One of the most common points of confusion in the audit process is Root Cause Analysis. How do you know if you’ve truly found (and corrected) the root cause of an issue that caused a nonconformance?
The simple answer is that once the issue can be turned on and off like a light switch by applying or removing the corrective action, then it can be assumed that you’ve found the root cause! Treating only the individual issue, rather than the underlying systemic issue, is similar to taking a fever reducer rather than treating an underlying bacterial infection; you’ve addressed the symptom, but not cured the problem causing it.
Corrective actions should be followed by preventive actions, and not confused with each other. Preventive actions address one of these questions:
“What other systems exist that might have similar flaws that could become the root cause of a nonconformance?” or “What system(s) could I have had in place to prevent this from happening?”
The mindset of regularly looking for ways in which to improve systems to eliminate the need for future corrective action is a key aspect of ISO certification; make it a part of your routine!