What is a corrective action?


In the world of quality management, it’s essential for businesses to not only maintain compliance but also adopt a proactive approach when it comes to problem-solving, especially if something goes wrong, leading to unexpected errors or issues. That’s where corrective action comes in handy.

Today, we’ll explore what corrective action is, how it differs from preventive action and when it can be taken, with a few helpful tips on creating an effective corrective action plan within the ISO 9001 framework. Read on!


Understanding corrective action

Corrective action is aimed at identifying and eliminating the root causes of problems or non-conformities within a business process. It goes beyond fixing the immediate issue; instead, it seeks to prevent it from happening again by addressing the underlying factors that led to the problem in the first place.


Corrective action vs preventive action: what’s the difference?

While both are intended for addressing non-conformance, there are a few key differences that separate them. Corrective action is reactive in responding to existing issues, while preventative action is all about being proactive and stopping potential problems before they occur. Together, they form a powerful duo in ensuring continuous improvement within a business.

An example of corrective action:

A software company discovers a bug in its latest release that causes the application to crash when a specific feature is used. The development team immediately investigates the issue, identifies the root cause of the bug, and releases a patch to fix the problem.

An example of preventive action:

To prevent similar bugs from occurring in future releases, the software company implements additional automated testing procedures and conducts thorough code reviews before each release.


When should corrective action be taken?

Identifying the right time for corrective action is crucial. Typically, it’s triggered by detecting a non-conformance, whether it’s a product defect, a service failure, or a process inefficiency. Taking corrective action in these instances not only minimises the impact on customers, but also upholds quality standards, and maintains the overall integrity of the business.


What is corrective action in ISO 9001?

Corrective action within ISO 9001 involves using a methodical approach to tackle any non-conformities and stop them from happening again, ensuring the continual improvement of the Quality Management System (QMS).

It’s worth mentioning that the latest ISO 9001 Standard (ISO 9001:2015 Clause 10.2) has removed the requirement for preventive actions. This change was made to clear up past confusion and complexities associated with preventive action processes. Now, in alignment with Annex SL, Standards such as ISO 27001, ISO 22301, ISO 45001, and ISO 14001 no longer require them.

Instead, ISO requirements emphasise a more flexible, risk-based approach to pinpointing potential areas of concern within the management system, especially when outcomes are uncertain. This approach is integrated throughout the entire process, rather than treating preventive actions as standalone tasks which require separate documentation.


The business benefits of corrective action

Incorporating corrective action into your business processes brings a plethora of perks, including:

Enhanced product and service quality

Corrective action uncovers the root causes of problems or non-conformities and puts an end to them for good. By addressing these issues, businesses can improve the quality of their products and services, thereby increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Cost reduction

Addressing problems promptly through corrective action helps prevent the recurrence of issues that could lead to costly rework, product recalls, or even customer complaints. So, by reducing waste and inefficiencies, businesses can lower operating costs and improve their bottom line.

Improved operational efficiency

Implementing corrective action involves analysing processes and finding areas for improvement. By streamlining workflows, optimising resource allocation, and eliminating bottlenecks, businesses can enhance operational efficiency, leading to increased productivity and profitability.

Compliance and risk management

Corrective action is essential for ensuring compliance with industry regulations and standards. Again, by addressing non-conformities and implementing corrective measures, businesses demonstrate their commitment to quality and regulatory compliance, while avoiding the risk of legal issues, penalties, and reputational damage.


Steps to implement a corrective action plan for ISO

A corrective action plan (CAP) serves as your roadmap for addressing identified issues within a business. It outlines specific actions aimed at resolving these problems and monitors their effectiveness.

A well-structured corrective action plan template includes estimates of timelines and resources, identifies key stakeholders, acknowledges process constraints, and establishes metrics to track progress. Think of it as your reliable companion for navigating rough seas and guiding your business toward smoother waters.

To align corrective action with ISO 9001, consider the following steps:

1. Define the problem

The first step is to identify the issue and its impact on operations, quality, or customer satisfaction. This can be achieved through customer complaints, inspections, or internal audits, giving you a comprehensive understanding of the issue’s scope and its implications across different facets of the business.

2. Put a response team together

Next, create a dedicated team with a range of process and/or product knowledge and technical skills to analyse the issue, and develop corrective actions to resolve the problem. Quality managers can then determine the severity of a non-conformity and decide if a corrective action is needed.

3. Take containment actions

When you’ve got ongoing issues to tackle, these can’t be left on the back burner while performing risk assessments and strategic planning. So, implementing immediate measures to prevent the issue from worsening can help with operational continuity while demonstrating a commitment to clients and stakeholders that you’re proactively finding solutions.

4. Conduct a root cause analysis (RCA)

Now, let’s tackle the tricky part – digging deep to identify the underlying causes of the problem. Techniques like the ‘5 Whys’ can be invaluable in this phase, whereby you just keep asking “why” until you get to the root of the problem. This method helps you go beyond surface-level fixes and address the real issue at hand.

5. Develop actionable steps

Once you’ve found the root cause of the problem, it’s time to create a corrective action plan. This includes a set of specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) steps to address the issue and consider factors like cost and return on investment. It should also include details on timelines and responsibilities.

6. Implement the corrective action plan

With the plan reviewed and finalised, it’s ready to be put into action. This might involve straightforward tasks like replacing a faulty piece of equipment or updating outdated software. It’s crucial to closely monitor the situation, ensuring that all corrective actions are implemented effectively. Remember to keep all stakeholders informed of your progress too!

7. Evaluate and adjust

Finally, after executing the corrective action plan, regularly assess the effectiveness of the corrective actions, and update risk levels. If necessary, make adjustments to the plan to improve its impact. For implementing ISO 9001-compliant corrective action plans, quality managers can streamline their processes using integrated management systems like Atlas ISO – a digital platform that allows you to manage documents, processes, tasks, and projects efficiently from one accessible location.


Take corrective action with Citation ISO Certification!

Managing your integrated management system alongside other business tasks can be daunting. However, you don’t have to do this process alone. Our team is here to provide support every step of the way!

Get compliant with our expert ISO services and don’t forget about our ISO Mentor training service, offering interactive workshops specifically designed to enhance compliance and guide you through ISO corrective action procedures.

Get in touch to find out how we can help by calling 0333 242 8316 – we’d love to hear from you.

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About the author

  • Name:

    Serena Cooper

  • Company:

    Citation ISO Certification

  • Bio:

    Serena has worked for Citation ISO Certification since 2022, writing creative and informative content on ISO certification and consultation to help businesses reach their potential.


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