ORIGIN: Starting the Conversation

Quality Assurance and Quality Control in Structural Engineering

06.21.23 by Kyle Haskett
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Today, let's discuss something that's probably everyone's favorite topic: what's the difference between quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC)? They seem interchangeable, right?

In structural engineering, the difference between QA and QC is…

QA focuses on preventing errors from occurring in engineering documents through established standards, guidelines, and procedures. QC centers on finding any issues that might have made it into the documents before they make it out the door through reviews, backchecks, and testing.

Another way to look at this is that QA uses Wallace’s established checklists and processes to guide project setup, design and completeness. QC employs other checklists and processes we have developed for the review of the project.

Both QA and QC are crucial in the AEC industry.

Quality Assurance

The first step in our QA process is a focused use of checklists. Checklists are great for catching the small things that are easy to overlook or that change when some other item changes. The QA checklist for the project is passed on to the senior QC reviewer for their verification later.

Throughout the design process, there are regular review with the Engineer-of-Record (EOR) any design assumptions, load paths, odd connections, etc. It's essential to head off any potential issues with these major components as early as possible.

Once a project is nearly ready for senior QC review, the design engineer does a final QA review. This step is vital in the learning process. The engineer takes the time to sit down with the "completed drawings" and reviews them as if they were the final reviewer. The review focuses on items like spelling mistakes, incorrect graphics, section references and any needed details. It's best to find these in the QA review rather than the senior QC reviewer finding them in the QC review. The goal is to get every sheet back from the QC review without any marks.

Quality Control

Wallace’s quality control process includes a senior review at the end of each project. The process starts with the project engineer having a review meeting with the senior QC reviewer to hit the project highlights. Typically, the project manager will identify unique design features or connections for the reviewer to be aware of. It's also when the project manager submits all their QA checklists and review documentation.

The QC review is typically performed by a senior engineer who is unfamiliar with the project, the idea being a fresh set of eyes doing the review. Since the senior QC reviewer is less familiar with the project, organizing, documenting, and summarizing the design philosophy and calculations is extremely important. This effort makes it much easier and faster for the senior QC reviewer to find areas that could be clarified or corrected.

Being organized and having your project well documented shows the reviewer the thought process behind the design. Do not print hundreds of pages of computer software output; this is typically an indication of not really knowing what is important. It is much better to prove you know what you are doing to your reviewer by keeping everything well-documented and organized. The final QC step is a review by the EOR. Once this review is complete and any last-minute marks are resolved, the documents are ready to be signed.

For as long as I have been at Wallace - and since its inception, really - there has been a strong focus on the QA/QC processes. Does it make our product a little bit more expensive? Maybe, but quality is priceless.

Every structural engineer must understand that the core of everything they do is protecting the public's health, safety and welfare. It's a sobering thought and one that every structural engineer must accept. Putting in place robust QA and QC processes to check and double-check everything that leaves the office in an official engineering capacity is essential.

QA and QC processes are a great learning opportunity for newer project managers to gain insight into details and detailing. These processes are also essential as codes become increasingly complex and design software is constantly updated to reflect the complexity of the codes. Project schedules are also becoming increasingly condensed for faster turnaround times. All these things make it vital to implement robust QA and QC processes.

Quality assurance and quality control are essential to the success of Wallace Design Collective. In our ever-evolving field of structural engineering, the QA/QC reviews will remain a constant aspect. We believe firmly in both processes to keep us at the top of the industry in terms of producing quality products for our clients.

How does your company handle the QA/QC process? Let us know in the comments!


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Kyle Haskett, PE


Kyle received both his Bachelor of Science in Architectural Engineering and Master of Science in Civil Engineering-Structural Emphasis from the University of Oklahoma. He is…

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