This article is the second in our “Help!” series. For our previous article, Quality Goals – Help!, click here.
We frequently hear from clients who have had their AISC audit, received nonconformances, and are overwhelmed by the corrective action process. They don’t know where to begin or how to go about responding.
First, don’t panic! Think of the corrective action process as a tool; if used effectively, it will help your company improve product and process quality and increase productivity and efficiency.
So, what should you do first? Once the audit is over, you’ve taken a breath, and given yourself some space, read the nonconformance report thoroughly for clarity and understanding. Did the auditor issue a nonconformances for something you are doing correctly or is already in your procedures? In a nervous moment at the audit, you may have stumbled or not explained your process fully, leading the auditor to believe it was nonconforming. Audit jitters are very real, and it happens. What’s important is that you can go back to AISC with confidence, to explain why you feel the nonconformance isn’t warranted.
Gather evidence displaying proof that the current process in place is implemented effectively and in compliance with AISC requirements. Communicating your process clearly, with records to back it up, is a great way to respond to a corrective action that isn’t warranted.
If you determine the nonconformance is valid, the next step should be to contain the immediate problem. This is called the “Correction”. It is the step you take to make sure that the immediate problem is solved.
For example, if your nonconformance is: The Client is not marking their incoming material with the Job Number, PO Number and Heat Number as required by their Internal Procedure #11-MID. Material is only marked with quantity and grade.
Your correction might be: Material will be sorted through and marked in accordance with our documented procedure. Material that cannot be identified will be segregated and marked as NCM.
After you’ve contained the initial problem, you can work backwards to determine why this happened. You are looking for the Root Cause; the source of the problem. Perhaps your procedure is outdated, or it’s not made readily available to the folks who need it.
After determining the Root Cause, you should address how you will prevent this from happening in the future. This is the Action to Prevent Recurrence or Corrective Action. It should be noted that “more training” is not the only answer. In most cases, training is a secondary step. The first step is usually changing a procedure or process and then following up on that change for a period of time to determine whether it’s working.
Last, you’ll need to provide Closure Evidence (or Objective Evidence) that you’ve contained the problem, found it’s root cause, and put steps in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again. This could be submitting a revised procedure, an internal audit document, or a training record and matrix.
Walking away from an AISC audit with nonconformances can feel overwhelming, but with some focused effort, you can solve the problem, respond thoroughly, and improve your quality system for the future.