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Shawn Faircloth

Management

Five Reasons Why Corrective Actions Can Miss the Mark

An authentic commitment to solving problems is at the heart of quality culture

Published: Monday, April 16, 2018 - 12:02

The cost of ineffective corrective action can be astronomical when you consider the monetary and reputational impact of delayed problem-solving. On a small scale, repeat problems—even minor errors—send a message to customers that you just don’t care to get it right.

And when poor problem-solving leads to more significant quality escapes? You could be looking at $10,000 per minute in line-stoppage charges from the customer, or even a $10 million recall.

To ensure corrective actions reduce risk, automotive and aerospace suppliers should avoid key mistakes around measuring effectiveness, root cause analysis, and tracking closure. Here are five that require particular attention.

1. Not measuring effectiveness over time

Most often, corrective actions fail because companies fail to measure the actions’ effectiveness over time. This is true for individual corrective actions as well as for the corrective action process as a whole.

After a corrective action is complete, you need a way to determine not only whether it was effective, but also whether you’re holding the gain. Layered process audits are an ideal tool for this type of ongoing verification, with daily audits providing many opportunities for checking high-risk areas.

It’s also important to monitor the health of the corrective action process itself, tracking metrics such as:
• Total number of corrective action requests
• Number of overdue requests (e.g., 30, 45, or 60 days overdue)
• Average time to closure

2. Shallow root cause analysis

Another major barrier to continuous improvement is ineffective or “check the box” approaches to root cause analysis. Frequently, you have someone in an office doing the analysis, blaming every problem on operator error and citing training as the easiest solution.

Instead, organizations need to make problem-solving a team effort that actually involves people on the shop floor with first-hand knowledge of the issue. Just as important, you must be willing to ask hard questions and take an honest look at the answers. One way to get to the root cause is to use 5 Whys analysis, during which management asks “Why?” after an answer regarding the root cause to an issue. This interrogative technique is used to fully see the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a problem. It’s only when you see the full picture that you get to the true root of quality issues.

3. Lessons aren’t shared

The third reason why corrective actions fall short is failure to translate lessons learned from corrective actions taken at other sites and on other products and processes.
Examples include:
• Resolving a defective airbag problem for a single customer while failing to make appropriate changes to airbags manufactured for other customers
• Correcting a defective wire harness in a North American factory without notifying plants in other countries that a change of material is needed
• Fixing a flawed process for one product yet not considering how a similar error applies to other processes

It may be cheaper to skip the follow-through, at least in the short run. But ultimately, the price of letting problems become systemic is far steeper, affecting your most important client relationships and even the business as a whole.

4. Long closure times

Taking too long to fix problems is not something regulators tolerate. They will impose millions in fines to individual companies for failing to fix problems in a timely manner. Although it’s true that some complex issues can take weeks (or longer) to correct, it’s critical to recognize that delayed closure times increase the risk of quality escapes.

In fact, average time to closure for corrective actions is often a leading indicator of quality problems. Leading indicators are metrics that point to what might happen in the future, compared to lagging indicators that measure results.

As an example, you might notice that customer complaints (a lagging indicator) start creeping up when average time to closure goes up. Making this connection means you can take action to keep time to closure as low as possible—before problem-solving delays translate into customer complaints.

5. Administrative pitfalls

Many organizations still use manual or paper-based approaches to managing corrective action, which creates many opportunities for requests to get delayed.
Filling out paper forms, assigning corrective actions, following up with responsible individuals—miss any one of these tasks, and your corrective action process falls apart. Automation can help eliminate the cracks in your process, providing additional benefits for those who integrate corrective action with internal process audits. An automated audit platform allows you to:
• Assign mitigations and corrective actions on the spot during mobile audits to promote a problem-solving culture
• Make corrective action a team effort by routing requests to the right people at the right time
• Shorten time to closure by escalating missed steps to supervisors
• Add new questions to audits based on past corrective actions for continuous verification of effectiveness

Closing the loop through automation can eliminate many of the problems discussed here and set the foundation for a culture of quality. An authentic commitment to solving problems is at the heart of quality culture, making corrective action a high-impact area where small changes can lead to big results.

First published on the Beacon Quality blog.

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About The Author

Shawn Faircloth’s picture

Shawn Faircloth

Shawn Faircloth has been a customer-centric business development leader and account executive for Ease, Inc. since 2011.

Comments

#2 The importance of involving shop-floor personnel in RCA

One of the most important realizations that I have made as a quality professional is that RCA activities absolutely MUST include shop-floor personnel.  These are the true experts in the process, and are best equipped to give an accurate view of how a process is actually carried out... not how it SHOULD be carried out.  I won't even begin a formal RCA without at least one shop-floor employee present.

So pleased to see this point highlighted in the article!