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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.

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 notstop the failure type happening again with another potential cause.
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 responsibly 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.

Authored by: Charles Hunt, NQA Regional Assessor