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Corrective Action and Process Control

09 December 2016
NQA’s Assessor Charles Hunt delves into the topic of corrective action and process control and explains how his favourite 5 Why’s model can help to identify the root cause.

An ongoing problem in a product or organization can have resounding and lasting effects, but by performing remedial actions immediately after discovering an issue, you can mitigate these effects and create a better business. Process control and corrective action methods will help you maintain customer safety and trust, sustain product sales and avoid fines or legal fees. However, many businesses feel lost as to how to put these plans into place.

Fortunately, companies like yours have developed revolutionary methods in problem-solving. The following approaches will help you mitigate problems in your products or processes by identifying the causes behind them.

First Steps In Problem-Solving

Before looking at specific corrective action, the question should be asked regarding the process:

  • Is there a process?
  • Is the process robust?
  • Is the process capable?
  • Are there predictable results?
  • Is the process being followed consistently?

Many things have been written about manufacturing and logistics issues and typically, the response is ‘nothing to do with my business we do not make anything.’ However, the principles can be applied to anything: Hotel, Finance, Shops, Offices, Service Providers, etc.
You can as most do start your corrective action/problem solving methods using Eight Disciplines (8Ds) Problem Solving or the 5 Why’s. This may resolve the problem at the time the failure occurred but not stop the failure type happening again with another potential cause.

The Eight Disciplines Problem-Solving Method

The 8D approach began as a problem-solving method in the automotive industry among engineers, but its usefulness extends to a wide variety of industries. Some of the businesses that often employ 8D problem-solving are based in retail, healthcare, government, manufacturing and numerous other sectors.

These disciplines benefit companies looking to find root causes for ongoing problems and eliminate these causes through permanent corrective actions. The steps are easy for any member of your team to learn and implement, encouraging better communication and collaboration among teammates. Its simple steps for corrective action include:

  • D0 — Plan and prepare: Before you can put a plan into place, you'll first need to prepare to problem-solve. Determine any prerequisites for solving the issue at hand.
  • D1 — Establish a team: To control an ongoing problem effectively, you must have a strong team by your side. Choose people who are well-acquainted with the problematic product or process.
  • D2 — Describe the problem: Effective communication with your team requires clearly defined terms of the problem. Lay out the issue using the 5W2H approach — the problem's who, what, where, when, why, how and how many.
  • D3 — Develop an interim containment action plan: Before you determine and implement the best permanent corrective action, you might need to perform interim measures to protect your workers or customers. Choose and implement a plan to isolate problems in the short term.
  • D4 — Determine the problem's root cause and escape points: Pinpointing the root cause of the problem is an essential first step in taking permanent corrective actions against it. Identify any possible causes as well as the reasons the problem wasn't noticed when it first occurred. You can utilize the 5 Why's method to establish the root cause.
  • D5 — Choose and verify a permanent corrective action (PCA): After selecting the best permanent action to fix the problem, confirm that this action will continually and efficiently solve the issue.
  • D6 — Perform the permanent corrective action: After choosing a PCA to meet your needs, define its terms and incorporate it into your business practices.
  • D7 — Prevent problem recurrence: Once you've taken initial actions, continually monitor your management system and practices to prevent problem recurrence.
  • D8 — Celebrate with your team: When you've taken care of the problem for good, congratulations are in order. Share your appreciation for your team members by formally recognizing their problem-solving efforts.

I have seen many corrective action reports and responses with:

  • Operator error
  • Employees need retraining
  • Tool damaged
  • Incorrect quantity of parts sent, assumed it was a full box

The process involved starts by mapping it out. It doesn’t have to be complicated, and it needs to show what the expected output results should be. Once the process has been mapped, then ask the question: Are you getting consistent predictable output results?
It is also important to address the factor of do you have the necessary influences and controlled resources in place? 
There may be issues which do not meet your requirements or expectations, so it is important to make planned changes using a cross functional team, as no one individual has all the knowledge. The revised process can use the ‘Plan, do, Check, Act’ method.

How can the corrective and preventative actions be performed?

My particular favourite is the 5 Why’s. The 5 Why’s are quick and easy to use and can help to come out with more than one possible solution.

Start with a problem and ask "why" it is occurring? Make sure that your answer is grounded in fact, and then ask "why" again. Continue the process until you reach the root cause of the problem and then you can identify a counter-measure that prevents it recurring.

Problem: Your customer is refusing to pay for the hotel room.

  • Why? The bath was left with soap scum
  • Why? We ran out of cleaning products.
  • Why? Forgot to order
  • Why? Person responsible was on holiday and no-one given the task.
  • Why? Planning for resources not part of the cleaning and back up plan.

Counter-measure: We need to assign a responsibility matrix showing trained cover to purchase cleaning products. Raise a flow chart of the process, implement it, train and check suitability.

The importance of Quality

Within the example above, we see this as a ‘Quality’ issue and the responsibility of someone else. If the results from the process are not what we expected, try to put a financial value to this and it will then certainly get everyone’s attention. No one wants to waste money!

Also, try to define the impact on the business as one issue may cause a bigger problem to the business and customer than several others. For example: A customer expects a timed delivery, as opposed to items for stock, both a problem but the timed delivery has a bigger impact.
There have been other articles on the Process Approach, which in essence is about auditing the process and not about clause compliance. But without a clearly defined process, it is difficult to find the root cause.

Contact NQA For Professional Management System Support

If your business needs help implementing corrective actions, NQA is the partner you can trust. We have years of experience helping customers worldwide improve their business processes. For more information, contact us online or at (800) 649-5289.

Authored by: Charles Hunt, NQA Regional Assessor