An effective Corrective Action should follow the 5 steps below.

Problem definition

Once you open a corrective action, you know the issue is but you will need to define the problem without adding any color commentaries.

When you define a problem it should answer the: what, who, when & how the issue happened?

Let’s bring this to real-life situations:

Issues found:

Customers complained about constant delay in receiving products.

Incorrect materials received from supplier ABC.

During audit we found 4 testing equipment expired. 2 were scales and 2 were micrometers.

Problems defined:

Production is having constant delays and therefore we have a $$$ backorder.

Supplier ABC is frequently sending incorrect product tying up our resources in receiving and impacting our ability to deliver product to customers.

Calibration of several items were overdue and therefore product tested with them during the last 2 months might not meet requirements.

Resource assignment


Once you know what the problem is, you will need to identify key players & important equipment/ software/ tools needed to help solve the issue.

Normally, you start by inviting the leader of a department but they might in turn add a different resource for the activity.

At the end remember what Robert South said: “Problems can become opportunities when the right people come together”. So, “be the bridge”… be the bridge

Root Cause Analysis (RCA)

Most quality professionals believe that all events have a cause & effect. Understanding the root cause will help us determine why the issue happened.

Previously we told you that corrective actions need to address the underlying/root cause. The reason behind it is that if you remove the cause then the effect won’t happen.

There are several quality management tools that help you find a root cause but no matter what you use, it needs to be a systematic objective analysis.

Some tools you could use are: scatter plot, Ishikawa (fish-bone) diagram, Pareto chart or 5-why’s analysis.

The most common tool and probably the simplest one to perform is the 5-why analysis.

3 steps to performing a proper 5-why analysis:

Ensure your problem is well defined.

A symptom (simple issue) is not a problem, instead you want to diagnose the problem properly.

You cannot address the problem well if you have not defined it.

Ask your 5-whys

Make sure you interview the people with most practical knowledge on the subject matter.

Cross-functional teams will provide a broader perspective in the analysis.

Don’t overdo it with why’s, you might end up with forced information but use a minimum of 5 why’s.

The 5 why responses do not have to be a cascade. The answer of one does not lead to the next why in every case. Instead think of different factors/ issues/ reasons of why something did not work.

Make sure the root cause is a clear statement

The statement should depict the underlying cause

Don’t add any color commentary.

TIP: We use 4 main categories of root cause to help us stay objective.

These are:

1) Process was not understood

2)Process was not capable

3) Process had obstacles

4) External factors caused the issue

Action(s) to address Root Cause:


After you have performed the RCA, you probably know there are different tasks to be performed. It is deceiving that this is called a Corrective Action but it could have several tasks (actions) to eliminate the issue.

That is why, we defined a corrective action as an activity (project) to eliminate an underlying issue.

For example, in the doll situation (NC1) let’s say the root cause was that the process had obstacles. The machine is not working and controls were not in place during the production phase.

Some actions you could plan are:

Update leg manufacturing process, add specification/ expectations to the procedure.

Add In-process QC visual checks (step) after legs are built.

Review Management Review process to see if NC’s can be monitored/ trended quarterly instead of every 6 months.

Once processes are defined train all operators on new process.

Don’t forget to record each action/ task performed on your form. Make sure that there is objective evidence to show how you fixed an issue.

TIP: make sure you have a form, people call it a CAR (corrective action report), and record for each Corrective Action opened.*

Effectiveness check


Once the actions have been completed, someone needs to perform a verification process. They need to check that the actions taken were effective and will eliminate the issue from the system.

Essentially this person “certifies” that this won’t happen again. When they do, they need to state the reasons why they believe this won’t happen again.

This step is what closes / completes the corrective action report (process).

For example going back to the doll leg issue (NC1).

Check that all operators had a training record for new process.

Review the NCR log after a month, to see if the issue happened again.

Determine if the process is well defined, easy to understand and that knowledge transfer has been effective.

**Tip 1 : It would be beneficial to have an ongoing list of all the CAR’s you have opened and closed.

This way you are organized and structured when it comes to continually improving.**

Tip 2: Effective Corrective Action system = no repeat issues

Center of Continuous Improvement:
Non-conformance & Corrective Actions

If you have performed the items above as analytically as possible then you will end up with an improved system.

For example in NC1: Before, you were bleeding money due to a doll manufacturing issue, but going forward your process has improved and will not let you down.

This essentially is a powerful tool for you to “attack” any issue and ensure it is gone from your company. The more complex an issue, the better the corrective action will be.

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