Mitigating Risk

Implement containment and immediate correction together

by Greg Wells

Organizations occasionally produce nonconforming parts and must ensure defects are not shipped to customers. To prevent these defects from reaching customers, you need a foolproof process to manage products that are potentially nonconforming.

ISO 9001 describes the minimum quality management system requirements for several processes, including corrective action. Though the standard lists several requirements to effectively implement a corrective action to resolve a nonconformance, it does not list a requirement to identify and control potentially nonconforming products related to that nonconformance.

That process is a requirement for several advanced quality management systems—such as AS9100 and the National Aerospace and Defense Contractors Accreditation Program (NADCAP)—and it is called containment. While containment is often listed as a single step on a corrective action form, it really should be considered two distinct activities: containment and immediate correction.

Containment is the comprehensive stock check of completed goods and work in progress that is conducted when a product-related nonconformance has been identified. You must ensure that all potentially nonconforming parts are inspected for the defect condition, so 100% of the contained product should be inspected.

Containment is a sorting operation to segregate the nonconforming parts from conforming parts. It is not necessary to inspect all of a part’s features and characteristics. Only inspect for the characteristic suspected to be nonconforming. So while the scope of the containment must be comprehensive, the scope of the inspection can be limited while still providing reasonable confidence that you will prevent the error of shipping defective products.

After you have contained the suspect parts, you might think that you are ready to investigate the root cause of the nonconformity, but there is a second phase of the containment task to complete: immediate correction.

You must determine whether any parts will soon run through production and become nonconforming. If so, you must implement an immediate correction to prevent these parts from becoming defective and potentially reaching the customer. You may not know what caused the defect to be produced, but you certainly don’t want to allow the defect to be produced and reach the customer.

So you must implement an immediate correction to bandage the problem until you can properly fix it, thus making immediate correction the second activity of the two-step containment process. A typical immediate correction would be to red-line an additional production operation or inspection operation on each applicable work order.

Suppose your car has a flat tire. The problem right now is that you’re stuck on the side of the road. The immediate correction is to replace the flat tire with the spare tire. It would be a prudent containment action to inspect the other three tires for nails before driving away from the shop that eventually repairs the flat tire.

It is only after you have implemented these emergency-type responses of containment and immediate correction that you take the time and energy to determine the root cause of where the nail came from and implement a corresponding corrective action to prevent future nails in your tires.

Including an effective containment process in the corrective action procedure can provide a reliable means of ensuring customers do not receive nonconforming products when you encounter a nonconformance. Though often simply called containment, it is actually two independent tasks that should be implemented in conjunction to mitigate risk.

Greg Wells is an internal quality auditor at Sikorsky Global Helicopter in Coatesville, PA. He holds a master’s degree in management science from Troy University in Troy, AL. He is an ASQ senior member and an ASQ-certified quality systems lead auditor.

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