The concept “corrective actions” is repeated in all quality management systems, such as the one based on the ISO 9001 standard, it’s essential to understand and implement it properly because the success of your quality management system will basically depend on this.
In order to properly manage corrective actions in a company, you must first understand well certain basic points that I explain below:
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What are they and what are they for?
Corrective actions are a tool that basically serves to correct all kinds of failures within the company’s processes, when we correct errors we are improving the processes, that is why we must consider corrective actions as a tool for continuous improvement.
Where to implement them?
As I already mentioned, failures can originate in any process so corrective actions can be implemented where it’s required to correct something.
Some causes that originate a corrective actions can be:
- Results of internal or external audits that demand improvement and / or correction actions.
- Risk analysis of the organization.
- Key performance indicators that reflect that the process is not effective.
- Lack of follow-up to the QMS review by Top Management.
- Analysis of customer complaints and / or suggestions.
- Analysis of the work environment with negative results.
- Non-compliance with the minimum levels of customer satisfaction, this is especially important in the case of implementing a quality management system based on the ISO 9001 standard.
Corrective actions and corrections
When a failure occurs in a process, the first thing we have to worry about is stopping it, we call this correction, however this does not eliminate the root cause of the problem and it’s most likely that it will recur in the future.
When we implement a corrective action, an analysis of the root cause of the failure must be carried out and by eliminating it we have as a result that it will never occur again.
Corrective actions and preventive actions
A corrective action is taken when a failure in the process has already occurred and must be solved, while preventive action is taken when no problem has yet occurred and we foresee that something negative may occur.
Anticipating failures is not a common practice and can be complicated since we are generally immersed in our activities and don’t pay attention to events that could turn out badly, that is why the term preventive action has been eliminated from the ISO 9001 standard and instead the concept of risk analysis has been included.
Having said all of the above, I can give you several tips that will make you implement corrective actions in your company effectively from now on:
1.- Bring together the leaders of all the processes involved
Although the failure can be detected in a particular process, generally the solution of the problem will not come from only one side, that is why you have to identify what other processes can influence.
For example, you can involve Human Resources if you think part of the problem is the lack of staff training or include Purchasing if suppliers can also influence.
Invite all those responsible for the processes involved to a meeting and participate as a moderator of all the activities carried out, such as root cause analysis, determination of corrective actions, etc.
2.- Perform root cause analysis with the right tool
Remember that the most important thing in a corrective action is to properly determine the root cause of the non-conformity, because if this is not done properly it doesn’t matter that you implement all the subsequent activities well, you will simply not solve anything.
Even brainstorming with everyone involved is very helpful. But for more complex questions it may be necessary to resort even to statistical analysis.
Knowing the 7 quality tools provides you with a very broad overview so that you can choose the one that suits you best depending on the situation, however, if you are not an expert on the subject, I recommend using the cause and effect diagram, it is a very effective tool and easy to implement in any case.
3.- Provide timely follow-up of planned corrective actions
Once you have found the root causes of the problem, you must determine what actions will need to be taken to eliminate it.
You must be very precise when writing corrective actions, indicating the person responsible (it must always be only one) and the deadline for their implementation.
Organize weekly review meetings with those responsible for implementing each corrective action to avoid delays.
4.-Allow adequate time to evaluate the effectiveness of the actions taken
Another very important point is the review of effectiveness, this will indicate if the whole process was carried out correctly, when you determine that a corrective action is effective you will be sure that the problem will not occur again, at least not for the same reason .
Depending on the complexity of the problem and the root cause that originates it, you should assign a time and the appropriate evaluation methods so you can determine if the corrective action was effective or not, this time can even be a few weeks or perhaps months.
5.- Document everything in one report including evidence attachments
As you already know, in quality management systems such as ISO 9001, a lot of evidence is required of the activities that are being carried out and this case is no exception.
A corrective action report should include as a minimum:
- Date of occurrence
- Main Responsible for Solution
- Immediate Corrective Actions (What was done to stop the failure?)
- Root Cause (or causes)
- Corrective Actions Taken (to eliminate root cause)
- Evaluation of Effectiveness (including methods used and final result)
- Annexes of evidence (photos, formats, documents that serve as support)
If you do not want to use manual methods to carry out corrective action management, you can make use of specialized software that will help you to provide adequate monitoring and ensure that you are complying with standards such as ISO 9001.