Verification and Validation: Upping your Quality Management Game

Verification and Validation: Upping your Quality Management Game

Sensors Insights by Simon Hughes

Introduction

Despite the history of the construction industry, it is constantly evolving. We see new developments and advancements in materials and processes; in recent years we have seen CAD, BIM, P3, to name a few.

Verification and Validation (V and V) is another new development gaining popularity. It has been used in systems processes for the military, aerospace, and medical industries but is increasingly being used outside of its original audience to capture requirements and demonstrate compliance, forming an integral part of overall quality management systems.

This article looks at how the process can apply to the construction industry and infrastructure design. It examines how it is adopted, what is involved, and what benefits are achieved with implementation.

 

What is V and V?

V and V is a part of the international standard that specifies requirements for a quality management system, ISO 9001, and has been used within systems engineering for some time. While systems engineering appears primarily suited to complex technical industries, there is merit in a broader application. 

Systems engineering is defined by International Council of Systems Engineers (INCOSE) as: “an interdisciplinary approach and means to enable the realization of successful systems. It focuses on defining customer needs and required functionality early in the development cycle, documenting requirements, then proceeding with design synthesis and system validation while considering the complete problem.

The ability to accurately capture customer needs and required functionality in a timely manner, and to ensure compliance with them, is especially useful in construction projects.  V and V are independent quality review processes that are used together to check that a product meets requirements and that it fulfils its intended purpose. 

 

Why V and V?

Typically, on construction projects, design requirements and scope are received throughout the project lifecycle. Often, these cause changes which lead to delays and cost escalation.  The ability to incorporate these changes is usually dependent not on a process, but upon the ability of the project staff.   

The contractor often struggles to demonstrate the quality and compliance of the product because the evidence to work with is limited.  Some construction projects have attempted to implement V and V, but have done so too late in the process by including it at the very end within “site inspection and acceptance”. This results in attempting to “inspect quality into a product” that is already built.

 

How to implement V and V

In simplest terms, when applied to a construction project:

  • Verification is intended to check that an infrastructure design meets the design and project requirements.
  • Validation is intended to ensure construction also achieves those requirements. In other words, checking that the finished product meets the requirements.

Adopting V and V on a project requires the development of a team and system to capture project requirements, ensure they are understood, and distributed to all staff. The process must be embedded in design and construction processes. There is little value in establishing a V and V team located separately, producing paperwork that remains unused.  Communication is critical.

Once established, the V and V processes provide evidence, typically at the end of design stage and upon completion of construction, that all the requirements have been achieved. A small team is required to assist with the implementation of the process and overall ownership, but the day-to-day activities have to be part of “business as usual.”

 

Plan Ahead

Like all process, a plan needs to be prepared which outlines how the processes will be implemented. “What, when, how, who” are described, so that the process is understood in advance, avoiding reactionary efforts to scenarios as the project develops. As Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

 

Capturing Requirements

This is the key stage of the process: At the outset, establish a singular set of all project requirements. This drives V and V into “everyday” design and construction processes.

Capturing requirements is usually performed in dedicated computer software, allowing the user to link the requirements and assign their applicability. It can also easily be achieved using readily available standard quality management packages. Creating a list of sound technical requirements is critical.

 

Design Stage Use

Having established the requirements, the list can be used through the design and construction process in many ways:

  • Designers can filter the list to find the applicable requirements for their design package. On large infrastructure projects where design requirements can be thousands of pages, having a singular list greatly simplifies this task.
  • Design reviewers use the list, complete with the evidence, to undertake their reviews.
  • The project manager can readily identify changes to project scope.

As the design progresses it is imperative that designers record any documentation that demonstrates compliance with the requirement within the list.

 

Verification

Before construction, the requirements list is submitted to the client to demonstrate that all requirements have been met. Usually this is achieved using hyperlinks to the appropriate design drawing, report, or approved documents.  This is where the specialized computer software is valuable as it will trace to evidence easily.

 

Construction Stage

Similar to the design stage, the requirements list allows monitoring of progress against specifications and criteria. It provides site engineers with a tool to allow them to check the construction and provides a baseline against which changes are evaluated. Site engineers record the emerging evidence showing compliance with the requirements. This is done through site inspections, test reports, measurements, and photographs.

 

Validation

Validation demonstrates compliance to the requirements; this time of the constructed, finished product. Again, the requirements list is submitted to the client with, and with links to, the appropriate evidence.

 

Benefits

Although originating from another industry, there are significant benefits to adopting a V and V process.  For the contractor:

  • Designers can readily identify all applicable requirements, removing re-work because key requirements were missed.
  • Changes to requirements are easily captured and can be agreed upon, reducing the chance of claims.
  • Speeds up the completion process and subsequent payment, allowing demobilization and mobilization onto the next project.
  • Achievement of ISO9001 accreditation, demonstrating to clients the organization is one that places emphasis on quality, building a stronger brand.

The benefits to the client:

  • An end product that meets their needs. The systematic process adopted by the Contractor has reduced the chance of mistake.
  • Clear demonstration that their needs have been met, with information that can easily be identified and used for ongoing maintenance.
  • Ease of audit of the processes and developing infrastructure.

 

Case Studies

There are not many examples of construction projects using V and V, but its importance and impact is beginning to be realized. Recent large construction projects include HS2 in the U.K, California High Speed Rail, and the I-15 highway project in Salt Lake County, Utah.

Many US transportation agencies, such as New York City Transit Authority, LA Metro, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, are seeking ISO 9001 certified bidders that comply with Federal Transit Authority Quality Management System Guidelines in recent bid solicitations.

 

Conclusion

A lack of understanding of project requirements and regular changes to requirements result in delays and cost overruns. Although originating from a systems background, it is clear that the V and V process helps overcome a number of these issues and needs to be more widely adopted within the industry.

Adequate planning and embedment of the V and V process into overall infrastructure design and construction activities is imperative to achieve the maximum benefit to all parties on the project.

 

About the author

Simon Hughes has worked in the infrastructure design and construction of Railroad projects for almost 20 years. His engineering career has focused on design, management and delivery of major railway projects in both the United Kingdom and most recently the United States. He has held integral roles delivering the multibillion dollar new high speed rail line between London and Paris, the new $25b high speed railroad between London and Birmingham, where he was responsible for the first 50 miles of the route, including the complicated London station and tunnels, and most recently, Simon has been working on the California High Speed Rail Line, based in USA.