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A Great Wall or Opportunity?

Scott M. Paton’s First Word in the March 2004 issue is right on the money. If organizations can be honest and use ethics, perhaps the employees could turn around too. Many employees feel the only way to get their voice heard is through a union. I believe that employees seeking a union should realize what it means to their business and country. Employers also need to become more resourceful and open about the policies they want to enforce. If the organization wants trust from the employees, it must give the employees reason to trust them.


I mostly agree with Paton’s First Word comments. As Americans, we should be able to adapt to the new global economy. However, you did not address the issue of second- and third-tier suppliers to large conglomerates that are doing business with China, Mexico, Taiwan and so on. As you know, we provide a great amount of money to the economy of the United States.

How are we going to compete against the Chinese or anyone else who works for a fraction of what we do?

--Tony Gasso

Corrective vs. Preventive

Thank you, Dan Nelson, for your Last Word editorial in the March 2004 issue. I got into a heated debate with a customer about this same issue two years ago. The customer was asking for a preventive action after the corrective action was complete. I asked, “How can you prevent something from happening if it has already happened?”

--Jason Monsul

I like to look at preventive action a little differently. The point of Nelson’s article is the difference between corrective action and what I call “impact in other areas.” I use “prevention” as the tool used to prevent or keep it from happening again within the system. I have found that leading corrective action needs to be broken down into basic steps, like a checksheet in order to maintain a systematic approach to problem solving. Taking one or two steps of problem solving out of context can cause more confusion of the entire process, so I will list all eight from my approach.

Document the problem, list dates, location, who reported, quantities and the nonconformance tracking number related to the concern. First express the problem in the customer’s terms. Add some explanation or translation of the concern to the supplier’s vernacular if required.

Containment needs to be established quickly. Sorting at the customer is only the first step (if requested). What will you be doing to isolate the customer from this concern before the corrective action is proved and documented as verified? How much stock was reviewed for this concern at your facility and how much was found with the concern? You need to concentrate on your internal reject rate.

If you find some, so will the customer.

A root cause will almost always have two types of causes. The first is the obvious: missed operation, machine broke, etc., causing concern on the physical part. The second is the system failure that allowed that part to be processed and shipped to the customer. Both of these need to be addressed.

Corrective action needs to be done immediately. Document what areas, the date finished and the corrective action completed. If process documentation is updated, include those in the corrective action report. If the corrective action is more inspection, that increased inspection must not be eliminated at a later date. All corrective action must be written in past tense and dated before it can be closed.

Verify that the corrective action is effectively eliminating the concern as defined in the problem description. Do not use the customer’s complaint system for verification. Verification must be accomplished within your facility. Effective verification will always involve the review of production run parts after corrective action has been in place.

Prevention of reoccurrence needs to be addressed by updating documentation that controls the process or operation where corrective action took place. Procedures, operator instruction sheets, work instructions, flowcharts, FMEA, control plans, etc. must be updated.

List the part numbers involved, the production lines and the processes that were changed. Is there an opposite-hand part or similar production line in which this defect could occur? If there are no other areas affected, state so and give a brief explanation of why.

Evidence of analysis of mistake proofing needs to include a true poka-yoke, or the reasons for the actions taken if no mistake proofing is implemented. A person manually doing an operation is not mistake proofing. If a true poka-yoke cannot be implemented, the method used for evaluation of mistake proofing needs to be documented.

--Chris Nelsen

I enjoyed your article on the distinction between corrective and preventive action. Reading from ISO 9001:2000, sections 8.5.2 and 8.5.3, corrective action works to eliminate the cause of nonconformities, and preventive action works to eliminate the cause of potential nonconformities. In your example, the future parts to be made for the jig are potential nonconformities, not actual ones, because they have not yet been manufactured. This seems to argue for your solution being preventive action, not corrective action.

--Lee Beaumont