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Preventive Action – Where Can I find it for my organisations?

Posted on April 1, 2011 in Articles

In many organisations, whenever there are issues raised by customer, prompt containment actions and corrective actions follows.  In typical operations, the issues are raised through different channels. Some are channeled as warranty claims, others as product returns, or most common through customer audits and complaints. Many successful organisations thrive on solving the customer-originated problems raised. Some are even proud of the fact that they could resolve most cases in record time. However, we need to realise that, this cycle of action after action is still very much reactive in nature. We are still being driven, instead of driving and in control!

Most modern management system standards such as ISO 9001:2008, and the other industry-specific derivatives for automotive (ISO/TS16949), medical devices (ISO13485), aerospace (AS9100) , telecommunications (TL9000), prescribe the application of preventive action as a mechanism for continual improvement. The questions we often get are – how to we do it? We do we start from?

The biggest confusion of preventive action is that it is often seen as a continuation ‘fan-out’ action after we have applied the corrective action. A revisit to the ISO 9001:2008 quickly produced the following:

Corrective Actions: The organisation shall take action to eliminate the causes of nonconformities in order to prevent recurrence.

Preventive Actions:  The organisation shall determine action to eliminate the causes of potential nonconformities in order to prevent their occurrence.

Notice the triggering point for corrective action is a problem (has happened) while the triggering point for preventive action is potential problem (yet to happen). One is reactive, the other is proactive.

Corrective Action Preventive Action
 •    Reactive •    Proactive
•    Triggered by problem •    Triggered by potential problem

We are well aware of the triggering mechanism for raising Corrective Actions , But what about triggering mechanism for Preventive Actions? How about consulting the fortune teller or feng-sui master to help us take a peek into the future to tell our potential problems? Hang on a minute, don’t we have more scientific and systematic methods? There are readily available processes within most organisations, only that we may not realise that they exist.

The following diagram shows the common processes in organisations which could serve as the ‘future-peeking’ tools:        

Preventive Action Diagram

Note: KPI: Key performance indicators, FMEA: potential  failure mode and effect analysis

Most organisations has in place a KPI monitoring system, in typical ISO language, know as Quality Objectives. Trend analysis of actual performance data against targets will serve as early warning system for Preventive actions.

Observations and risk identified from audits, either internal or external can also be considered as they are risk or potential conditions which may cause future failures.

Management review processes will often serves as a plat form for significant decisions at strategic level and business level.

FMEA (potential failure mode and effect analysis) is often a technical process used in the context of product and process risk analysis. The result of such analysis study will often trigger the need for preventive actions.

In the last decade years, rapid development have resulted in larger organisations establishing their foot print worldwide. Multinational companies are venturing into emerging markets in ever-growing economies of Asia. Hence, the rise in awareness to have more prudent risk management processes organisation wide to protect shareholder interest as well as to safeguard business and customer interest in the face of any adversaries.

Organisations are never short of processes to trigger for preventive action, the difference lies in our mindset and perception. Have a look at the high risk industry such as aviation and oil and gas, and we quickly realise how much effort they tried to ‘foresee’ the potential problems and potential failure. As the saying goes, the safest place to be is often ironically well within the danger zone.

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