We often come across management systems where all non-conformities are registered, submitted for root cause analysis and given a corrective action plan. But are all occurrences the same? Should they all be handled the same way?
Non-conformities aim to identify and correct deviations in processes, in addition to preventing them from recurring. They can arise in a variety of ways: from a customer complaint or during an audit, among other situations.
Frequently, occurrences receive the same kind of attention and there is no distinction made between critical and non-critical occurrences. While this may work at first, it can be harmful in the long run. Adopting the same approach for all events can mask critical events, as well as overburden and compromise the management system.
The ability to identify easily correctable occurrences is an important step toward speeding up the process and making it more efficient.
How to classify non-conformities according to criticality
Usually the handling of non-conformities is done according to the sequence in which they occur. However, many of them do not pose a general threat to the company.
This is where risk management comes in. It helps to assign different criteria to occurrences as they enter the system, such as severity, urgency, trend or frequency. By assigning these criteria, you can define the priority level for each non-conformity.
This ensures that you can clearly identify which ones are most harmful to the company, and which should receive immediate attention.
What caused the non-conformity?
Once aware of the priorities, the next step is to understand how to perform Root Cause Analysis. This process helps in the investigation and categorization of root causes, which can have consequences for quality management systems, environmental management systems, health and safety and asset management systems, among others.
In this step, tools such as the Ishikawa Diagram (also known as the fishbone diagram), the 5 Whys and FTA (Fault Tree Analysis) can be applied.
Using these tools, you can identify not only what happened and how the non-conformity occurred, but also why it happened. Only after determining the causes can you specify corrective measures.
How do you define a Corrective Action plan?
An action plan involves the identification of the people involved in each role and, following that, the assigning of deliverables and actions that should be taken so that each corrective action can be successfully implemented.
Using workflows and smart business rules helps to simplify this process by ensuring that your goals are met on time. The 5W2H tool is often used in this step. Each action should be planned by answering this sequence of questions:
- How much?
With this information in hand, the action plan can be implemented.
Conducting the effectiveness check
Once the implementation of corrective actions is completed, it is time to carry out the effectiveness check. This step typically occurs over a period of time that varies from weeks to months after the actions have been implemented.
Once again, risk management comes into play. The integration between corrective actions and risk management helps to ensure that the actions are in accordance with the risk parameters during the planning step. If the actions performed satisfies these parameters, it means that the actions were effective. Otherwise, the action plan will need to be planned and implemented again.
Non-conformity is an essential tool for continuous improvement. Achieving excellence in non-conformity management demands that you follow the right steps, perform each activity with maximum effectiveness and implement a continuous improvement process. To overcome these challenges, support from the right technology is also critical.
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