Corrective Action is a reactive process; something needs to have gone wrong in order for an organization to take actions to solve the problem or non-conformity. Depending on the way they are approached, non-conformities can be corrected and its recurrence prevented.
Organizations with well-established management systems can find that problems/non-conformities, in their processes, products or services, recur, in spite of all the efforts (time, work and money) spent to eliminate them. In order to ensure that a problem is fixed immediately and in the long-term, an effective corrective action process needs to be established. Here are some characteristics of what makes an excellent corrective action process:
Problems are identified. Problems can occur in processes, in the workplace, in a product or service provided, or in the management system itself. Some of these problems are easier to identify than others; that’s why organizations need to establish ways to identify them through:
- Workplace and process inspections.
- Testing, inspecting, and monitoring of equipment.
- Reviewing interested party’s communications.
- Hazard reporting.
- Investigating complaints, incidents and accidents.
- Reviewing system failures.
- Reviewing regulatory requirements.
Problems are temporarily fixed or contained. Most problems need a quick reaction. For that reason, the owner of the task or process needs to be located and informed immediately in order to take the necessary actions to solve the problem temporarily.
The problem’s root cause is found. This is the most important characteristic of an effective corrective action process. If an organization is unable to determine the root cause of a problem/non-conformity, it is condemned to face the same problem over and over, which can be exhausting and discouraging to everyone involved in the process.
There are numerous techniques to determine the root cause of a problem. An organization needs to make sure their employees have the time, resources and the required skills to investigate and draw the right conclusions from these investigations.
A long lasting solution is put in place. After identifying the root cause, an appropriate solution that will prevent the problem from happening again must be proposed. These actions need to be put in place. It’s useless to go through all the work of understanding the problem and identifying its root cause, if the actions to solve it, will not be taken.
Permanent changes are verified. After an appropriate period of time, a person needs to be assigned to verify if the actions were successful in preventing recurrence. It’s recommended that this person is someone that was not involved in the previous steps of this process, to ensure is impartiality.
Corrective actions are recorded. It’s essential to report all the details of the corrective actions: problem found, immediate actions taken, root cause, corrective actions, and verification.
If an organization learns to solve their problems by applying an effective corrective action process, they will ultimately improve their processes, their management system and their business.