TW Viewpoint | CAPA: Continuous Improvement

September 23, 2022 | Miguel Alamilla

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In the manufacturing world it is of utmost importance that quality and on time delivery roll along a railway of continuous improvement. This is what keeps the business on track as it moves forward in achievement of its goals. The Japanese recognized early on that if they were to make a better, less expensive automobile than the Americans, they had to find ways to tackle the issues of manufacturing. KAIZEN is the Japanese word associated with Continuous Improvement. It came out of that country's desire to compete in the automotive industry.

Whether you're running a business or you simply want to realize success in your life, KAIZEN can help to make things better and avoid problematic situations from reoccurring. It can be a dirty, messy process similar to facing up to the issues that are causing grief in one's life. Everyone knows that ignoring issues can lead to failure, but overcoming them will lead to growth, and growth means success, and success has its rewards.

So, here's how it works. When a problem is identified, it triggers the process to begin. One tool offered to tackle the problem is called CAPA - C - A - P - A. CAPA is the acronym for Corrective and Preventive Action. It requires first of all that the problem to be identified and recorded with as much detail as is available in accordance with established standards. Immediate action must then be taken to contain the problem and prevent further damage from occurring. The problem has to be defined and verified before CAPA can be implemented. Responsibilities for CAPA are then assigned and completion dates are set. Once the corrective actions are determined, the risks must be analyzed and accessed. Only then should those actions begin. Information exchange and training can then follow as necessary. At the completion of the actions a review of its effectiveness and long-term impact must be carried out to see if the target state has been reached and can be sustained over the long term.

Depending on the severity of the issue, different tools can be employed to drive the CAPA process. The process after all is defined by the interaction of the triggers and the tools used to get to the desired state. Every problem has a root cause and once the root cause can be defined it can be fixed. One easy root cause analysis tool to use is called "the 5 WHYs". An example of the 5 whys could be something like this: You are seldom on time for work or school. You ask first: Why am I not on time? Because I wake up too late. Why do I wake up late? Because I don't sleep well. Why don't I sleep well? Because I have indigestion at night. What gives me indigestion at night? I have a big meal and 2 beers right before bedtime. Now, you've come to the root cause of your problem. It may take more or less than 5 "whys" to come to the root cause, but you will, eventually. What's the corrective action? Go figure!

The 5 WHY tool is a small part of the process of continuous improvement used in manufacturing. Every type of business has its problems which result in waste and loss of productivity. So it is in our own lives as well. Everything is CAUSE AND EFFECT; if the effect is grief, we must go after the cause to stop the grief and prevent it from reoccurring. Once you fix it you don't just walk away and leave it; you also need to put things in place to prevent it from reoccurring. Still that is not enough! You need to audit regularly and monitor the trends to ensure that what you have put in place is working and producing "good fruit" as the desired outcome.

This simple manufacturing tool of CAPA, corrective and preventive action, can be adapted to help us all in the journey of continuous improvement, because if you are not moving forward, you are moving backward.

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