Avoid Hazards with Effective Corrective Action and Problem Solving

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Avoid hazards with effective corrective action and problem solving

By Kim Roan – simpleQuE Consultant, Auditor and Trainer

Which culture describes your organization when dealing with hazards – fire-fighting or problem solving? The process for corrective action and problem solving is a foundational element of any quality management system.  Unfortunately, many organizations still struggle to maintain a disciplined corrective action and problem-solving process.   When this occurs, the organization falls prey to costly repeat issues and develops a culture of “firefighting”.  In this culture it is typical for a Quality department to have a high level of responsibility for corrective action but minimum authority to make the changes necessary for irreversible corrective action.  The result is a high cost of poor quality that can include repeat issues, high scrap/waste, failure to deliver product or services on time, and expedite costs to name a few.  These all lead to some level of customer dissatisfaction and have a negative impact on the profitability of an organization.

To avoid the pitfalls of a poor corrective action process, begin by assigning responsibility of corrective action to process owners who have the authority to make process changes and improvement.  Quality team members make excellent facilitators of corrective action process and tools, but they often lack the authority to affect irreversible systemic change that is needed to eliminate repeat issues.  When corrective actions are assigned to and owned by process owners it promotes accountability at the process level.  This allows process owners to lead correction and improvement of their processes, engaging the team in the problem-solving processes.  By assigning ownership of corrective action to process owners you begin the transition from a “firefighting” culture to a “problem-solving” culture.

Once proper ownership of a corrective action is assigned and the immediate problem is contained the problem-solving process can begin.  According to IATF 16949 an organization should have an assortment of problem-solving tools available so that the appropriate tool can be selected for the task at hand.  In addition, if customer requirements mandate the use of specific problem-solving tools, those must be used.   It is important to select the tool best suited to the problem at hand with the goal of identifying all potential causes and also identifying the systemic root cause of the issue.  When we fail to find all causes there is potential for escape.  When we fail to find and address the systemic root cause, the door is open for repeat issues to occur.  When root cause analysis is properly applied you will have evidence of your analysis and will avoid the pitfall of addressing an assumed root cause in place of addressing all causes and identifying and addressing systemic root cause.

After root cause analysis is complete corrective actions can then be planned to address each root cause.  Actions should be taken to correct and improve the process at hand.  At times this may include correction of team members involved in the process but if your root cause analysis is correct and thorough this will be the exception and not the rule.  It is important to maintain focus on correcting and improving the process as corrective actions are assigned.  For each corrective action an owner and expected completion date should be identified.  This ensures clear expectations for completing all actions giving responsibility to team members with the knowledge and authority to make the required change or improvement.  The owner of the corrective action or the facilitator of the corrective action process should follow up at intervals to ensure that actions are being completed according to the planned timing.

Once all actions are complete, verification occurs with collection of evidence that each action assigned has been completed.  This evidence should be retained with the corrective action record.  Next, analyze the improved process to ensure that the desired improvement is fully realized and that no escape or repeat has occurred.  It is a best practice to perform this analysis following completion of all actions and again after 90 days of serial production run.  When corrections are made to an intermittently run process it is recommended to set a specified number of production runs to occur before the final analysis is complete.

Additional items that should be considered during the corrective action process include review and update of failure modes related to the problem at hand.  The PFMEA and other process documents should be updated as appropriate to document lessons learned, ensure risk assessment, and to communicate process changes to those working in the process.  Read across to similar process is also advised as this will prevent similar issues with like processes.  If the scope of such read across is large you may consider opening a project in your continual improvement process to ensure that your organization has used the lessons from your problem-solving process to improve all related processes.

If your organization is struggling with a “firefighting” culture, simpleQuE has the tools and training to help your company implement and sustain an effective problem-solving process that will reduce the cost of waste and customer issues and begin your journey toward improved problem-solving culture.  Contact us for information about our on-site customized training classes for Root Cause Analysis and Problem Solving, Process Ownership, Core Tools and more.

About the author:  Kim Roan is a certified lead auditor for ISO 9001:2015 and IATF 16949:2016 in addition to a VDA 6.3 certified process auditor.  She completed her undergrad in Mechanical Engineering and Master’s in Psychology with an emphasis in Organizational Leadership.  Kim has over 20 years automotive industry experience including 10 years in leadership and management roles.   Kim’s work experience includes student and contract engineering with GM, 11 years working for a German automotive supplier in the USA and experience supplying OEMs in North America, Germany and Asia across the years of her career. 

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