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Tim Lozier

Standards

Four Beneficial Byproducts of Automating Your Corrective Actions

Get rid of gray areas and enhance continual improvement

Published: Monday, January 30, 2017 - 13:01

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For quality management to be effective, a solid corrective action process is critical. ISO standards and general best-practice guides suggest—and even mandate—a set procedure and proper documentation for addressing and correcting issues.

In fact, 72 percent of quality professionals we surveyed named corrective and preventive action as the most critical quality and compliance process in their organizations. That’s why many people choose to automate this process, to make it as simple and efficient as possible.

The importance of automating corrective actions

Because corrective actions are such a vital part of quality management, it’s essential to launch them in a way that yields objective, consistent results. Automation removes the possibility of human error and ensures that your corrective actions are systematic and efficient.

Automation proves helpful in the following steps of corrective action:

Investigation and containment. With an automated system, you can immediately address an issue. The sooner you identify and respond to an issue, the sooner you can contain its effects. As soon as the corrective action is launched, everyone involved is notified and can begin taking steps to correct it.
Root cause analysis. If you can quickly determine the root cause of an issue, you can quickly step in at the deepest level to correct it. That way, you can correct the core issues that lead to that event to prevent future occurrences.
Action plan. Once you have figured out your plan of action for containing, correcting, and preventing the issue, you can put that plan into action with a push of a button. Response times are key in this situation, so having an automated solution to decrease response time through notifications, reminders, and collaboration tools is extremely valuable.
Verification check. The sooner all the previous steps are executed, the sooner you will be able to fully resolve the issue and check the effectiveness of your action plan. Doing so creates a flow of continuous improvement that isn’t disrupted by the delays that come from manual processes.

Beneficial byproducts

It’s not enough to just agree that automating your corrective action process is simple and efficient. You need to look deeper to see how you, as the quality professional, can truly benefit from this change.

Automating your corrective action process can change the entire dynamic of your quality team for the better. It provides some residual benefits that can improve your organization and team overall, which helps you better align with the high-level regulations in compliance standards. Here are some examples of what you’ll gain with automation.

Visibility and traceability
Thirty-eight percent of respondents in our survey indicated lack of visibility into quality processes as a top challenge. Automated corrective actions leave a clear, documented trail from start to finish. Regardless of industry or organization specifics, being able to trace actions from start to finish is an excellent way to pinpoint specific decision points as well as overall trends.

Corrective actions specifically serve as a good diagnosis and indication of strengths and weaknesses within your organization. When you know exactly where your strengths are, you can use them to your advantage. Likewise, knowing where you need improvement is helpful in creating further action plans.

Collaboration
Sixty-six percent of respondents stated that collaboration is one of the most important aspects of managing quality and compliance events. Automating your corrective processes opens up the lines of communication throughout your organization. It starts a series of instant communication to keep everyone updated on the latest status of the corrective action, without any additional steps.

When everyone is aware of the entire process rather than their individual pieces, collaboration is easier. They know exactly whom to contact for certain information and can easily track the conversations and work of others. Automation also eliminates the dangers associated with email and spreadsheet communications—messages aren’t lost in endless inboxes, interpreted in unintended ways, or shared with unauthorized people.

Accountability
Forty-two percent expect to receive greater accountability from automating quality and compliance management. Because the information is available to everyone, employees are aware of what they need to do and can be held accountable. There’s no gray area that can be misconstrued or misinterpreted through human error. When team members know they’re being held accountable, they will be more productive and careful in their assignments. There’s also then a set procedure for whom to speak with regarding different aspects of the corrective action.

Continual improvement
Fifty-two percent expect greater visibility into the data to make improvements. In this aspect, the corrective action process includes verification checks to make sure preventive controls are effective. When executed properly, they will prevent repeat issues, which often plague organizations that don’t utilize automated corrective actions.

Finding the root cause and putting in preventive controls is more effective than just dealing with the consequences of the issue. For example, if an equipment failure causes products to be assembled incorrectly, it would be much more beneficial to determine and fix the equipment issue rather than just dealing with fixing or pulling the products after the fact. This promotes a culture of proactive process improvement, rather than reacting to the consequences of poor quality.

Closing thoughts

It’s no secret that automation benefits your corrective action process because you can execute in a systematic, objective manner and centralize the process. But what really makes it valuable to your organization are the benefits that are not so blatant. When looking to adopt a corrective action process, look for one that leads to positive changes throughout your entire organization—and that starts with automation.

Discuss

About The Author

Tim Lozier’s picture

Tim Lozier

Tim Lozier is the director of product strategy for EtQ, in Farmingdale, New York. He has extensive experience in the software industry, and has been involved in the creation of leading-edge technologies in user-interface design and development. He began his career in digital marketing before taking a turn into software design and marketing at Quark Inc. Since then, he’s never looked back—helping to foster the development (and blog about) leading quality management software solutions.

Comments

Flaws in corrective action

After being involved in Quality Management for over 30 years. I find the idea of Corrective action to have quite a few flaws.

1- Its common to observe organization use FMEA for Processes and Product but very rarely have I seen it used in relationship to failures. I usually observe failures in Pareto and the attack made to address the largest contributor... but what about severity? Is that not more important than a simple volume of occurrence?

2- Most corrective action systems I run across are related to audit results, usually management system audit results. Rarely if ever do those audit results assess the impact of non-conformance occurring in terms of severity. Most CAR systems I observe, treat all Non-Conformance as if its all of the highest severity, which is simply nonsense. ISO does little to help in this arena as their management system standards default to the same ideal which is credulous. If result of non-conformance occurring bears no impact upon the organizations customer or its interested parties, is it worth addressing with a formal corrective action process? Common sense speaks against performing such acts.

3- Root cause... this idea related to a process is utter nonsense. Even the Ishiwaga diagram speaks to the fact that there could be at least 4 causes to a failure to meet expectations of an organizations customers or interested parties. Further within those four basic operations causes are multiple branches of causes. Yes a team might vote on the most likely cause, however they will never be able to prove root cause outside the operation of a machine. And What is the most common "Root Cause" observed? ....Operator error.....

4- Finally there is effectiveness of action taken, which is often left to the auditor to determine. Really? A team of individuals worked on discovering the so called "root cause" to a problem, came up with a solution or solutions, implemented said solution and then never measured the result of their work? Wouldn't effectiveness be that measurement?

5- ISO 9001 drives the corrupt thinking of corrective action by not marrying Clause 6 to Clause 10 of the 2015 version. Section 10.2 indicates the organization should evaluate the need for action to eliminate the cause(s) of non-conformity then defines those as

  1. Reviewing and analyzing the nonconformity
  2. Determine the causes of the nonconformity
  3. Determining the potential of similar nonconformities to exist Stepping short in step one of marrying nonconformity to Clause 6, however is that not what risk based thinking is all about? If the risk is minimal is corrective action even necessary?

These are the issues I discover with current approaches to "Corrective Action" especially under schemes such as ISO's Management System Standards (9001, 14001, 45001 etc)