Why quality management is of importance for your wind project

As a project owner, you want to know whether the delivered works of your wind project after construction meet all requirements from the contract, project specifics, permit requirements, laws and regulations as well as good engineering practice. Presumably, your business case will be based on these specifications during the development and contracting phases. Any deviation of these specifics could have a direct or indirect effect on this business case. This all leads back to the quality management philosophy of your project. How does Ventolines monitor the quality of your wind project, while minimizing the associated management costs?

What is quality management?

Quality management encompasses all required activities for maintaining a certain level of excellence, including creating a quality policy, quality planning and assurance as well as quality control and improvement. For wind projects, quality management is performed throughout the complete lifecycle of the project. The goal of quality management is to check whether the contractor adheres to the requirements within the contract, permits, laws and regulations. Thus, making sure that you obtain the product that was agreed upon by signing the contract.

Why perform quality management on your wind project?

The main argument for quality management in the construction phase of a wind project, is that the contractor’s construction team main focus is  delivering the project in time. The contractor is restricted to the capacity planning of its subcontractors and own personnel, contractual liabilities for delivering the work on time, higher costs for staff if the project gets delayed, and often the construction team will get an internal company incentive to finish the project as soon as possible.

The resulting trend is contractors  who postpone the rectification of damages in order to continue with the construction process. Sometimes, these repairs cannot be done at all later in the construction process. For example  the earthing cables in the anchor cage, which can only be checked before pouring of a concrete foundation. If these damages can be repaired later though, additional costs will arise due to:

  1. The turbine needing to be shut down during the operational phase, therefore losing revenues.
  2. The costs for rectification being generally higher when the turbine is already completely commissioned.
  3. The contractor trying to shift the costs of these construction damages to the operational phase, therefore claiming the repair costs to the client.

The role of the quality management team is therefore to prevent that problems will be postponed by the contractor as much as possible.

In general, the earlier in the project you identify quality issues, the less time and money is needed to resolve them . This is especially the case in a project with multiple wind turbines. If you identify  an issue in turbine #1 of the building sequence and you can address it immediately, these issues in wind turbines #2 and more can be prevented. The cost of changes increases with time, while the ability to impact the project as a project or construction team decreases with time.

Image Source: http://threehouses.com/docs/RocqueProceeding.pdf

Another reason to perform quality management during the construction of your wind project, is that, as a project owner, you ideally want all your turbines within the project to be identical. Often turbine manufacturers perform modifications during the fabrication phase of a turbine, or differing turbine parts are delivered from varying sub-suppliers. If differences between your turbines exist, it will be more difficult (and therefore more costly) to maintain your wind farm during the operational phase.

Why not rely on the quality management systems of the contractor?

One could ask why one would not rely on the quality systems of the wind turbine manufacturer for quality management. Naturally, the manufacturer has all required processes in place, based on the ISO 9001 working standard. ISO 9001 is, however, only focused on processes rather than the end result of a product. Moreover, the requirements of a specific contract are not considered in this certification. Finally, often the construction activities are not part of the ISO 9001 certification of a contractor. Many wind turbine manufacturers hire subcontractors for (part) of their construction works, which do not always have the experience with the specific wind turbine and are often under pressure regarding time and costs.

There is always a conflict of interest for the turbine manufacturer to ensure both quality as well as progress and costs. Quality and progress are oftentimes contradicting aspects of a project, i.e. improving progress usually happens at the cost of quality and vice versa. The wind turbine manufacturer often has limited management capacity and attention for  subcontractors to check their activities. Therefore it is unwise to solely rely on the wind turbine manufacturer in terms of quality control. It should be noted that with a multi-contracting approach, you also need to keep in mind the interfaces related to quality, therefore checks by the client are of high importance to minimize these interface risks as a project owner.

How to approach quality management during the contracting phase of your wind project?

Quality management starts during the contracting phase with a thorough specification of the quality requirements and continues during the production and construction phases of your project. Mutual agreement on definitions and processes will ease the quality control process further-on. Certainly, it is wise to thoroughly review, and possibly inspect, the wind turbine suppliers in the early stages of a tender in order to identify possible red flags as soon as possible. Moreover, the Employer’s Requirements should clearly define the roles of the Employer and the Contractor in the quality process. In order to make sure that you can execute your quality control process, you should also clearly define in the contract:

  • What documentation you require for your own quality assurance plan, such as project specific quality management plans, inspection and test plans, as well as general documentation and data management requirements;
  • Include your rights for witness- and hold points as well as review of certain processes to execute your quality control plan;
  • Specify how to handle design changes and non-conformities beforehand to avoid long discussions later;
  • Outline how you require the quality reporting by the Contractor to the Employer in order to keep track of the progress.

In order for your quality management to work properly during fabrication and construction of your wind turbines, it is key to have clear agreements with the wind turbine supplier on these processes when signing the contract.

How does Ventolines monitor the quality of your wind project during construction?

It is very expensive to check all the activities performed by the wind turbine manufacturer during fabrication and construction of your wind turbines. The key is therefore to have a dynamic intensity of the quality inspections, which we base on the effort of the contractor, contractual agreements, results in the past and the risk profile and effects. Classification of the associated risks is performed by our quality experts, based on both information provided by the wind turbine manufacturer as well as experiences in the past. These experts have experience with similar projects and are used to our way of working, therefore being more efficient as well.

The quality inspections are performed by our inspectors using our smart automated systems. One of these systems is our award-winning application Gemba, which enables quick capturing of ad hoc quality observations on site and allow for automated filing. Planned inspections are also performed using an automated application which increases the ease for inspecting and reporting for our inspectors. Our inspectors have reported back that our systems significantly reduce their time spent on administrative work, therefore leaving more time for quality control of the turbine manufacturer on site. These smart tools enable quick and structural registration of activities on site, which can then be used, with the help of meta data, to trace back and provide detailed input for discussions with the turbine supplier.

Any discussion on quality issues with the turbine supplier is done through a clearly defined system that assigns the issues to the relevant management levels: operational level, work package (e.g. WTG, BoP or HSE) level or, if necessary, management level. This allows for clear separation of main and side issues and efficient use of the relevant experts’ time.

Conclusion

Proper quality management will increase the probability that you get the wind turbines as was agreed upon on contract signing. By performing risk-based quality management, this can be optimized while reducing any associated management costs. Using our quality experts in combination with smart tools, even less time is required for quality control during the construction of your wind farm, therefore optimizing the business case of your wind project.

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