Defining Preventive Action - What is it? How does it relate to Continuous Improvement


K Marie

Preventive Action

We have been ISO certified since 1997 and are in the midst of AS9100 certification. We do everything pretty well, except preventive actions. We do plenty of activities that could be classified as preventive actions but aren't sure how to document them or how to gather all the info in one place. Any suggestions?
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You have asked a question on which there are almost as many opinions as there are auditors...

For a start, look at this discussion in the Continuous Improvement section:

The calibration lab I am working with had the same problems when getting ready for our registration. As for documenting, we handle them just about the same as corrective actions. The only real difference is that instead of correcting a past problem and fixing its cause, we are trying to prevent a potential future problem.

The really hard part for us is deciding what is actually a preventive action and what is simply a process improvement. For instance, late last year we started using a computer-based calibration record-keeping and management system. We decided that was a process improvement in that it made our internal processes more efficient. Some months later we decided to get an additional specialty printer for the system, to gain the capability to print calibration labels from the system data instead of hand-writing them. We decided that is a Preventive Action because it eliminates the possibilty that the date on the label is different from the date in our computer records. It had not yet been a problem for us, but we knew it had been a problem for other similar organizations.


[This message has been edited by Graeme (edited 22 August 2001).]

E Wall

Just Me!
Trusted Information Resource
In our system we describe:
The Preventive Action System consists of serveral subsystems. Preventive actions may be initiated as result of process trend analysis, managment-designated roadmaps, staff meetings, internal audit feedback (observations)or preventive maintantenance.

There is more info included, but that sums up the system.

E Wall

Just Me!
Trusted Information Resource
I missed that before. We use an agenda (and a measureables checklist) that is follwed and 'Preventive Action' is a discussed topic.

The improvement teams leader provides information updates, as well as information from Supervisors (or themselves if they ask to attend), Dept Engineers, Managers and other key folks.

Basically the onus is on the department staff & Manager. They discusses what is relevant in their department prior to the management meeting, and the dept rep that attends contributes as "preventive action" is discussed.


Trusted Information Resource
K Marie,

2 items we identify as PA are ECO's and the suggestion box. As for reporting to upper managment - QA reports the number of ECO's issued weekly. Suggestions are reviewed weekly by the VP.

Hope this helps

Alf Gulford

Some PAs aren't reported because they're just business as usual (and some are never reported because they just don't get documented).

When we randomly select a full-up unit that's ready to ship, and assemble and test it for function and correct parts/packaging, a formal report of the results is sent to all upper management, including the Management Rep who includes the info in the Management Review. Doing stuff like this can be an expensive hassle, but it's sure helped us.


Alf Gulford

K Marie-
Have you tried creating a procedure that defines some of the PAs common to your business? These could include, in addition to Graeme's & Eileen's items:

Design Reviews (documented in your project folder),

Opening packages ready for shipping to inspect for missing/incorrect parts, and

Checking stored product for deterioration.

All of these can be easily defined and reported to management at appropriate (monthly? quarterly?) periods as preventive action.

Is this the kind of suggestion that's helpful or did I go off course again?


K Marie

Your responses are definitely helpful. However, the biggest questions still remain: who, in your company, compiles the preventive action information, in what manner, how is it presented to management?


Preventive actions

Dear K. Marie:

Defining what exactly is a preventive action has proven to be one of the big headaches of ISO 9000 and other registration. As a QS 9000/VDA 6.1 auditor I frequently look at the connection between Continuous Improvement and PA. In most companies there usually is (or should exist) a CI committee. During "Brainstorming Sessions" ideas are generated that could qualify as PA's. The examples given in the previous threads are pretty good, I believe. The PA should address something that (still) is not a problem but could evolve into one. In QS 9000, FMEA's are a good example of a PA (if they are not already required by contract). Another good example is a so-called "Poka Yoke" (mistake proofing device). The important thing is to have something to show to the auditor, you may not even have to "formalize" it (as through an official PA form), but simply to understand the concept well and show some evidence.
If you require further help, please feel free to contact me at (512) 837-3376 or (512) 698-7880. I am a free-lance (contract) auditor and live in Austin, TX.


Klaus W. Petersen
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