One of the easiest ways to improve both your processes and the ISO 9001 QMS system continuously, is by implementing Corrective actions.
Corrective actions are much more than simply correcting (or fixing) a problem. If a component in a manufacturing machine breaks and stops the whole production process, replacing the broken part and restarting the production is a correction – not a corrective action. A corrective action can only be identified and implemented if you do a root cause analysis of why the part broke, and then put something in place that will prevent it from breaking again. That something could be as simple as a routine inspection or maintenance that will identify the part as being near the end of its lifetime and replacing it before it actually breaks.
When does it make sense to implement Corrective Action?
It is simply not possible, or economically viable to implement a Corrective Action for everything that goes wrong. Problems that only happen rarely or have very little impact on the processes and operation of the organization, don’t need corrective actions implemented. Simply correct the problem and carry on. ISO 9001 does in fact not require that corrective actions be implemented for each little problem that crops up. The corrective actions system must, however, be documented and should be used to address problems that promote continual improvement.
To save money, in the long run, it makes sense to focus on big problems that are recurring and repetitive. If you prevent these by implementing corrective actions, you will save time and money and that improves your QMS system as well as the bottom line of your organization.
Implementing Corrective Action the ISO way
When trying to solve an intricate problem, we instinctively go through a number of simple, logical steps. If we identify these steps and document them in whichever way, they work as a Corrective Action system in many of the ISO management systems, including ISO 9001.
- Problem definition.
You first need to make sure that the problem is a real one and not a perceived problem. To do this, check by using a statement that contains the phrases “Should be” and “Is”. An example would be “The engine should not run out of fuel, but it did” (or the tank is empty). If you are not able to identify what the outcome of a situation should be, the problem you are trying to identify might not be real.
- Understand the size of the problem.
If you think you have identified a problem, look at how often it happens. Has this problem happened in the past? How often? Are there specific patterns that emerge, i.e. the problem only happens on a Monday, or when it is cold. Once you have this information, it becomes a lot easier to find the root cause.
Correct or fix the problem immediately so that production can continue while you look for the underlying cause and decide what to do to fix the problem permanently. At the same time, put checks or measures in place that will enable you the identify the problem if it occurs again while you are looking for and implementing the long-term solution.
- Identify the Root Cause.
This is the complex part. How do know that you’ve found the underlying cause? There are numerous ways to do this, the simplest being asking “Why” five times to get to the original problem. There are numerous formal methodologies used, but ultimately, the aim is to dig past the surface problem.
- Design a Corrective Action.
Decide the steps that need to be taken to remove the root cause of the problem. You will also need to consider the cost and ROI.
- Implement the Corrective Action.
This step simply involves making your plan happen.
- Check that the Corrective Action works.
Once you have implemented the Corrective Action, you have to make sure that it actually works. After waiting for an appropriate amount of time, check that the problem has not occurred again. “An appropriate amount of time” can be determined easily if you know how often and when the problem occurred in the first place. This step is critical – without it, you might as well not have done anything.
If you find that the Corrective Action was not effective, i.e. the problem still occurs, it means that you have probably not identified the root cause correctly. Go back and redo the exercise.
The easy way to implement Corrective Actions
When you use the MyEasyISO system, implementing Corrective Actions becomes a breeze. At every point in your operations where it is likely that you may identify Corrective Action opportunities as a result of non-conformances, the system will seamlessly guide you through implementing a Corrective Action if required. Typical scenarios include various measuring, monitoring and inspection activities.
Corrective Actions will save you money and drive improvement
If you focus on the biggest problems identified and implement Corrective Actions for those, you will be improving continually and save money in the process. This is after all one of the best reasons tom implement a QMS in the first place.