Customer satisfaction and good practices: The Six Sigma in construction sector

By S Laxmi


THE construction industry is, no doubt, a major economic growth contributor of any country. In essence, it creates a lot of employment and helps other sectors to run as well, such as manufacturing as they need machinery, tools and other support from the latter.

Today, I would like to touch on the Six Sigma concepts in the construction sector, which is important to meet customer satisfaction while maintaining top-notch quality.

In a nutshell, the Six Sigma is a quality improvement technique of products in order to ensure customer satisfaction. This technique is used to identify flaws or defects in a process, and correct them.

It also anticipates a problem (or potential problem) at the root, so it can be prevented from happening and resolved. 

The goal in Six Sigma is limiting defects from any process, specifically to a numerical goal of 3.4 defects per million opportunities (DPMO).

In brief, these are the five steps of Six Sigma are called DMAIC (define, measure, analyse, improve and control).

  • Define (D): Identify the problem and issues causing decreased customer satisfaction. To apply this in construction, a checklist is prepared to find out the defects in a particular scope.
  • Measure (M): Collect data from the process. This step helps to measure the performance of an existing process and its deviation from the actual requirements. The objective of this measurement is to get enough data or information from the process.
  • Analyse (A): Analysing is a stage where the root causes of the problems or defects are evaluated. Cause and effect diagram is commonly used during this stage. The cause-and-effect diagram examines why something happened or might happen by organising potential causes into smaller categories.
  • Improve (I): This is where methods are identified to eliminate defects by developing solutions. For example, one of the problems facing the sector is the lack of unskilled labour. Due to lack of education and vocational training, compounded by lack of motivation and incentive, there is a need to automate our business to meet new challenges.
  • Control (C): Control is the final step in DMAIC and the objective is to prepare a control plan. Control plan is a description of the procedures or checks with respect to specifications. It assists in checking on preventive measures to achieve the desired result. To control all the activities, it is necessary to provide a proper checklist for contractors and supervisors to follow the procedure, to ensure compliance.

Six Sigma is doable despite complaints

To give an example on why DMAIC, under Six Sigma concept is important, take plastering defect as a case study.

Using the approach, it was found that 70% of plastering defects happen due to poor workmanship, 15% due to poor construction practices and 15% caused by lack of project management practices.

It was also found that the problems were linked to skilled labour shortage. The report says “due to use of unsuitable equipment’s and tools that leads to the poor workmanship, improper preparation of background surface and improper mix of material and rapid drying.

These issues led to poor construction practices and other issues such as lack of supervision by contractors and poor project management practices, leading to defects which reduce the quality of plastering.

While some may argue that it seems unrealistic to expect any building to be constructed with total compliance to the Six Sigma, it is definitely possible as countless successful companies have proven it can done.

The use of Six Sigma principles for the processes gives a systematic approach to identify defects, their root causes and provide solutions to improve them. It is encouraged to use methodology, which is the set of management technique and tool for better improvement of quality process that can help in identifying and minimising defects earlier.

This, in turn, ensures customer satisfaction and increases productivity in the construction industry. – May 9, 2021.


S Laxmi is an observer of the Malaysian construction industry.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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