Given the competitive pressures you face daily, streamlining your corrective actions can position your company as a market leader – or a follower struggling to keep up with new best practices. Executing corrective actions like a market leader requires that you take a fresh look at how you can refine these processes and procedures internally and externally, as well. Corrective actions are an integral part of your company’s quality management system, so here are the important aspects to consider when improving and executing corrections actions:
Why Corrective Actions Matter Today
You cannot begin to review your corrective actions without an understanding of why these procedures need review. To say the least, corrective actions rely heavily on updating, creating and managing documents to ensure quality issues have been resolved and will not occur again. On the front lines of a bustling shop floor, however, corrective actions may take several iterations to get the right procedures in place. Over the years, the mountain of paperwork related to corrective actions can lead to a document management nightmare. Duplicate corrective action requests – or incomplete verification and validation documents – can derail the course of any quality management system. Over time, these inefficiencies become “locked in,” and only a fresh look at the effectiveness of corrective actions can break through the organizational gridlock. At the very least, your review should include these facets:
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Distinguishing Corrective Actions From One Another
One way to improve corrective actions is to review the entire process from start to finish beginning with the steps you take to identify the corrective action request itself. This initial step is distinct from identifying the root cause of the quality issue, which can be as benign as a mislabeled shipment of components or as serious as an employee safety issue. At the very least, your identification scheme should include:
- The date of the request
- The person(s) initiating the request
- The source of the request (internal or external)
- A unique corrective actions identification number
- The person(s) assigned to complete the corrective action
- The date corrective actions officially close
- The person(s) who verified that the corrective action worked.
When you are able to identify which corrective actions need the most attention, you can prioritize the best course of action to resolve the quality issue and improve accountability. Without a thorough scheme to distinguish corrective actions from one another, you face the danger of having several different open corrective actions that focus on the same issue. Likewise, you may encounter the scenario where you repeat corrective actions inadvertently, which is a tremendous waste of time and resources.
Including the Right Data at the Right Time
Technical intricacies may rule the day when reviewing corrective actions procedures within your organization, but without referencing the right data in the first place, you will likely see little improvement. Streamlined corrective actions require more than just paperwork. The best quality management systems are able to include photos and a complete description of the problem, which may include handwritten notes from operators. These unstructured data do not fare well in a manual, paper-driven corrective actions system and “fall through the cracks” of your quality management system. Even when employees have the IT tools to streamline the process, they may fall back on manual methods of printing, editing and refiling corrective actions documents. In the end, these problems may only come to light in the midst of a compliance audit, which is precisely when you do not want these issues to surface. However, by linking the right data (i.e., all relevant data and documents), you can improve the effectiveness of corrective actions.
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Tracking Corrective Action Revision Histories
Poor document management is the bane of all quality management audits. It is a well-known fact that document management is consistently one of the most cited reasons why companies fail compliance audits, but why is this? The answer relates to how your organization tracks the revision histories of corrective actions documents. To streamline your corrective actions like a market leader, you have to be able to correlate corrective actions to one another if necessary by reviewing the history of changes to documents. At this point, the benefits of a holistic, closed-loop quality management system come to light. It is not uncommon for several different versions of the same corrective actions request to wander about your organization. However, with the right software in place that can control how you process corrective action requests, you can virtually eliminate this all-too-common inefficiency. In the ideal situation, corrective actions should include links to all relevant change histories no matter “routine” they may appear. Executing corrective actions like a market leader requires that you review the entire process from start to finish.