I still remember it, it was 1997 and the company had just hang a new projector from the ceiling. As with every new tool, I jumped on the bandwagon and switched from slides to using the PC and projector to show my presentation. Unfortunately, Murphy was in the meeting too and my presentation along with other managers like me, did not work.
I will never forget Mr. G, who rests in peace, when he said, “Ha, ha, ha. What is this technology good for? Technology is not always good. Look at it, look at how much time you are spending…it doesn’t work.” Those are the last words I remember from him—laughing about us trying to use computer projectors.
Fast-forward ten plus years: transparencies are nowhere to be seen, computer projectors mounted on the ceiling are few and far between now. Most of them are portable—small, miniature things compared to the old ones. Electronic systems killed the paper-based systems. And so I ask myself: Why are there still people using paper based corrective and preventive action systems? Electronic systems are so much better!
Up until the time the computer projector was brought to our facility, we had been conducting presentations using a transparency projector with the famous transparencies. It was a process we had learned well and after so many years of using this process, everyone had even learned how to print the transparencies in nice color. We were very comfortable creating them and everyone was very comfortable viewing them.
People from our parent company had traveled to be part of our management review. Of course when problems with the computer projector started, we tried hard to make it work. We took the disk out, we put in a new disk, but nothing worked. I believe it took us around an hour before it would actually work. By then, we had resorted to the transparencies and, to the sadness of a few of us, nothing was done on the computer anymore.
It took a few more months before we had to face another management review, and despite the complacency of some, it was inevitable that change was forecoming. As scary as change may be, especially after you have been comfortable with the status quo, it is necessary to look forward and never look back. Unless you are looking back for lessons learned, you have to make the system work for the future and not stick to the past.
I could tell you, right now, twenty reasons why you should be using an electronic quality management system with electronic corrective and preventive action system like the one offered by Mireaux Management Systems. I wonder what Mr. G. would be saying about the Web-Based Quality Management System and the electronic Corrective Action/Preventive Action System if he was alive. I wonder if he would laugh about our quality management system and tell us that technology is probably good, but if people cannot follow the procedures on paper, what makes us think that those people will follow procedures in the computer?
Below I present you with some of the benefits of electronic corrective and preventive action systems. This is not meant to be an all-inclusive list and much less a checklist of basic functions. The benefits below are sophisticated features that separate the average CAR/PAR system, from a state of the art electronic Corrective and Preventive Action System.
Paper based forms are hard to keep up with. Even when the form itself is access electronically, if the system itself is not electronic, then you are forced to keep the forms in folders or binders. This makes it hard to follow up with, especially if you have to hand walk the form to the assigned investigator or responsible party.
When the form is filled out electronically as part of a dynamic application then every step of the electronic form or system is kept as a record. As the electronic form is filled out by the responsible people on subsequent steps, you should be able to see who did what and when. There is no need to worry about where records are kept and how. Records of CAR/PARs are always available, when needed, where needed.
A paper-based form with more than 2 pages is considered a lengthy and confusing form, so you are forced to request a minimum amount of information from the user. In the electronic corrective/preventive action system, you can adapt the system so that questions change depending on whether the corrective action is generated from an internal audit, external audit, management review, process issue, customer complaint, etc. The more information you have, the easier it is for the investigators to find out the root cause of the problems and take care of the corrective/preventive action. The source of your corrective/preventive action basically dictates what the users sees and the fields that are required, without presenting the user with unnecessary or irrelevant fields.
Electronic corrective and preventive action systems with built-in reminder and escalation functions ensure that people assigned to do investigations or take action, are reminded by electronic e-mail…if they would ever forget that they have been assigned a CAR/PAR. With a paper based form, following up on corrective actions is pretty much left to the ISO rep, Quality Manager or stakeholder. In such case it is necessary to walk with the form and physically ask for follow up. Unfortunately, this requires resources and babysitting, two things which are not plentiful in the workplace. Likewise escalation functions should be available, so that if a CAR/PAR is not addressed on time, the system would immediately send an electronic e-mail reminder about the CAR/PAR that has not been addressed. How would you like your boss be sent an email if you have not conducted investigation on a CAR/PAR that was issued 30 days ago?
Small organizations usually do not enjoy the same amount of resources as large organizations do. In large organizations, there are groups of people dedicated solely to quality improvements, specifically handling corrective and preventive actions. That is good for them. Small organizations have far less people and usually the same person initiates a corrective action, investigates it and takes action on it. A good electronic corrective and preventive action system should accommodate for these different size organizations and offer the flexibility to help them maximize their resources rather than overburden the system with additional and unnecessary steps.
A flexible path also encourages employees to record all appropriate opportunities for improvement rather than just those of high visibility. Because they know that the system will be flexible and recognize large problems from small ones, they will not shy from using the system, thus ensuring that even the simplest opportunities for improvement are followed and acted upon.
Typically when you ask for a status on customer complaints, you get a binder or spreadsheet with a list and a stack of customer complaints. Good luck going through them. If you ask for Internal Audit nonconformities and their results, then good luck finding them. You may find another binder or you may find loose nonconformities sometimes filled out and sometimes blank. Perhaps they have all been closed, but for the closed ones you have to go to a different manager. And what about finding nonconformities from a External Audit. By then you may be out of luck. If you have to go to the Registrar in order to figure out the status of your NCNs, then you really will benefit from an electronic corrective/preventive action system.
A good electronic corrective/preventive action system provides a single place to host all your customer complaints, internal and external audit findings, security incidents, supplier corrective actions, even management review action items. When the system is good and flexible, there should not be a need to create another binder or database, the system should effectively accommodate for most types of opportunities for improvements. A place where you can go and quickly see past and present CAR/PARs will reduce the time you spend looking for forms and their status and improve your hands-on work time.
Want to know how many corrective/preventive actions were opened this month? How many were closed? How many are still awaiting investigation, action, verification or validation? Want to know what products or processes are most affected? Want to know which items are overdue?
This is perhaps one of the biggest benefits of electronic corrective/preventive actions system. The ability to give you a vast amount of information using minimal manpower resources. If the system is great, uptime will be high and therefore you will be able to get information when you want it, where you want it.
Whether you have a weekly or monthly meeting or whether you issue weekly or monthly reports, being able to work on critical issues using the system in your favor is a tool you would not want to be without.
I often feel bad when I see a company getting ripped off by buying a software system that sing and dance but cannot do the work. Software that fails to do the work because it was never deployed correctly, is just a bad or worse than not using the software at all, because in the latter case you have spent a lot of money. A much sadder story develops when management does not want to accept that buying such software was a bad choice and instead puts more and more money into a system that is not efficient or productive. So if you are in the market for an electronic corrective/preventive action system or if you think that the benefits presented here are food for thought, then make sure you review these benefits carefully and use them to gauge different systems.
Mireaux Management Solutions offers a Web-Based electronic Corrective/Preventive Action System called the Continual Improvement Program (CIP). This system has been used for several years by many corporations and actually works for you by using multiple features, some of which were used in this article.