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Correction, Corrective Action and Preventive Action

These three words have been widely discussed among the Quality community. For beginners, these are really confusing terms and especially not very popular with the Regulators. Very often Corrective Action and Preventive action are used with the same sense.
According to the ISO 9000 – Quality Management Systems – Fundamentals and Vocabulary the following are the definitions.
Preventive Action : (3.6.4) – Action to the eliminate cause of potential Nonconformity or other potential undesirable situation.
The word to notice here is the Potential. This means that the nonconformity has not occurred or  detected. This action is taken pre- problem.Though this is not a perfect example, this can explain the terms. A water pipe is likely to break and leak. Here the problem is not occurred but it is identified that it is likely to occur. The action may be reducing the pressure in the pipe, replacing the pipe or anything else. Even in this case the causes are found and the causes are addressed.
Preventive actions are proactive, continuous and targeted actions to reduce the instances of Corrections and corrective actions
Corrective Action (3.6.5) : Action taken to eliminate the cause of the detected Nonconformity or other undesirable situation
Correction(3.6.6) : Action taken to eliminate a detected  Nonconformity
In the cases of correction and corrective action, the noticeable word is “detected”. These actions are taken after the occurrence of the problem. Again taking the example of water pipe, the problem in this case will be the water pipe is broken or leaking” . The action to be taken in this case has be in two parts. 1) Correction : Repair the pipe or arrest the leak. This stops the leak. However this does not solve the problem. 2) The next action needed is corrective action: Find the cause which has led to the problem of leak and eliminate the cause. In this case the cause may be faulty pipe, or High pressure in the pipe, or any other or a combination of these. The problem can only be solved only if all the causes are eliminated.
There can be cases where correction not possible and only corrective action can be made. For example the pipe is broken.
The words correction, corrective action and preventive action are a little bit confusing but if used carefully, they convey very good meaning.
Preventive actions contribute to cost efficiencies, and timely delivery of the product which leads to customer satisfaction.
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