Featured Product
This Week in Quality Digest Live
Standards Features
Harish Jose
Using OC curves to generate reliability/confidence values
Phanish Puranam
Instead of blindly adopting industry best practice, companies can pilot new organizational designs
William A. Levinson
All is not gold that glitters
Grant Ramaley
IAF CertSearch now mandatory for accredited certification bodies
Megan Wallin-Kerth
MasterControl’s Matt Lowe talks competition, data, and what quality does for a company

More Features

Standards News
Ensuring product consistency, quality, and adherence to federal and state standards
Omnex webinar on May 11, 2023
Digital Twin Consortium’s white paper guides strategies for building owners and stakeholders
Copper, titanium, and 304L stainless-steel powders from Desktop Metal have qualified for production
Webinars cover Automotive SPICE and carbon neutrality standards
Creates one of the most comprehensive regulatory SaaS platforms for the industry

More News

Denise Robitaille


Selling the Benefits of Preventive Action

Demonstrate its benefits to top management and you have your sales pitch.

Published: Tuesday, June 7, 2005 - 22:00

Perhaps one of the hardest persisting sells for the average quality professional is the challenge of effectively communicating the benefits of preventive action to senior management. The sales pitch is twofold: 1) defining the concept and 2) providing concrete examples that are applicable to the organization.Basically, preventive action is the way we manage the consequences of change. It really doesn’t matter if we have initiated the change or if we’re responding to one emanating from an external agent; the elemental attributes of change always apply. Change is inevitable—and it usually carries consequences, which may relate to the actions we take or to our decision to take no action.

Preventive action is an acknowledgement of the inevitability of change and a resolution to establish mechanisms for anticipating change to mitigate negative effects that may ensue.

We know that without appropriate vigilance, things can go awry. We monitor machines, double-check calculations, inspect outgoing product and do refresher training on safety protocols. We also know that obsessive over-inspection and second-guessing is a costly counter-productive squandering of finite resources. The same premise underlies all processes. We need to have adequate definition and control, without which we’d have chaos. For preventive actions, that chaotic state would be exemplified by haphazard attempts to anticipate any or all possible problems, without criteria or defined scope. The enormity of the task dooms it to failure from the onset. A program that purported to encompass counter-measures for all imaginable contingencies would collapse under its own weight.

The challenge is to establish processes that address the most critical and likely risks. These processes may be incorporated into larger processes. For example, FMEA (failure modes and effects analysis) is a step within the much larger design and development process. The overriding question that summarizes the intent of FMEA is, “If we change a feature of this product (for example, the speed of a conveyor), what will happen?” Possible problems might be that objects will fall off the conveyor or items will be deposited too quickly into the next machine. If we really want the conveyor to go faster, we should study how we can eliminate these two potential problems. FMEA is one of the most highly structured and effective preventive action processes for managing design of product and development of manufacturing processes.

One of the less visible, but equally effective tools is related to planning. As part of any plan we need to routinely ask, “What could go wrong?” I like the following example for top management because it illustrates how something wonderful can turn into a nightmare if the fundamentals of preventive action aren’t applied.

The situation: The company has just landed a major contract that will increase annual sales by 30 percent—a definite change for the better. Now, what could go wrong? Well…

  • We might not have the production capacity to handle the orders.
  • We might not have enough trained personnel.
  • Our suppliers might not be able to handle our raw material requirements.
  • We might not be able to respond as quickly to our other customers.
  • We might not be able to deliver on time.
  • We could lose customers.
  • Our reputation in the marketplace could be damaged.

The initial step in this kind of preventive action should be to establish a defined process that kicks in whenever the organization bids on a contract that exceeds a pre-determined value. The process should require the organization to assess the risks associated with accepting the contract. The next steps should be to determine the appropriate action (whether to accept the order) and the next to implement the action.

Using this particular example has the added benefit of connecting the preventive action to the bottom line. Management must assess processes and related resources to handle the risks engendered by this new contract, so that they may allocate the requisite monies to ensure the desired outcome. That means they need to access information derived from such management system features as:

  • Analysis of process capabilities
  • Records of employee training and qualification
  • Evaluation of supplier performance and capacity
  • Review of customer feedback
  • Calculation of ROI

The outcome of the deliberations will result in a plan of action based on the risks weighed against the constraints. The action may involve adding a third shift, forming a strategic alliance with key suppliers, outsourcing a process that can best be done by an outside contractor or any number of other initiatives.

The final step is close out. This will occur long after the action has been taken. A review is done to determine if the results conform to the desire outcome.

  • Were we able to satisfy the customer’s requirements?
  • Did the additional resources that were allocated improve the bottom line?
  • Did we realize any additional benefit from the investment?

The output of the review should demonstrate to top management the financial benefits of a well controlled preventive action process—the sales pitch quality professionals need to keep the program going.


About The Author

Denise Robitaille’s picture

Denise Robitaille

Denise Robitaille is the author of thirteen books, including: ISO 9001:2015 Handbook for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses.

She is chair of PC302, the project committee responsible for the revision to ISO 19011, an active member of USTAG to ISO/TC 176 and technical expert on the working group that developed the current version of ISO 9004:2018. She has participated internationally in standards development for over 15 years. She is a globally recognized speaker and trainer. Denise is a Fellow of the American Society for Quality and an Exemplar Global certified lead assessor and an ASQ certified quality auditor.

As principal of Robitaille Associates, she has helped many companies achieve ISO 9001 registration and to improve their quality management systems. She has conducted training courses for thousands of individuals on such topics as auditing, corrective action, document control, root cause analysis, and implementing ISO 9001. Among Denise’s books are: 9 Keys to Successful Audits, The (Almost) Painless ISO 9001:2015 Transition and The Corrective Action Handbook. She is a frequent contributor to several quality periodicals.