Corrective Action vs. Preventive Action

There is a lot of confusion within the quality industry, and especially new companies about these two actions.  Part of the reason is that ISO 9001:2008 (and its predecessor 9001:2000) describe their associated activities in a similar structure, with a couple of key wording differences... We'll discuss the specific actions in a later blog.  For now lets clear the confusion of terms.

A corrective action  is a result of a Nonconformity - and prevents Recurrance.  The implication being that once the corrective action has been implemented to prevent recurrance you shouldn't see repeat corrective actions for the same type of issue.

A preventive action on the other hand comes from a Potential Nonconformity - and prevents Occurance.  That's right - nothing bad happened to initiate a preventive action.  It's a documented improvement.  As an auditor, true preventive actions - not long term corrective actions - are rare in companies with a young QMS. They are evidence of management and staff focus on improvment.  Sadly many companies implement them, but forget to document them.   This leaves a hole in your Knowledge Base. 

Whether its a CA or a PA, the person responsible for implementing a change will eventually move on, and noone remembers why you're doing it that way. CAPA records drive you to document what, why, and evaluate your solutions to see if they were effective.   

More later.  For now Happy Improvement!