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Quality Engineering

ISSN: 0898-2112 (Print) 1532-4222 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/lqen20

Analyzing supplier quality management practices


in the construction industry

Rufaidah Y. AlMaian, Kim LaScola Needy, Kenneth D. Walsh, Thaís da C. L.


Alves & Natalie M. Scala

To cite this article: Rufaidah Y. AlMaian, Kim LaScola Needy, Kenneth D. Walsh,
Thaís da C. L. Alves & Natalie M. Scala (2016) Analyzing supplier quality management
practices in the construction industry, Quality Engineering, 28:2, 175-183, DOI:
10.1080/08982112.2015.1086927

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08982112.2015.1086927

Published online: 05 Nov 2015.

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Download by: [Indian Institute of Management - Lucknow] Date: 02 June 2016, At: 03:34
QUALITY ENGINEERING
, VOL. , NO. , –
http://dx.doi.org/./..

Analyzing supplier quality management practices in the construction industry


Rufaidah Y. AlMaiana , Kim LaScola Needyb , Kenneth D. Walshc , Thaís da C. L. Alvesc , and Natalie M. Scalad
a
Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Kuwait University, Khaldeya, Kuwait; b Department of Industrial Engineering, University of
Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas; c Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering, San Diego State University, San Diego,
California; d Department of e-Business and Technology Management, Towson University, Towson, Maryland

ABSTRACT KEYWORDS
Supplier quality management (SQM) is an important function in the construction industry. Many analytic hierarchy process;
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construction organizations place high importance on using quantitative analyses to select effective construction industry;
SQM practices that ensure that materials, assemblies, and fabricated equipment for the construction multivariate data analysis;
principal component analysis
project are within quality specifications. However, traditional quantitative analysis methods may be
(PCA); supplier quality
limited because the process of acquiring enough data to conduct the analyses is time consuming and management (SQM)
costly. This article discusses the use of principal component analysis (PCA) to analyze a number of
SQM practices from construction organizations known for their effective SQM. PCA is useful in this
study because the data available for analysis are small in size and multivariate. SQM practices are
discussed extensively and validated with subject matter experts (SMEs) using the analytical hierar-
chy process (AHP). We show that supplier’s work observation, supplier performance rating, inspection
effort tracking, and inspection and testing plans are important practices for SQM. We propose a quan-
titative methodology that can be used by quality engineers to analyze small sample size data. The
research also describes how AHP, an analysis method based on expert judgment, can be used to vali-
date and support the conclusions drawn from small sample size analyses. Identification of important
SQM practices can benefit construction professionals with limited resources.

Introduction data (PO instrument) was also designed for the larger
study; this instrument is the main data source and sub-
This article examines the most effective processes
ject of this article.
and practices for ensuring that project materials and
equipment are (1) produced, manufactured, or fabri-
cated in strict accordance with all applicable specifi-
Research motivation
cations and (2) delivered to the project site without
any need for rework. This research is part of a larger Supplier quality management in the construction
project that examines and identifies effective supplier industry is a system of processes and practices applied
quality management (SQM) practices from construc- by the project organization to ensure that the quality of
tion organizations by using multiple data sources. fabricated materials and equipment meet the project’s
Data were collected from a range of quantitative and requirements and specifications (Caldas et al. 2012).
qualitative sources, including related literature, struc- SQM in the construction industry is complex due to the
tured interviews, SQM documents, and supplier focus irregular nature of every project in terms of its scope
groups. Construction owners, contractors, and sup- and life cycle. In addition, improving SQM is challeng-
pliers served as subject matter experts (SMEs); these ing because of the constraints of limited resources of
experts are member organizations in the Construc- time, budget, and technical capabilities (AlMaian et al.
tion Industry Institute (CII). The sampled construc- 2013). The effectiveness of SQM within the construc-
tion organizations perform mainly engineer–procure– tion industry varies from one organization to the other.
construct projects. A data collection instrument to Organizations with highly effective SQM use consistent
obtain quantitative information about SQM practices practices for managing their suppliers (Walsh, Needy,
and performance for individual purchase order (PO) and Alves 2014). On the other hand, organizations with

CONTACT Rufaidah Y. AlMaian ralmaian@gmail.com Department of Industrial and Management Systems Engineering, College of Engineering & Petroleum,
Kuwait University, P.O. Box , Safat , Kuwait.
©  Taylor & Francis
176 R. Y. ALMAIAN ET AL.

less effective SQM are still facing difficulties in defin- industry members of the CII. The industry members
ing, standardizing, and improving their practices. In were asked to share and circulate the PO instrument
this article, we analyze a number of SQM practices that with other companies and personal connections in
have significant impact on quality, based on research order to encourage participation in the larger study.
conducted by Neuman (2014). The aim is to deter- The circulating e-mail contained an online access link
mine the most important practices that help organiza- to the PO instrument along with information regard-
tions improve their SQM. The identification of effec- ing the confidentiality processes and policies adopted
tive SQM practices is important in guiding organiza- (Neuman 2014).
tions to focus efforts on practices that yield high return The PO instrument collected data about practices
on resource investment to achieve the best quality and used for the selection of suppliers, tracking of pur-
avoid waste associated with rework of any kind (such chase orders, communication with suppliers, installa-
as redesigning components, accepting deviations, fix- tion of the products supplied in construction projects,
ing mistakes, and refabricating items). The practices and the resulting quality associated with these prac-
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discussed as part of this study can also be applied to tices. The number of responses received was 108, and
other engineering fields such as aerospace and ship- each response represented data from a single PO. The
building because they are not exclusive to the construc- responses were drawn from actual data (not estima-
tion industry. These extensions and parallels to other tion). The project size of the submitted POs ranges
industries are discussed in AlMaian et al. (2013). from $600,000 to $52,000,000,000. Details regarding
In the context of construction organizations, the the design protocol and responses to the PO instru-
availability of data to analyze SQM practices is a ment can be found in Neuman (2014). The PO instru-
challenge. Organizations usually keep track of indica- ment asked participants about the use of SQM prac-
tors related to cost and time, but data for these and tices, such as observing and inspecting supplier’s work
other SQM-related indicators are stored within differ- and projecting inspection costs to determine their
ent departments and various data collection systems effect on detecting nonconformances (NCs; quality
(Walsh, Needy, and Alves 2014). This challenge is not problems) per total PO value (NCs/$).
unique to the construction industry and is common for Neuman (2014) analyzed the PO instrument data
industries where data are limited due to economic and and performed tests of hypotheses and correlation
time constraints. Limitations in acquiring data include analyses. Neuman’s analyses included cases in which
complicated quality tests and experiments, which leads data were parsed by material type and PO criticality.
to small sample sizes. The literature has begun to exam- The PO data were also categorized according to the per-
ine impacts of small sample size. For example, Freeman ceived effectiveness of the organizations’ SQM systems.
(2011) used maximum likelihood estimators to study In this regard, a series of focus groups and structured
a small sample size of failure data. In another study, interviews revealed a subset of construction organiza-
Khoo (2005) studied process dispersion monitoring in tions widely regarded as having highly effective SQM
the manufacturing industry by analyzing the effective- (Walsh, Needy, and Alves 2014). In general, the organi-
ness of quality control charts based on experiments of zations with highly effective SQM perform an advanced
small sample size. The research presented in this arti- process characterized by consistent use of a wide range
cle faces similar challenges with small sample size data. of SQM practices and were distinguished in the results
Generally within the construction industry, lack of data variables by their ability to prevent, find, and correct
availability in the SQM process is well known and is due NCs. The PO analysis effort aided in discovery of activ-
to both time constraints and the complexity of collect- ities that organizations with highly effective SQM are
ing data from several projects (Walsh, Needy, and Alves doing in comparison to other organizations. In total, 31
2014). of 108 responses of the PO instrument were from orga-
nizations with highly effective SQM. This article con-
tinues the research presented in Neuman (2014) and
SQM practices focuses on a subset of closed-ended questions in the
The PO instrument designed for this study was tested PO instrument about SQM practices for organizations
prior to distributing the instrument to the partici- with highly effective SQM. Each question had a list of
pating companies. An initial e-mail was sent to 29 possible answers from which the respondents selected
QUALITY ENGINEERING 177

Table . Summary of the exploratory variables. lessons learned meetings, to discuss quality issues.
Closed-ended We extend the previous study by selecting the most
questions from the Possible important SQM practices for the construction industry
SQM practices PO survey answers
through a quantitative approach. The analysis can pro-
Supplier’s work Did you have a person Full time
observation in the supplier’s
vide insights to construction organizations on how to
facility to observe best invest their limited resources on the most impor-
the supplier’s work?
Part time tant SQM practices.
Occasionally
Final only
Not at all
Inspection effort Do you track hours, Hours
tracking cost, or both, none? Principal component analysis methodology
Cost
Cost and hours
None
The data under analysis, responses from organiza-
Inspection and testing Was there a quality Yes tions with highly effective SQM, are multivariate with
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planning (ITP) control plan/ITP No


used for this specific small sample size. We have 31 data points and five
PO? exploratory variables representing the SQM practices,
Supplier’s performance Did you conduct a Yes
rating (after performance rating No as shown in Table 1. The objective is to recommend the
executing the work of the supplier after most important SQM practices for construction indus-
by the supplier) execution?
Inspection cost Did you project the Yes try practitioners in order to improve the quality of sup-
projection cost of your No plier quality management systems.
inspection effort
with this supplier The literature addresses multivariate data tech-
for this PO?
niques with small sample size. However, most arti-
cles are focused on identifying the difference between
the answer that best described their situation. Table 1 groups of data. Examples include Bathke, Harrar, and
describes the questions and corresponding SQM prac- Madden (2008) and Harrar and Bathke (2008), who
tices. These practices were found by Neuman (2014) to used statistical comparisons of multivariate data with
have significant impact on detecting NCs. small sample size. Saranadasa and Altan (1998) and
Each of the five practices is summarized below: Frömke, Hothorn, and Kropf (2008) used permutation
1. Supplier’s work observation: Supervising the sup- algorithms to test the difference between multivariate
pliers, full time or part time, to ensure that they treatments. A number of techniques for multivariate
are meeting the project quality requirements. data with small sample size are also addressed in the
2. Inspection effort tracking: Using tracking mea- literature; however, these techniques are mainly statis-
sures to determine the effort spent in inspection, tical analyses to test the differences between groups of
such as hours or dollars spent. data. Examples can be found in Hoyle (1999) and Mad-
3. Inspection and testing planning (ITP): Using dala and Lahiri (2009).
plans developed in concert with suppliers for Cliff (1987) and Grimm and Yarnold (1995)
inspection and quality control at the beginning addressed multivariate data analysis and noted that
of each project. both regression modeling techniques and principal
4. Supplier’s performance rating (after executing component analysis (PCA) can be used as variable
the work by the supplier): Evaluating the per- selection methods. Regression modeling generally
formance of the suppliers after fabricating the requires 15 to 20 observations for each exploratory
product. variable (Siddiqui 2013), which is impractical for our
5. Inspection cost projection: Estimating the costs problem, due to the small sample size. In addition, the
associated with inspection visits. sample size of our study is less than 35, so normality
Neuman (2014) showed that organizations with could not be assumed. With regard to the required
highly effective SQM conduct these practices more number of observations for PCA, the PCA literature
frequently than the other organizations and detect does not discuss the requirements for the minimum
NCs earlier in the project life cycle process. In addi- number of observations with respect to the number
tion, these organizations perform quality process meet- of studied variables. However, having the number of
ings more consistently with their suppliers, such as variables exceed the number of observations is not
178 R. Y. ALMAIAN ET AL.

recommended. Further details can be found in Dun- be conducted, y1 , which is a linear combination of the
teman (1989) and Jolliffe (2002). We selected PCA as k variables, x1 , x2 , . . . , xk (i.e., y1 = a11 x1 + a12 x2 +

an approach to analyze SQM practices because it is .. + a1k xk = ki=1 a1i xi ), such that the variance (eigen-
appropriate for the characteristics of our data set. value) of y1 is maximized, and the sum of squared cor-
PCA reduces the dimensionality of data by trans- relations of y1 with the original variables is also max-
forming the data into a new set of principal compo- imized. Then, the consecutive principal components

nents, which retain most of the variation present in are obtained (i.e., ym = ki=1 ami xi for every compo-
all of the original variables (Jolliffe 2002). The PCA nent m) to find the weight vector (am1, am2 , . . . , amk )
literature contains diverse applications for using the such that the remaining variance is maximized. The
method to select a number of variables under analy- important statistics obtained from the PCA are the
sis. For instance, Baciu and Parpucea (2011) studied weight (eigen) vector (a1 , a2 , . . . ., ak ) associated with
the relationship between U.S. crime rates and variables each principal component and its associated variance
such as age, education level, and unemployment rate. (eigenvalue). Further details of the PCA method can be
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The authors used PCA to identify variables that deter- found in Dunteman (1989), Jackson (1991), and Jolliffe
mine high crime rates. Other applications of PCA as a (2002).
variable selection method include La Parra, Rodriguez-
Loaiza and Namur (2004), who applied PCA in a phar-
maceutical study to detect the potential impurities PCA analysis
(variables) that affect a certain drug substance; Ostyn From the SQM practices for highly effective orga-
et al. (2007), who used PCA to find variables within nizations identified by Neuman (2014), let x1 : sup-
multivariate control charts that help detect bad seals for plier’s work observation, x2 : inspection effort track-
food packaging; and Das and Mukherjee (2008), who ing, x3 : ITP, x4 : supplier’s performance rating, and x5 :
utilized PCA to find the most important customer pref- inspection cost projection. Because PCA transforms
erences to improve product quality. the variables into a reduced set of components that
represent most of the information in the original vari-
ables, and because PCA can be used to select a num-
Application of PCA
ber of variables based on selection rules, we apply
By definition, suppose that the full data set contains k it to our SQM practices. Table 2 presents the corre-
variables, x1 , x2 , . . . , xk measured on n observations. lations between the variables from the sample of 31
The set of these k variables, which can be characterized respondents.
as a k-dimensional random vector (x1 , x2 , . . . , xk ), can Application of PCA requires that the correlation
be linearly transformed into a principal component y. coefficient between the variables be not equal to zero
Any principal component for the full set of data is a lin- (Dunteman 1989; Jolliffe 2002). As shown in Table 2,
ear combination of all the variables and can be written there is some degree of correlation between the vari-
as ables. For example, there is a correlation of 0.373
between x2 and x3 (inspection effort tracking and ITP),
y = a 1 x1 + a 2 x2 + . . . + a k xk ,
indicating a positive relationship between these two
where y is the principal component, and ai s are the variables.
weights (loadings) that maximize the variation in the Table 3 represents the summary of the PCA results
linear composite or, equivalently, maximize the sum for our data set. Because PCA produces principal com-
of the squared correlations/covariance of the calcu- ponents that are equal to the number of variables, we
lated principal components with the original variables. have five principal components. Table 3 also includes
PCA can be performed using either the correlation or their associated variance (eigenvalue) and proportion
covariance matrices between the variables from which of variance explained for each component. The propor-
the weight vectors (eigenvectors) are obtained. We will tion of the variance explained is calculated by dividing
use the correlation matrix because it is widely applied the variance of the principal component by the number
within PCA analysis (Jackson 1991). of variables k; that is, k = 5.
Application of PCA begins by constructing the cor- To select a subset of principal components (PCs), we
relation matrix. Then the first principal component can used Kaiser’s rule, which is a common stopping rule
QUALITY ENGINEERING 179

Table . Correlations between the variables.


x1 : Supplier’s work x2 : Inspection effort x4 : Supplier’s x5 : Inspection cost
observation tracking x3 : ITP performance rating projection

x1 : Supplier’s work  . . . −.


observation
x2 : Inspection effort  . . .
tracking
x3 : ITP  −. .
x4 : Supplier’s  .
performance rating
x5 : Inspection cost 
projection

Table . PCA results.


Variables y1 y2 y3 y4 y5
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x1 : Supplier’s work observation . − . − . − . − .


x2 : Inspection effort tracking . . . − . .
x3 : ITP . − . . . .
x4 : Supplier’s performance rating . . − . . .
x5 : Inspection cost projection . . . − . − .
Variance (eigenvalue) . . . . .
Proportion of variance explained (%) . . . . .
Cumulative variance . . . . .

in the PCA literature based on the size of variances the equations above, x2 , x1 , andx4 , respectively, inspec-
of principal components (Jackson 1991; Jolliffe 2002). tion effort tracking, supplier’s work observation, and
Kaiser’s rule retains only the PCs whose variances supplier’s performance rating, are the selected variables
(eigenvalues) are greater than unity. Thus, according from the PCA analysis.
to Table 3, principal components y1 , y2 , and y3 are
retained. These three principal components account Results and discussion
for 87.4 percent of the total variance. The three prin-
cipal components are To evaluate the robustness of our analysis, especially
with a smaller number of data points (n), we randomly
y1 = 0.301x1 + 0.621x2 + 0.375x3 selected two thirds of the data points; that is, 21 data
+0.340x4 + 0.517x5 points. Summary results of this PCA analysis are pre-
sented in Table 4.
y2 = −0.681x1 + 0.099x2 − 0.489x3
As shown in Table 4, we have three principal compo-
+0.219x4 + 0.489x5 nents with a variance greater than 1—y1 , y2 , and y3 —
y3 = −0.393x1 + 0.094x2 + 0.485x3 which account for 93.5 percent of the total variabil-
−0.735x4 + 0.248x5 . ity. Following the same procedure described earlier, we
found x2 , x1 , and x4 , as variables of interest, namely,
supplier’s work observation, inspection effort tracking,
To select a subset of variables from the retained and supplier’s performance rating. Note these are the
PCs above, we chose the variable that has the high- same variables that were found using all data.
est absolute weight (loading); that is, ami in each prin- In order to validate the findings from the PCA
cipal component ym , as shown in bolded text in the analysis, we invited SMEs representing organizations
above equations. As described in Jolliffe (2002), the with highly effective SQM to participate in phone
selection of one variable that has the highest abso- interviews. The SME selection process is discussed
lute weight from each retained PC preserves most of in AlMaian (2014). Two SMEs representing orga-
the variability given by this particular PC. Further dis- nizations with highly effective SQM agreed to be
cussion regarding variable selection guidelines can be interviewed to describe the importance of the SQM
found in Jolliffe (1972, 1973), Jackson (1991), and Al- practices within construction projects. The SMEs
Kandari and Jolliffe (2001). Thus, from Table 3 and represented CII member organizations as contractors.
180 R. Y. ALMAIAN ET AL.

Table . PCA results using  data points. Table . Numerical scale for pairwise comparisons in AHP.
Variables y1 y2 y3 y4 y5 Preference number
Practice x is … as (than) y assigned
x1 : Supplier’s work . . − . − . − .
observation Equally as important 
x2 : Inspection . − . . . − . Weakly more important 
effort tracking Strongly more important 
x3 : ITP . . . . . Very strongly more important 
x4 : Supplier’s . − . − . . − . Absolutely more important 
performance
rating
x5 : Inspection cost . − . . − . .
projection the problem under analysis has a manageable num-
Variance . . . . .
(eigenvalue)
ber of alternatives (i.e., practices, policies, or any alter-
Proportion of . . . . . native courses of action) to compare, then AHP is an
variance
explained (%) effective method, because it has a simple methodol-
Cumulative . . . . . ogy to conduct the pairwise comparisons (Goodwin
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and Wright 2009). In accordance with standard AHP


practice, we used Saaty’s fundamental scale of abso-
The interviewed SMEs hold positions in their organi- lute numbers (Saaty 1994) for the pairwise compar-
zations as corporate manager of supplier quality and isons; Table 5 describes this scale. For our study, the
manager of project management and operations. Each five SQM variables are compared in pairs. The deci-
SME has more than 25 years of experience in the con- sion maker is then asked to identify the variable that
struction industry The SMEs were asked to determine is most important and then how much more impor-
the most important SQM practices within the SQM tance that variable has. For example, comparing ITP
systems of their organizations, using the questions in (x3 ) and supplier performance rating (x4 ), if a decision
Table 1. To avoid bias and influence, the SMEs did maker found ITP to be weakly more important, then
not know the results obtained from the PCA analysis. we assign a value of 3 to the comparison. The benefit
The SMEs reported that relative importance of prac- of AHP is that decision makers can voice their pref-
tices differs from one project to the other, depending erences, which leads to an understanding of the rela-
on many factors. These factors include, but are not lim- tive importance of the alternatives being evaluated, in
ited to, construction organizations selecting the suppli- this case SQM practices. Oftentimes decision makers
ers for the first time versus past working relationships are fully unaware of all preferences due to subconscious
with these suppliers. The SMEs reported that for every bias or unclear understanding. The AHP enables dis-
project, ITP (x3 ), supplier’s work observation (x1 ), and covery of true relative importance.
inspection effort tracking (x2 ) are the most important One of the initial two SMEs was interviewed for
SQM practices. For consecutive projects dealing with a pairwise comparison elicitation. The SME was pro-
the same supplier, the SMEs reported that supplier’s vided with a matrix to enter the preference number for
performance rating (x1 ) is very important, because this each pairwise comparison of practices. Table 6 presents
practice is usually used in future projects to determine the pairwise comparisons provided by the SME. The
the required amount of supplier surveillance. These upper triangular portion of the table is the elicited
results are similar to the PCA analysis but do also pairwise comparisons; the bottom triangular portion is
include ITP. the reciprocals of each pairwise comparison, following
Therefore, we then used the analytic hierarchy pro- standard AHP practice. The consistency ratio for these
cess (AHP) to further analyze and validate the most comparisons is 0.01, which is within the limit of 0.10 as
important SQM practices. The purpose of using AHP proposed by Saaty (1994).
in this research is to assist the decision makers and As shown in Table 6, supplier’s work observation is
practitioners in the construction industry in under- equally as important as ITP. In addition, these two prac-
standing the relative importance of the SQM practices tices are strongly more important than inspection cost
based on the SMEs judgment. AHP is widely used to projection. Following the AHP methodology, the pref-
structure a complex decision problem (Saaty 1994), erence numbers of each column in Table 6 should be
and it has diverse applications such as project plan- normalized by dividing the value of each cell by the
ning, policies selection, and portfolio management. If sum of the column. This will result in determining the
QUALITY ENGINEERING 181

Table . Pairwise comparisons provided by the SME.


x1 : Supplier’s work x2 : Inspection effort x4 : Supplier’s x5 : Inspection cost
observation tracking x3 : ITP performance rating projection

x1 : Supplier’s work . . . . .


observation
x2 : Inspection effort . . . . .
tracking
x3 : ITP . . . . .
x4 : Supplier’s . . . . .
performance rating
x5 : Inspection cost . . . . .
projection
Total . . . . .

Table . Resulting normalized pairwise comparisons and priority weights for SQM practices.
x4 : Supplier’s
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x1 : Supplier’s x2 : Inspection performance x5 : Inspection


work observation effort tracking x3 : ITP rating cost projection Row total Priority weight

x1 : Supplier’s . . . . . . .


work observation
x2 : Inspection . . . . . . .
effort tracking
x3 : ITP . . . . . . .
x4 : Supplier’s . . . . . . .
performance
rating
x5 : Inspection . . . . . . .
cost projection
Total       

priority weights for the practices, which indicates the inspection effort tracking, and supplier’s performance
importance ranking. Table 7 shows the resulting matrix rating, as the most important SQM practices. The
values after normalizing the columns. Table 7 also AHP analysis and SME interviews added ITP (x3 ) as
shows the total sum for each row, as well as the average an important variable, just as important as supplier’s
value, which is the total row sum divided by the num- work observation. The AHP analysis reflects the SMEs’
ber of SQM practices (row total/5). The average value general assessments and confirms x2 , x1 , andx4 as
is the priority weight for each SQM practice. variables of interest. We confirm that x5 , inspection
As shown in Table 7, supplier’s work observation cost projection, is not a variable of interest. The results
(x1 ) and ITP (x3 ) have the same highest priority with were obtained through expert elicitation of the SMEs
a value of 0.353, supplier’s performance rating (x4 ) has and AHP analysis, providing strong empirical support,
the second highest priority with a value of 0.152, fol- especially for small sample sizes.
lowed by inspection effort tracking (x2 ) with a value of
0.087. Inspection cost projection, x5 , has the least pri-
Conclusions and future work
ority with a value of 0.054.
The SME reported that inspection cost projection Within the construction industry, there are many SQM
is only an estimate and does not add value to the practices to help improve the quality of materials sup-
SQM process. The AHP analysis only includes the five plied to construction projects. However, the choice of
SQM practices listed in Table 7. If more SQM practices one practice over the other using quantitative analysis
are required to be examined using AHP, then a new techniques may not be easy due to limited data. This
data collection process of the PO instrument design research aims to quantitatively identify important prac-
and distribution must be applied. Therefore, the results tices for SQM. First, we used PCA to select the most
obtained from Table 7 should not be affected by poten- important SQM practices using data collected from
tial rank reversal. organizations with highly effective SQM systems. Then,
In summary, the PCA analysis identified x2 , SMEs representing organizations with highly effective
x1 , and x4 , specifically, supplier’s work observation, SQM were interviewed and analyzed to provide a better
182 R. Y. ALMAIAN ET AL.

understanding of the relative importance of the SQM because at the end of each project, construction orga-
practices. nizations can determine the required inspection effort
This research contributes a quantitative approach for future projects dealing with the same suppliers.
that can be used within quality engineering to ana- The implications of the research for quality mangers
lyze multivariate data with small sample size. In gen- include the importance of considering more than one
eral, results drawn from a small sample size analy- data analysis method for evaluating small sample size
sis should be carefully interpreted and validated to data. Conclusions must be built on consensus of sev-
avoid inaccurate conclusions. Therefore, this research eral data analysis methods, if possible, to ensure that
includes discussion with SMEs from organizations with the suggested recommendations are reliable and valid
highly effective SQM systems to elicit their judgment for implementation.
with regard to the importance of the SQM practices This research is limited by a small sample size
under study, in order to validate the results of PCA. to determine important SQM practices. Future work
This article also contributes an AHP analysis to be involves collecting additional data and involving more
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used by quality engineers and construction profession- SMEs to analyze SQM practices. With multiple SMEs,
als to validate quantitative results. In general, an AHP another AHP analysis can be done to provide gener-
can be used as a validation mechanism for small sam- alizability to the analysis and further investigate the
ple size quantitative analyses. In addition, AHP can impact of ITP as identified by the SME in our analy-
aid in understanding of the relative importance of any sis. The study is focused on the investigation of SQM
quality practices or actions by using expert knowl- practices from construction organizations (contrac-
edge judgment. In this research, both analyses, PCA tors) performing mainly engineer–procure–construct
and AHP, suggested that supplier’s work observation, projects. The research can be extended with data from
inspection effort tracking, and supplier’s performance organizations with a different focus (e.g., commercial,
rating are SQM practices of interest. Contributions to residential, specialty contractors), to ensure replication
the quality engineering field include suggesting that of the results for other types of contractors in the con-
PCA be used for small sample size analyses and propos- struction industry.
ing AHP to both strengthen the conclusions drawn Other future work includes synthesizing the effec-
from small sample size analysis and help the decision tive SQM practices into a framework for implemen-
makers understand the relative importance of the stud- tation within construction projects, in order to guide
ied practices (variables). The findings of this article construction organizations on how and when to imple-
can benefit researchers and professionals in the con- ment these practices within the project life cycle. These
struction industry by enabling identification of invest- SQM practices can also be analyzed in terms of their
ment in the most important SQM practices to be imple- impact on quality and ease of implementation to help
mented within construction projects. The analysis and construction organizations select the important SQM
discussion with the SMEs identified supplier’s per- practices to improve quality.
formance rating as an important practice because it
provides suppliers with important information about
Acknowledgments
previous performance to help them learn from mis-
takes that cause quality problems and hence pre- The article presents findings from research supported by the
vent these problems reoccurring in future projects. Construction Industry Institute (CII), as part of Research Team
308, Achieving Zero Rework through Effective Supplier Quality
Observing supplier’s work during execution will help
Practices. The team is composed of academic researchers from
construction organizations detect quality problems. industrial and civil/construction engineering and subject matter
The observation is effective because it involves reg- experts, representing CII member organizations as construction
ular meetings between the supplier and the contrac- owners, contractors, and suppliers.
tor to discuss the work progress and exchange the
updated information. As important as observing sup-
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