Common Mistakes we make when Investigating Non-Conformances

Common Mistakes we make when Investigating Non-Conformances

Hello Fellow Foodies and Problem Solvers,

We’ve seen some discussion on social media recently about dealing with non-conformity and of course, the inevitable corrective actions.  It’s also a topic that is discussed in depth during our training programmes and always attracts a lot of questions.

In today’s Blog we look at a few common mistakes which are made when dealing with non-conformances and corrective actions.  The idea is that some level of awareness of these typical traps we fall into will allow you to drive a system that really adds value and makes a difference on the bottom line.

Mistake #1: Denial

Strange as it may be, the first mistake relates to denying the fact that there is really a problem at all.  Sadly, this attitude leads to many missed opportunities to address real problems and identify improvement opportunities.

Mistake #2: Missing facts            

It’s very difficult to solve a problem if you don’t have all the facts.  A poorly recorded non-conformance can be impossible to investigate.  If the problem is product-related, make sure that the product name, batch, production date, quantities, etc. are all reported.  The exact nature of the problem is also crucial. Saying that a product is “out of spec” can have a myriad of meanings; from incorrect colour or texture to undercooking or failed metal detection.  You see what we mean?

Mistake #3: Jumping to conclusions

The moment a non-conformance or corrective action report is initiated, it is as if an imaginary stopwatch is activated, and the problem must be solved in record-time or else…  Fair enough, if the problem is food safety-related and a decision needs to be made about the product itself, we get it.  But, when you are busy with an investigation to determine the cause of the non-conformance, making assumptions and jumping to conclusions will never deliver results.

Mistake #4: Disregarding the opinion of other members of your team

Problem solving is not a solo event.  In fact, the best results come from working as a team.  Complex problems require an “out-of-the-box” approach and a typical brain-storming process where all team members are encouraged to voice their opinions is a perfect starting point.

Mistake #5: Diluting efforts to address the actual cause

Once you have an agreement in your team of what the cause is, identifying appropriate actions to address the root cause should never be underestimated.  It’s usually at this point where everyone thinks the battle has been won!  The effective implementation of each corrective action is as important as admitting that there was a problem in the first place.  Make sure that the actions are clear – particularly in terms of due dates and responsibilities.

Mistake #6: Signing off on a corrective action without supporting evidence

At some point, someone will need to verify that the identified actions have been implemented.  This verification must include some form of evidence of the actions taken.  Whether it is a photograph of something that has been repaired, a procedure that has been updated or a new supplier that has been approved, every individual action’s evidence must be meticulously reviewed and signed off.  Don’t sign-off on a colleagues promise to order a part or raise a job card – if there is no evidence that it’s been done, it hasn’t been done.  It is, after all, the combined effect of each action that will bring about the required improvement.

Finally, don’t neglect to train your employees in problem solving techniques.  A clear understanding of the “tools” at their disposal to address non-conformances can have a huge impact on the effectiveness of your non-conformance and corrective action systems.  Progress Excellence offers an Online Root Cause Analysis Masterclass – click here to find out more.  Our expert facilitators are also ready to come on-site or offer this workshop virtually to your teams.  Simply e-mail for any on-site or virtual instructor led (VILT) training enquiries.

Still coming up in 2021:

Until next week…

Food Bites Team