The 3 Levels of Corrective Action Plans (CAP)

How to drive improvements in your company, and in your suppliers’ factories? A very common approach is to request a CAP (Corrective Action Plan) when a problem comes up.
However, issuing a one-size-fits-all CAP for each issue makes little sense. There are actually 3 complexities of problems. Let’s explore each and a relevant plan of action here…

Level 1: Low complexity problems

For example, an operator says a fixture lets the part move a bit, reducing precision, and a process engineer agrees. In this case, a few “JUST DO ITs” can be given:

  1. Operators are shown what is good vs. bad, to reinforce their behavior of noticing the problem and speaking up
  2. A process engineer is tasked with fixing the fixture
  3. Someone is tasked with checking the other fixtures

How to report it? It can be as simple as writing these tasks on a whiteboard and crossing them upon completion. 

If you request a formal CAP or 8D report, you are assigning paperwork as a form of punishment. And an unintended consequence is that similar issues won’t be reported in the future. 

Another version of this is “FIX WHAT BUGS YOU”. 
When a technician sees a frayed cable, he simply requests a new one. When a production supervisor sees bad materials might be mixed with good ones, he gets red bins and/or adds extra labeling. 

Level 2: Medium complexity problems – Typical Corrective Action Plan

This is the sweet spot for the traditional CAR/8D/DMAIC approach.
Let’s take an example:
A defect is noticed on a component in assembly, and it is on 20% of the pieces. It is not very clear what caused it in the upstream process (which might be in a supplier’s facility 2,000 miles away).
Some data collection & analysis is needed before any action is taken. And it will be very important to find way(s) to prevent it in the future, as well as verify that those way(s) remain in place.

That’s the PDSA (Plan-Do-Study-Adjust), also called PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act), approach. The Six Sigma crowd, as well as Lean practitioners, have adapted it to their own flavors.
One framework built atop PDSA that is getting very popular is 8D — it has slowly become a standard approach in a number of industries, from automotive to pharmaceuticals.

At SynControl we have designed our module for issue followup on the 8D, with some flexibility to accommodate the needs of different organizations. It is a very good companion to our quality inspection software.
The beauty of it is, there is often no need to go all the way to the 8th D, and users can decide to stop at the 3rd D. Not all issues necessitate a full root cause analysis, etc.

Level 3: High complexity problems

These are issues that often involve several departments or companies and could probably be tackled in several ways.
For example, there is way too much inventory of piping, and it is due to the ordering process and the way suppliers like to work. Asking 1 team member to work on a corrective action plan is going to be overwhelming, as that person might need to get the engineers to try and re-use products currently in inventory in their new designs, the purchasers and suppliers to procure only what is needed, and so forth.

Toyota’s A3 problem solving approach is often aimed at such situations. This is beautifully explained in the book Managing To Learn. Going slowly and spending a lot of time on otherwise mundane steps (e.g. defining the problem and making sure all parties agree) is of prime importance.
Other companies often set up a steering committee and a task force. What is sometimes missing is a structured approach, and it often leads to endless and unproductive meetings.


How about your experiences of using corrective action plans?

Have you needed to solve any of these three types of problems in your organisation? What have you found to work for you? Let us know by leaving a comment, and we’ll also be pleased to answer any questions you may have, too.

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