be specified at the time of the design procurement. The PM's expectations for a project quality management system must be made known in the procurement documents. These requirements should be a detailed extension of the PMP established QA/QC requirements.

The PMP should be updated as the project progresses through final design, procurement, construction, testing, and start-up. Likewise, the Quality Plan should be adjusted to reflect the organization and particular requirements to be instituted at each of these phases. Chapter 4 discusses the development of the Quality Plan for a project.

When a grantee has an existing quality policy and written procedures, development of a Quality Plan for a project can be done by adopting those procedures that are appropriate for the specific project or the project phase under consideration. Responsibility for preparing the plan could rest with the Director of QA or with QA/QC staff assigned to the PM. Ultimately, the PM must approve the QA/QC plan. The PM is ultimately responsible for the quality of the project.

3.2 Alternative Organizational Structures

Following is a discussion of alternative ways of organizing a quality management system given different project organizations and objectives.

3.2.1 QA/QC Program for Construction with a Construction Management Consultant

One alternative for organizing a major capital project is to use a Construction Management Consultant (CMC) to manage outside construction contractors. This type of project management organization has been successful in implementing QA/QC programs.

There may be a number of reasons for the success of this approach. First, a project can be a discrete activity organized to minimize disruption to the grantee's established internal relationships. Second, many experienced CMCs have adopted QA programs and have considerable experience in applying such programs for design and construction projects.

When a grantee uses a CMC to undertake the QA role for a project, the grantee still needs assurance that the project quality objectives are satisfied. The grantee cannot delegate this responsibility. Therefore, the grantee oversight of the quality process must be maintained to assure that it functions effectively.

Figure 3-2 shows an organization chart for the project management and the quality organization for a project with a CMC. As can be seen from this figure, the construction contractor is responsible for QC. The CMC provides the QA, and the grantee provides QA oversight for the project.

In order for the structure shown in Figure 3.2 to be successful, all parties must understand their responsibilities and quality plan requirements from the beginning. The contract documents for the construction contractors must specify the role of the CMC in providing QA for the project as well as the contractor responsibility for QC, including the development of Quality Program Plans. The construction contractor must provide the CMC with appropriate access for observation and inspection, and access to quality records. In most cases grantees have found it very difficult to achieve effective contractor quality programs when the CMC's QA role has not been adequately defined in the contract documents.

Likewise, the CMC must understand the grantee role in quality oversight of the project. That role needs to be spelled out in the request for qualifications and the contract document with the CMC to clearly indicate the approach the grantee will take to assure the CMC quality management system requirements are satisfied.

Figure 3-2 ­ Example of a Project Quality Organization with a Construction Management Consultant

3.2.2 QA/QC Program with in-house Construction Management

Another alternative for organizing a large capital construction project is to use internal staff for construction management. Construction is done either by outside construction contractors or by inside "force account" staff. Often this option follows the use of CMCs on long, multi-stage projects. Agency staff assume more and more of the responsibilities of the CMC, and finally take over all construction management functions.

The grantee construction management should be responsible for QA for the project, and should have appropriate staff available for undertaking the QA role. The person designated to provide QA oversight for the project should verify to the grantee senior manager that the established quality management system is being appropriately applied. This oversight activity is especially important where the project scope does not justify a separate QA staff for the project, and where the PM/CMC staff assumes the QA responsibilities. Without oversight, this latter arrangement often leads to a weakened QA program.

Typically, where there is an outside construction contractor, that contractor is responsible for the QC system to be applied for the work performed. Often the construction contractor has its own QA/QC program that can be utilized where acceptable to the grantee. An exception in transit construction projects occurs where the grantee or a third party takes responsibility for materials testing, thus assuming a QC activity.

A similar approach for quality should be followed where construction is performed by force ­account staff. The internal construction manager should be responsible for undertaking the QA role, while the force account staff should be responsible for QC. There should also be a person designated to provide QA oversight to verify to the grantee senior manager that the established quality management system is being appropriately applied. This later role is important, especially if the construction manager is not familiar with QA responsibilities and the quality management system.

WMATA is an example of a grantee that evolved from using a CMC to doing its own construction management. WMATA employs outside construction contractors. WMATA has a QA Manager for its Department of Transit Systems Development. The QA/QC Manager has staff for providing QA/QC support to the Project Managers. It also has a materials testing laboratory that provides some QC for contractor work. Construction contractors are responsible for QC, and WMATA has developed minimum specifications for the contractor QC program. Figure 3-3 shows the WMATA organization for construction projects.

Figure 3-3 ­ WMATA Organization for in-house Construction Management


3.2.3 QA/QC in Design

QA/QC in design is a very important part of a project related quality program. A study by the Construction Industry Institute (CII) [Ref. 9] showed that design errors caused 79 percent of the rework in construction, whereas construction errors caused 17 percent.

As with construction, there are many different ways for a grantee to organize its design activities. The grantee may use a management contractor for design and outside A&E firms to produce the design. The grantee may handle design management in-house and contract the design to an A&E firm. The grantee could handle both management and design in-house.

Quality programs in design can likewise vary to accommodate the management organization for design. Typically, the organization doing the design is responsible for QC for design.

The organization providing design management should be responsible for providing the QA system for design. Where an outside contractor is responsible for design management, any QA responsibilities should be specified early in the relationship between the grantee and the design management contractor. Likewise, the QA role of the design management contractor should be specified in the contract of the organization responsible for doing the design. The grantee needs to maintain an oversight role to acquire confidence that the quality management system for design is achieving the project quality objectives. Figure 3-4 illustrates an organizational structure for QA in design using an outside design management contractor.

Where the grantee retains responsibility for design management, the grantee PM should be responsible for establishing a design QA system.

Where the design effort remains entirely in-house, a two-tier organization for QA/QC is warranted. Those producing the design should be responsible for QC activities. The design management should be responsible for establishing a design QA activity for oversight of the design process. In this case, an independent QA audit might be conducted to assure design management compliance to the design procedures.

Figure 3-4 ­ QA/QC Organization for Design with a Design Management Contractor

3.2.4 QA/QC for Small Projects

Smaller grantees may not be able to justify a special QA/QC staff for a one-time project. Also, grantees may not be able to justify QA/QC staff for smaller projects such as bus storage and maintenance facilities. Nevertheless, each grantee still has the responsibility to assure that FTA capital funds are spent wisely. The PM of a small project should develop a quality management system for the project by determining which of the fifteen basic elements of a QA/QC program are applicable to the work being performed. Where the project is simple, where design and construction methods are standard, and where the risk of failure is low, the quality management system might be focused on final testing and inspection activities. Even so, many of the fifteen elements may be required to get to the final inspection and testing stage.

One approach for handling QA/QC activities on projects of limited scope is to make the construction contractor responsible for some QA and QC activities, and the grantee project management responsible for QA oversight activities. For example, the construction contractor could perform inspection and testing and provide the documentation thereof, document any design changes, inspect and track any purchased product, and document any nonconformance and corrective action. For a small project, the project management staff should undertake QA oversight activities such as witnessing testing, reviewing contractor documentation, and monitoring contractor compliance with its QA/QC program and other contract requirements. An option for providing QA oversight of both the project management and the construction contractor activities is to use an outside firm for this purpose.

Case History of a Small Project

A small rehabilitation project had many inter-disciplinary interfaces, and the project had to be performed while existing services were maintained. The owner knew the difficulties that the project would present and started thinking about ways to control cost, schedule, and quality during the planning phase of the project. Resources, including funding and manpower, were limited. The following actions were taken:

  • The owner required the contractor to provide a QA/QC manual to cover the scope of the work.
  • The owner required that the contractor provide QA/QC personnel.
  • The owner required that all the project work be identified on checklists that could:
    1. Be signed off by the contractor
    2. Provide owner hold and witness points
    3. Be signed off by QA/QC personnel.
  • The owner identified what records would be required to be turned over as a result of implementing the project quality plan.

Of the fifteen quality elements, portions of each (except for Quality Audits) were contained in the contractor’s QA/QC program. The benefits that were realized as a result of these actions were:

  • The contractor supplied the needed human resources
  • Every interface that the owner needed was retained
  • Every document that the owner needed was retained
  • A system to identify, and rectify potential problems was established prior to the first problem becoming an issue.

3.2.5 QA/QC in Equipment Procurement

The purchase of major capital equipment by a grantee is another process where the application of the fifteen quality elements is appropriate. The grantee's quality management system should provide for procedures for purchasing. The PM or project engineer in charge of the purchasing effort would be responsible for determining which quality elements and procedures should be applied to their project.

Alternatives for purchasing vary from requirements for the supplier to have a complete fifteen-element QA/QC program to requirements for a program limited to final inspection and testing. In either case, the grantee will have to provide QA oversight to assure that the supplier programs are consistent with the project quality objectives and effective in meeting grantee expectations. Section 3.5 of this chapter provides some guidance for the selection of quality elements that might be appropriate in a supplier quality program.

An adequate supplier QA/QC program is important, however, the responsibility for QA oversight is also critical. The role of QA oversight on complex procurement projects requires highly knowledgeable staff. Where such staff is not available, a grantee should consider hiring a consultant to assist in the QA oversight activity.

3.3 Independent Assurance Program

3.3.1 Description

Section 3.2.1 addresses having a QA/QC program with a construction management consultant and Section 3.2.2 addresses having a QA/QC program with in-house construction management. A third alternative is to have an independent contractor responsible for the QA/QC program. This alternative was proposed in Section 3.2.4, QA/QC for Small Projects. It is also useful when the grantee undertakes multiple projects simultaneously, such that the grantee’s QA/QC staff is unable to adequately cover all of the project quality oversight requirements. It is also useful, when the construction management consultant does not possess a strong QA/QC function.

In the case where there is a construction management consultant or there is a design-build-operate contractor, the responsibility for hiring the independent, QA/QC firm may rest with them.

When there is in-house construction management, the responsibility for hiring the independent, outside firm should rest with the grantee’s existing QA/QC function, or with the Project Manager when no QA/QC function exists. When the QA/QC performs the hiring, the outside firm should report directly to the existing QA/QC function, with dotted line or matrix responsibility to the Project Manager. When the Project Manager performs the hiring, the outside firm should report to the Project Manager, but provide written reports to grantee senior management.

It is important to note, that in either case, responsibility for project QA/QC still rests with grantee senior management, quality management, and project management, as necessary. The grantee cannot abdicate responsibility for satisfying all of the project QA/QC requirements.

3.3.2 Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantages for such an approach include:

Disadvantages and associated mitigation for such an approach include:

3.3.3 Methods of Control

As was earlier stated, the grantee cannot abdicate responsibility for satisfying all of the project QA/QC requirements. Therefore, it is necessary to implement methods of control to assure that the requirements are being met. Recommended methods include:

3.4 QA/QC in Design-Build Projects

Unlike conventional project delivery methods (i.e., Design-Bid-Build), the Design-Build (DB) project development approach combines both responsibilities of design and construction under the auspices of a single entity ­ the Design-Build Contractor. With such an arrangement comes modification to the roles and responsibilities of the parties involved, which will undoubtedly affect many aspects of the project at hand. The design-build concept utilizes the combined expertise of both the design and construction industry to promote innovative designs, speed project delivery, and reduce cost. The owner or grantee is often required to relinquish detailed oversight to obtain complete benefit of this project delivery system. Naturally, this transfer of responsibility generates great concern over whether the design-build team will adequately address QA/QC. This section focuses on how QA/QC is addressed under the Design-Build approach.

3.4.1 Unique Characteristics and Elements of Design-Build Projects

There are several variations of Design-Build project delivery. Some of which are outlined below:

3.4.2 Design-Build Contract Preparation ­ QA/QC Implications

In order to assure the success of QA/QC programs in design-build project delivery, owner agencies need to consider several key practices:

3.4.3 Roles and Responsibilities of the Owner and the Design-Build Contractor

QA/QC program effectiveness hinges on clear allocation of roles and responsibilities to the involved parties. Ideally, the best results are achieved when QA/QC roles and responsibilities are defined clearly in the contract documents; and more importantly, are agreed upon by the parties at the outset. Under design-build project delivery, the owner may elect to shift some of the QA/QC roles and responsibilities to the design-build contractor. In such cases, it is recommended that the owner agency conduct audits and testing at every stage of the QA/QC process, and retain ownership of the resident database. In less ideal cases, owner agencies have elected to retain the Quality Assurance (QA) role only, with the design-build contractor performing the Quality Control (QC) activities. Crucial to the success of this arrangement is the design-build contractor’s level of experience and the owner agency’s in-house oversight capabilities. Typically, design-build projects provide the DB contractors with added responsibility for program implementation. There are some perceived disadvantages to the shift in responsibilities from the owner’s perspective. As was previously stated, a major concern in the design-build environment has been the potential for an agency conflict of interest when the DB contractor performs its own QA/QC over the project. Although this is a legitimate concern, it can be adequately addressed through careful stipulations and requirements delineated in the contract documents. As indicated earlier, the owner agency could place more QA/QC responsibility on the DB contractor while retaining a more stringent oversight role

For example, under the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) San Francisco Airport Extension project, the owner agency elected to transfer additional QA/QC functions to the design-build contractor. However, the owner retained responsibility to conduct quality surveillance to ensure incorporation of design intent into the construction process.

In the San Juan Tren Urbano project, the Puerto Rico Highway and Transportation Authority (PRHTA) assigned QA/QC responsibilities to the Systems and Test Track Turnkey (STTT) contractor and Alignment Segment Contractors (ASCs) while retaining an oversight level of control for owner monitoring. The STTT contractor was required to submit a QA/QC program plan for the entire project (including all segment contractors) to the owner for approval. This plan was reviewed and updated on a regular basis, and not less than semi-annually. Note that the STTT and ASC contractors were each responsible for the quality of their respective work. STTT had oversight responsibility for the integration requirements of all segment work, but did not have direct supervision for ASC work. The owner had the authority to audit and inspect contractor quality programs at any time.

In the Baltimore Central Light Rail Line (CLRL) Phase II Extensions project, Maryland Mass Transit Administration (MDMTA) provided the design-build contractor with responsibility for QA/QC requirements, including audits and inspections of all materials and facilities not supplied by the owner. The owner originally planned to provide a minimal effort of monitoring, while retaining the option to provide inspection deemed necessary to assure implementation of the contractor's QA/QC program and thereby assure the quality of the design-build contractor’s work. This type of QA/QC function implementation was new to both the owner and the contractor. This process was adapted from the US Army Corps of Engineers’ approach to QA/QC review process in design-build projects.

The MDMTA required the bidders to certify that they would conform to their QA/QC plan requirements instead of developing their own during the procurement process. In addition, MDMTA required review and approval of the control process and staffing plan. However, the transfer of virtually all of the QA/QC program responsibilities to the contractor, as per other federal design-build experiences at that time, created unintended limitations on the ability of MDMTA to adequately oversee the project. This may have had an unintended result of allowing decreased consideration of the QA/QC plan during the procurement process. The CLRL Extensions project demonstrated initial constraints over roles and responsibilities between the owner and the contractor, especially in regard to the contractor’s role indirect reporting of the construction management functions. Additional effort was required by MDMTA to get the contractor to implement the defined program within the design-build project team and maintain adequate oversight once the project was underway. The MDMTA has maintained a larger role in the quality assurance aspects and document control since this initial design-build contract.

Figure 3-5 illustrates the organizational structure employed by MDMTA during the execution of the Baltimore CLRL Phase II Extensions project. Examples of how QA/QC fits within the program management organizational structure under design-build is shown in Figure 3-6. Figure 3-7 illustrates examples of variations under design-bid-build vs. design-build.

Figure 3-5 ­ Design-Build Project Organization Structure for The Baltimore CLRL Phase II Project

Figure 3-6 ­ Program Management Organizational Structure Under Design-Build Project Delivery

Figure 3-7 ­ Design-Bid-Build vs. Design-Build Project Organization Structure

These real life examples illustrate that shifting of responsibility for QA/QC under the design-build method requires clear definition of roles for both the owner and contractor. The owner and contractor must carefully define the QA/QC program, including roles and responsibilities, within the bid documents so those participants are clear as to their requirements. As with other areas of project management control, it is helpful for owners to monitor the QA/QC program. The owner may have to provide additional monitoring than would be anticipated in the design-build contract to ensure that the contractor has a full understanding of requirements for quality management and corrective actions.

3.4.4 Grantee Oversight

Oversight and monitoring is a key element of project management and successful QA/QC program. Moreover, oversight activities allow for closer engagement between the grantee and the FTA that provides a proactive process by which problems are identified and resolved in a timely manner.

In 1986 Congress, realizing the importance of project monitoring and oversight, authorized the establishment of the Project Management Oversight (PMO) Program to address the quality, cost, and scheduling problems that characterized several federally funded transit projects in the 1980s. The thrust of the PMO program is to ensure that grantees ­ State and local entities awarded FTA grants ­ have the procedures in place to successfully implement projects that comply with accepted engineering principles. The strategy followed to achieve this program's mission is straightforward. A grantee must develop and implement a Project Management Plan that addresses, for example, organization, quality, budget, and schedule requirements of the project. Once a plan is accepted, projects are monitored to see that the grantee follows the plan.

The PMO program allows the FTA to hire highly qualified industry experts for monitoring the progress of capital projects. These experts ­ Project Management Oversight Contractors (PMOCs) ­ serve as third-party inspectors that assist and report progress to the FTA. To be effective, oversight and monitoring activities must take place on a regular basis; however, as discussed earlier, these activities need to be balanced so as not to interfere with the progress of the project.

3.5 Test Lab Accreditation and QA/QC Personnel Qualifications

3.5.1 Test Lab Accreditation

Depending on the type of project and according to the Quality Handbook for the Architectural, Engineering, and Construction Community, test labs may be used for several types of testing, such as [Ref. 32]:

When test labs are required, projects should only use accredited laboratories. Accredited labs used by grantees may be local, national or international. In any case, the accreditation of the labs that perform various types of tests is the “formal recognition that a laboratory is competent to carry out specific tests or types of tests or calibrations.” [Ref. 43]

Accreditation is different from quality registration/certification, which recognizes that an organization is following a documented quality management system in accordance with the quality management system elements of standards, such as ISO 9000.

3.5.2 Accreditation Agencies

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is a non-regulatory Federal agency with the U.S. Commerce Department’s Technology Administration. One of the many departments within NIST is Technology Services, which “provides U.S. industry, government, and the public with measurements, standards, and information services that promote innovation, increase competitiveness, and facilitate trade.” [Ref. 44] Within the Department of Technology Services is the Office of Standards Services (OSS), which “is the focal point for standards and conformity assessment activities in the Department of Commerce. The Office formulates and implements standards-related policies and procedures to enhance domestic commerce and international trade.” [Ref. 44]

OSS played a key role in the development of the National Cooperation of Laboratory Accreditation or NACLA, which is a nonprofit corporation established to coordinate laboratory accreditation activities within the US and to serve as the US link to the worldwide lab accreditation system. On September 29, 2000, NACLA recognized its first three accreditation bodies:

  1. The American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA)
  2. The International Council of Building Officials Evaluation Service (ICBO ES)
  3. The National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP).

The National Cooperation of Laboratory Accreditation and its associated members enter into Mutual Recognition Agreements with national and international accreditation associations so as to eliminate unnecessary duplication in the development and promulgation of accreditation efforts. As a result, once a facility is accredited by one agency, its accreditation is recognized by all national and international agencies with which agreements have been made. Grantees can consequently be assured that labs, which have been accredited by agencies recognized by NACLA, have all met the same rigid standards and are competent to carry out the tests in the areas for which they have received accreditation. In addition, other organizations have begun accrediting labs such as the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA)

The American Association for Laboratory Accreditation or A2LA accredits laboratories in the following areas:


Additionally, A2LA services include specifically tailored programs that may be useful in the transit industry, including asbestos abatement, calibration, environmental lead, fasteners and metals. A2LA publishes a list of accredited laboratories that is also available on its website. International Conference of Building Officials Evaluation Service (ICBO ES)

The International Conference of Building Officials Evaluation Service or ICBO ES accredits laboratories to perform tests on building materials and products, and quality control agencies to perform inspections at manufacturing locations. ICBO ES publishes a list of accredited laboratories that is also available on its website. National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP)

According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), “NIST administers the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP). NVLAP is comprised of a series of Laboratory Accreditation Programs (LAPs) that are established on the basis of requests and demonstrated need. Each LAP includes specific calibration and/or test standards and related methods and protocols assembled to satisfy the unique needs for accreditation in a field of testing or calibration. NVLAP accredits public and private laboratories based on evaluation of their technical qualifications and competence to carry out specific calibrations or tests.” [Ref. 44] NAVLAP publishes a list of accredited laboratories annually in a directory that includes name, address, contact person, phone and fax numbers, accreditation renewal date and scope of accreditation. This list is also available on the NIST website.

NVLAP fields of accreditation include:

Calibration Laboratories

  • Dimensional
  • Electromagnetics - DC/Low Frequency
  • Electromagnetics - RF/Microwave
  • Ionizing Radiation
  • Mechanical
  • Optical Radiation
  • Thermodynamics
  • Time and Frequency

Chemical Calibration

  • Certifiers of Spectrophotometric NTRMs
  • Providers of Proficiency Testing


  • Ionizing Radiation Dosimetry

Electromagnetic Compatibility and Telecommunications

  • Emissions, Immunity, MIL-STD-462, Safety, and Telecommunications


  • Asbestos Fiber Analysis (Polarized Light Microscope Test Method)
  • Asbestos Fiber Analysis (Transmission Electron Microscope Test Method)

Fasteners and Metals

  • Fasteners and Metals

Information Technology Security Testing

  • Common Criteria Testing
  • Cryptographic Module Testing

Product Testing

  • Acoustical Testing Services
  • Carpet and Carpet Cushion
  • Commercial Products Testing
  • Construction Materials Testing
  • Efficiency of Electric Motors
  • Energy Efficient Lighting Products
  • Thermal Insulation
  • Wood Based Products


3.5.3 QA/QC Personnel Qualifications

Section 3.2 provided various organizational suggestions that can be utilized on grantee projects. These structures identify the quality organization, quality management, and lines of communication. Personnel filling these positions should have the requisite education and experience required to accomplish a successful project quality program. It would be unrealistic to identify one set of requirements that would satisfy all of the needs of every organization or project. However, the following guidelines are recommended:

3.6 Value Engineering Within The Project Lifecycle Context

3.6.1 Definition

Value engineering, or value analysis, as it is also called, is the systematic, continuous analysis of key processes or products, by one or all parties in the supply chain, to identify ways to simplify the design and subsequently, reduce the cost, while still providing the essential functionality of that product or process. Value engineering is also an essential component of the FTA guidelines for major capital projects, defined in the document entitled "Construction Management Guidelines" 1996 Update. Key elements of this definition are:

  1. Value engineering can be applied to processes and projects, as well as products
  2. It is an on-going effort that can and should be applied at any time during the entire lifecycle of the process, product, or project. It should not be a one-time activity
  3. Key processes or products should be selected for analysis. Value engineering is both time consuming and costly and should be applied selectively
  4. All parties in the supply chain, from grantee to consultant to contractor to suppliers should be involved in value analysis efforts
  5. Essential functionality should not be sacrificed for cost savings resulting from value engineering
  6. Value engineering as it relates to DB and Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) requirements

Furthermore, FTA Circular 4220.1D, §7(g) encourages the use of value engineering clauses in construction contracts. This section states, “Grantees are encouraged to use value engineering clauses in contracts for construction projects of sufficient size to offer reasonable opportunities for cost reductions. Value engineering is a systematic and creative analysis of each contract item or task to assure that its essential function is provided at the lowest overall cost.” Grantees should conduct value engineering on their own vital processes and should encourage value engineering by those with whom they contract for projects, services, and products. This encouragement can come in the form of provisions and incentives in contract documents to support value engineering on the part of their consultants and contractors. Guidance for such clauses may be found in Part 48 of the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), at FAR 52.248-3 Value Engineering-Construction. Further, grantees can and should participate on consultant and contractor value engineering teams to ensure that the results of these efforts are in the best interest of the grantee. Finally, value engineering should be started as early as possible in a project’s life cycle in order to maximize savings.

3.6.2 Benefits

The potential benefits of conducting value engineering or value analysis include:

3.6.3 Implementation Process

  1. Identify products/processes for consideration.
  2. 2. Establish cost and schedule targets.
  3. Select team(s) to conduct the value engineering analysis or analyses.
  4. Analyze product/process features ­ for products, dimensions, weight, components, materials, reliability, maintainability, functionality, and tolerances; for processes, steps/sequence, necessary approvals, schedule, tooling, etc.
  5. Reengineer/redesign and prototype the product or process, as applicable.
  6. Test the new product or process.
  7. Provide feedback from the test results to the value engineering team.
  8. Repeat steps 5 through 7, as necessary.
  9. Make recommendations to management.
  10. Implement approved changes.

3.7 Software Quality Assurance

Software plays an increasingly important role in every product and organization. The number of mission critical applications, those with a high cost of failure (e.g., Automatic Train Supervision (ATS) and Automatic Train Protection (ATP) software), or high cost to fix (e.g., communication equipment and other consumer products), have increased exponentially in recent years. Software for embedded systems more often than not fits a “mission critical” profile and with the forecast for embedded systems continuing to accelerate, the need for proactive quality assurance is higher than ever before.

The software developer or vendor should understand the value of having a formal software quality management system and should be committed to utilizing the best available standards, methods, practices, and dedicated resources to ensure all software meets a well-defined quality objective.

There are two key elements that make up a sound software quality management system: the Vendor’s Quality System (VQS) and the Vendor’s Software Development Process (VSDP). 

The VQS consists of procedures assuring that quality is addressed and implemented in all aspects of project management and product development. These policies should be developed in accordance with ISO9000, Quality Management Systems. In addition, the VQS defines the quality management system requirements, policy stating vendor’s belief in the requirement, the resources responsible for implementing the policy, and the standard operating procedures that describe how the vendor conforms to the software quality management system requirement.

The VSDP describes the detailed and comprehensive development process that translates the software quality management system requirements defined in the VQS. The VSDP includes project planning, project execution, product creation, and verification and validation, installation, and support functions. The VSDP identifies and defines the roles and responsibilities of project team members, project deliverables, and a monitoring mechanism based on measurements, analysis, and continuous improvement. Key audits and reviews are performed in order to track status and progress and to ensure that the project meets its requirements and milestones. The VSDP should be developed in accordance and be consistent with Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Software Engineering Standards.

The Quality Assurance department, within the vendor’s organization, performs configuration management, verification and validation, and quality assurance activities to ensure that the VQS is adhered to throughout the project development lifecycle. The VSDP ensures that the owner’s/client’s needs are fully understood and captured, and that project planning, development, and testing activities are documented prior to product creation. The VSDP should be flexible to allow tailoring to meet any solution that owners/clients require.

A software quality management system process needs to set expectations for the owner/client, project team members, and the vendor’s organization and should support these expectations through the VQS and VSDP. The most important characteristic of the software quality management system is predictability; the vendor should be able to predict the budget, the schedule and the quality of deliverables. This translates to owner/client satisfaction since the project will be delivered on time, within budget, and with the best quality.