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Corrective Action vs. Preventive (Predictive) Action (CAPA) - A Definitive Discussion - Page 8

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  Post Number #57  
Old 26th May 2000, 07:08 AM
John LeBlanc

Total Posts: n/a
Thanks, Marc.

It might be of interest to know that our company is moving more into Root Cause analysis. I am now involved in facilitating a Problem Solving and Prevention System initiative. In the course of this training, we have been told that (as some of your contributors have pointed out) Corrective deals with addressing a potential recurrance; while Preventive deals with addressing a potential occurance.

Of interest to our discussion, we are told in this training that ALL actions relative to the Corrective activity are to remain Corrective, that is, any steps taken to prevent the incident from happening again are still Corrective, rather than Preventive.

Do you agree with that?

Our direction is to form Root Cause Analysis teams to address internal problems identified by management (middle level) and also to create and utilize a database tool to report the status of the Team's efforts. In doing so, we offer visibility of the RCA effort to all groups within our company. This is intended to support each other and prevent duplication of effort in problem solving.

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  Post Number #58  
Old 27th May 2000, 07:30 AM
John C

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You're my main man! You got it in one! - As they say down here in Cork; "You're a star". Of course, you are way wide of the mark in saying; "The boys in this forum are getting better and better at explaining complex issues". Well, I'll grant that it's usually true and (on the side) I've great respect for them, but regards Preventive Action, they're right off the wall. (If you don't believe me, go back via the link that Marc put up. It's hard reading.)

Everyone is willing to argue about what Preventive Action is but no one will believe me when I quote, directly from ISO 9001, 4.14.3; "the use of appropriate sources..... to detect, analyse and eliminate potential causes". It's not me saying it - it's ISO 9001. Whose boss around here? I say that ISO 9001 is the boss and what he says goes.

Corrective action eliminates causes. It analyses them as well although the word used is 'investigate'. Inevitably, when they 'take corrective action to eliminate causes', this action is preventive.

The only thing remaining to distinguish between Corrective Action, 4.14.2 and Preventive Action, 4.14.3 is the word 'detect'.

Preventive action detects causes. It is essentially a detection excercise; 'Go out and detect (potential) causes before they bite us.' Set up a process to find them.

The word 'potential' is probably what throws people but really, it is irrelevant. You fix the ones you know about but you have to detect the ones you don't. It's that simple.

Don't listen to them Andy! Don't listen! Stick to your FMEA (whatever the hell that is) and your Preventive Action Overview, where you are establishing your '', straight out of 4.14.3.
John C

[This message has been edited by John C (edited 27 May 2000).]
  Post Number #59  
Old 29th May 2000, 05:20 AM
John C

Total Posts: n/a
I saw another discussion going on, kicked off by AJP and this got me thinking again about what Preventive Action is really about and what was in the minds of the BS 5750 guys who first wrote it in as a subset of Corrective Action. Also, what was in the minds of the guys who, between ‘87 and ‘94, promoted it to a section of its own. Note that at this time, the idea of Preventive Quality Control was taking hold. Previously, quality was all about the ‘Quality Loop’ - build, inspect, feedback defect data, fix defects, build.

The internal combustion aero/aircraft engine is a dodo. A dead duck! It’s ok for weekend fliers but not for practical purposes. From a simple and promising system in 1939, it underwent one of the most intense development programs ever and, by the end of World War 2, it was unrecognisable in appearance, complexity and performance as the progeny of its forebears. But it hadn’t grown up to be a gas turbine and no amount of development would turn it into one.

The development of the internal combustion was a Corrective Action process, focusing on product defects. Corrective Action stops and starts and stutters along, going whichever way the wind blows. It is essentially, negative, sterile and limited.

While the development of the engine was going on, Frank Whittle in England and Mr Messerschmidt in Germany were engaged in Preventive Quality and were developing the gas turbine which consigned the I.C aero motor to history. Preventive Quality focuses on the end purpose and on the process, which it breaks down to the minimal optimum. It is ongoing and it embraces all engineering aspects. As a a small but significant bonus, it eliminates defects before they occur. It is positive, potent and unlimited.

So where does this leave ISO 9001?

Well, ISO 9001 has it’s roots in the old quality loop so Corrective Action is at the heart of its being. It is totally dependant upon auditing out defects so, when the ISO guys heard the message that Preventive Quality was the future, they were in a bit of a quandry. In hotels in Geneva, Barcelona, London, Cork, LA and Hongkong, they covened to chew over the problem; How could they reconcile ISO 9001 with the new light?
Well, as you and I know, they couldn’t. Just as the engineers working on the internal combustion engine could never engineer it into a gas turbine, nor could Technical Commitee TC 176 (or whatever), change ISO 9001 from a defects based system. They compromised - doesn’t everyone? - and promoted Preventive Quality to equal status to Corrective Action. But even in that, they made a mistake. Maybe even a terrible mistake, as you will see below.

Fact is, guys. ISO 9001 is also a duck. Its not dead but maybe we’d be better off if it was.

As one who has always defended ISO 9001, you might think I too, have compromised but I always knew it was a duck. I never ordered it when I wanted sirloin with gravy and a good beaujolais.

Why is ISO 9001 a duck?

1) Because Preventive Quality is greater and maybe should have a whole standard to itself.

2) While ISO 9001 does not preclude Preventive Quality, it hasn’t the means to apply it. So it emphasises Corrective Action with the high profile drama of trouble shooting teams pulling the company back from the brink of extinction and resolving problems which they themselves caused. Corrective Action is the easy option and it appears to be cheap. Expensive and low profile Preventive Quality receives lip service from everyone but it just doesn’t get done and ISO 9001 is largely to blame, not because of its own weaknesses but because of general mistaken perception.


The BS 5750 boys, engineers who worked among the nuts and bolts, wrote in BS 5750, 1987 4.14 b); “analysing all processes, work operations, concessions, quality records, service reports and customer complaints to detect and eliminate potential causes...”

Technical Committee TC 176, in ISO 9001, 1994, 4.14.3 a) wrote; “the use of appropriate sources of information such as processes and work operations which affect product quality, concessions, audit results, quality records, service reports and customer complaints to detect, analyse and eliminate potential causes)

See the difference? In the first, Engineers “Analyse all processes”, ie; they go out and look to see what is going on and, in doing so, they think about the purpose and about new ways to do it. Quality bureaucrats send inspectors to collect defect data and then use that data to ‘analyse potential causes’.

It’s a small difference on paper but a world of difference in practise. A camel of quite a different colour.

Now the crunch time; You were right and I was wrong and anyone who is confused about 4.14.2 and 4.14.3 is dead right to be confused. Also, the guys who describe both sections in terms of corrective action and fail to see the Preventive Quality in the latter, are justified in doing so. The wording of 4.14.3 is an error and it should read ‘Analyse all processes’ because, as it stands, it is nonsense. It should read as I interpreted.

One thing more; The exception that proves the rule; I “interpreted”. Even though I have shouted from the rooftops that we must not interpret ISO 9001, but should read it carefully to see what it says. I didn’t read this carefully but assumed that it said what it used to say back in 1987.

Well, on the subject of ISO 9001, I have been proved to be fallible but, as I say, it was the exception that proves the rule and I will be more careful in future. The Standard, version ‘94, has also been shown to be seriously fallible. I wonder how version 2000 will stand up, now that the bureaucrats have really had a go at it?

rgds, John C

[This message has been edited by John C (edited 29 May 2000).]
  Post Number #60  
Old 29th May 2000, 08:16 AM
Marc's Avatar

Total Posts: 26,672
Yin Yang

"...Of interest to our discussion, we are told in this training that ALL actions relative to the Corrective activity are to remain Corrective, that is, any steps taken to prevent the incident from happening again are still Corrective, rather than Preventive..."

I think we do reach a point where one cannot clearly define an action as all corrective or all preventive.
  Post Number #61  
Old 6th June 2000, 07:26 PM

Total Posts: n/a

I think we should stop and go back to basics. The biggest problem with ISO9001 is that it is only a model, being read as a standard or a specification.

The intent behind the words is the issue here. Reading through all the responses, I believe everyone understands the intent, although implementation may differ.

Regardless of the order or the methodology, 4.14 wants the user to follow through after identifying and dealing with non conformance, to not only putting in action to remove the root cause, but learn from the non conformance and also analyse various sources of information (in place of an actual non conformance) to do the same with potential problems.

The ca/pa system can be as complex or as simple as you want to make it, although it is one requirement where I have found even the simplest systems can be very effective in a large organisation.

Mark G.
  Post Number #62  
Old 20th November 2000, 10:33 AM
Marc's Avatar

Total Posts: 26,672
Yin Yang

See the following related thread:
  Post Number #63  
Old 22nd August 2001, 09:58 AM
Anton Ovsianko

Total Posts: n/a
Corrective and preventive actions

Hello, All!

One can look at the concept of continuous improvement in practice as a system of two elements: corrective actions and ppreventive actions, can't one? If so, it looks all simple.
A corrective action is meant to eliminate the reason for a non-conformity, which has already occured. It naturally results in an improvement.
A preventive action is a little more sophisticated matter - it is meant to eliminate the reason of a potential non-conformity. The crux of the matter lies in the concept of POTENTIAL non-conformity. What does it mean? Obviously it is a situation when one can forecast a non-conformity:
- if a bad trend remains unchanged;
- if the environment (internal orr external) changes; case no preventive actions are taken.
This above is very broad and liberal concept. It allows describing prcatically anything through this word - 'potential non-conformity'.
- The company needs more equipment (or it lacks production capacities if the tren in sales volume remains);
- The company needs to control some more parameters of a production processes, as the outbound testing shows unstable results, thoughh within the accepted allowance.
- The company needs to educate its employees better (otherwise, with time passing it loses its competitiveness against companies with better educated labor)
- et cetera.
This kind of example list can be endless and endlessly diverse.

So, potential non-conformities can be non-conformities at all - just improvement suggestions.

Isn't it meant so in the ISO 9000 standard, which contains separate paragraphs for Continuous Imporovement, Corrective Actions and Preventive Actions?
Can someone give me an example of an improvement, which is not a preventive action aimed at eliminating a reason for potential non-conformity?

  Post Number #64  
Old 22nd August 2001, 10:17 AM
Al Dyer

Total Posts: n/a
Your question is somewhat of a conundrum, why would someone try to prevent something unless there was a potential downside?

I think you have answered your own question, not just for quality systems, but for life in general.

Why do I cut the grass every week? Because if I don't, it will grow long and make it more difficult to mow the next time.

Yes, this is a very simplistic example but I think it fits.

Good Post!

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