Preventive Action Request- Ambiguous? Ever done one?

The ISO9001:2000 quality standard is undergoing revision at this time, and it looks like the new version will be called ISO9001:2008. And, no surprise, it’s expected in late 2008.

The ISO9001:2008 standard is expected to contain no significant changes from the 2001 standard. Instead, it will merely attempt to clarify some areas of the 2001 standard that some thought were ambiguous.

One aspect of ISO9001:2000 that many people consider ambiguous, and many (like myself) consider to be unrealistic, is that of “preventive actions”.

I’ve heard it described that preventive actions are the proactive cousin to corrective actions, and I kinda like that description. Preventive actions are, of course, actions taken to prevent something bad from happening. And corrective actions are actions taken to correct something bad that has already happened. Any good corrective action, of course, will also contain a preventive action to make sure that whatever bad thing that happened does not happen again.

But what about the preventive action standing on its own? In about 14 years of quality system management experience, I have not once seen anyone make a formal preventive action request. Oh, sure, we have a procedure for that, and a form too. Well, actually its the same form as used for Corrective Action Requests, just with a checkbox used to distinguish Preventive from Corrective actions. But the form and the procedure are there, right? So how come no one ever writes these up?

I’m guessing that preventive action requests are done more frequently in large companies that have dedicated quality people searching for things to do. Quality people in small, entreprenurial companies probably wear several hats, and are usually way too busy operating the company to create more work for themselves by writing up and dealing with “preventive actions”. Just fix the damn problem, don’t talk about it!

It just dawned on me that female quality management professionals probably write up far more preventive action requests (and corrective actions) than do their male counterparts. Guys, after all, just want to fix problems NOW! Our testosterone-challenged colleagues, though, often are more interested in TALKING about problems than in actually resolving them.

Hmmmm….this could be a whole new slant on quality system management. How do men handle quality issues versus women?

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12 Responses to “Preventive Action Request- Ambiguous? Ever done one?”

  1. Erin Ward says:

    Hello, I have noticed that you have not mentioned anything about a gap analysis. I was wondering what your thoughts on GA s are why you have chosen not to include it in your package. How do others feel about this?

  2. Michael Phillips says:

    I know what you mean about ambiguity. I have just finished a certification audit and there seems to be a difference in what the standard requires and what the auditor expects to see.

  3. Windson says:

    Preventive actions are actions taken based on ” potential problems ‘, such as FMEA. I often confused as well on corrective actions where we taken after a defect is found.
    For example, part A has a defect, and corrective actions are taken.
    Part B has the potential of this defect occurrence, Preventive Actions are taken.
    So for Part A, what ever actions we are going to take, are deemed as
    This is the what my understanding is, how about your comments ?

  4. Edgar Loste says:

    Preventive action requests are very rare indeed.
    Suggestions to improve processess are potential sources of these requests. Often, the requestor detects potential risks/problems hence the suggestion.

  5. Gordon says:

    We view PARs as opportunities for improvement as well as for preventing mistakes. For instance, as we added new staff to a department, we discovered a lot of important information had become intuitive to the longer-term staff and, as such, wasn’t recorded anywhere. A PAR (preventing errors) was written: to formalize and record the experiential knowledge and, as a result training was done to bring all staff to the same level of understanding of the products. Another instance was to involve all employees (we’re a small company) into the customer service/satisfaction objective; we solicited input on how we could better relate to customer expectations. That discussion resulted in multiple ideas for improvement, i.e., PARs for more focused customer satisfaction.

  6. Chuck says:

    I work in a very large company and we have a guy pushing that all depts fill out PARs. He is not liked much.

  7. Frel says:

    Im having a bit confusion between Preventive Action and Operational Controls. I know though, they are actions to be done in order to prevent occurence of a particular NC or deviation. It may be a result of but not limited from potential problem analysis, hazard and risk assessment or aspect and impacts analysis

  8. A says:

    I don’t agree that females write up more Preventive/Corrective Actions than males. Being a female myself, I would rather just get the problem fixed and not have to deal with all the paperwork or any extended talk. Talk doesn’t fix the problem, Action does. I write up what we feel our customer requires of us and required by ISO. I agree that Preventive Actions are for the ones looking for something to do. I work in a small company and wear many hats and don’t have time for extra unnecessary paperwork.

    We had someone come in to help get our system together and he was all about preventive actions and pushed unnecessary paperwork. He about drove us nuts and caused us unnecessary headaches. In the end we managed to get certified without him. Maybe, I am exception to the rule, but I don’t think that is the case.

    I think you have pick your battles and what you document. If we documented all the time a preventive action was done, we would be out of business. The work that makes the money wouldn’t get done for taking too much time filling out the unecessary paperwork.

  9. Danuse says:

    Would an automated Preventive Maintenance request suffice – – the kind that is initiated by a Computerized Maintenance Management System based on a Calendar frequency or equipment runtime? Once the work is completed the technician or maintenance manager closes out the Work Order and then you have a record of the request and completed work.

    If your maintenance management program goal is to maintain a certain level of uninterrupted runtime (uptime), you would need to use a preventive maintenance approach. You could then compare PM to CM to monitor success. That’s the method used at my company that is heavily reliant in mechanical & electrical infrastructure to support data processing for banking operations. When the data center is down there are angry customers and auditors knocking down the door.

    However if your organization can survive periodic downtime or you have redundant equipment, you might be able to operate more efficiently with a CM approach. Its a business decision and PM might not be applicable to your organization. Maybe ISO auditors need to understand the fact that a business and its customers are willing to accept certain risks based on economics.

  10. Timothy says:

    Danuse: While I agree with everything you say about preventive maintenance requests, that’s a bit of a different subject. A requirement of ISO9001-2008 is that organizations have a program for corrective and preventive actions. A corrective action request is to deal with a problem that has occurred, in any area of the company’s operations, and to prevent it from recurring. A preventive action request is a little more difficult to detect, because it is to deal with a potential problem, not one that has already happened. For example, if a company’s new product is adversely affected by heat, but it’s not a problem when the product is released in January, the company should take preventive action to deal with the potential problem that would likely occur in, say, July. Or if a piece of equipment is deteriorating and could, in the future, produce parts that don’t conform to the company’s specifications. If no nonconforming part has been produced, no problem has yet occurred, but a preventive action would be in order to make sure the problem never occurs.

  11. Som says:

    Is it practically possible to take preventive action every time? say client has not given contract sign off timely but there is no problem in finance. what prevetive action u will take?

  12. The term “CAPA” has a lot to answer for. Many think PA follows CA. Many think PA is to stop the nonconformity from happening again.

    Think PACA instead. CA is what you do because your PA was ineffective.

    PA comes from planning, FMEA and the analysis of data. Most of the requirements of ISO 9001 are PA.

    CA includes correction and action (removal of root causes from the system) to stop recurrence of that type of nonconformity.

    Airlines digging black boxes out of the ground and taking action to stop another crash with the same causes is CA.

    Airlines analyzing data from every flight and taking action to prevent crashes is PA.

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