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Difference Between Corrective Action and Preventive Action

Corrective action is part of quality management and involves a set of actions taken to rectify a process, task or an employee’s behavior when they are at risk of producing errors or deviating from the intended goal or plan.

Preventive action are proactive measures taken to prevent any nonconformity to the plans set within an institution or organization.

Corrective action and preventive action go hand in hand are are both referred to as CAPA. These two practices are concepts within Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls/Hazard Analysis and Critical Control points and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). Proper documentation of CAPA is usually required by ISO 9000 and other related standards such as the AS9100.


What is Corrective Action?

A corrective action plan involves identification of a problem and use of available resources to mitigate symptoms. The main goal of corrective action is to identify the root cause of a problem and take the necessary actions on it. Corrective action normally deals with critical issues, recurring problems, supply concerns, dangers to health and safety or situations where a customer requests for a change in form, function or fit. In HR departments corrective action is used to communicate with employees on the acceptable behavior and performance standards to be met. Once actions such as coaching and performance measurements don’t work, corrective actions come into place.

Corrective actions have several benefits including detailing steps for solving issues, adding transparency to activities, empowering teams, providing a benchmark for future development and events and removing the need for a problem-solving wheel. As much as it has benefits some drawbacks can be faced, ‘if implemented poorly it becomes a bureaucratic exercise where action requests are taken for minor incidents. Also, there is the risk of focusing on the symptoms rather than the key causes.

A corrective action request referred to as (CAR) which appears in the production or manufacturing policies.  This CAR can come from complaints from customers, an audit or a production line event. CAR is a formal request to remove or eliminate the root causes of nonconformity. In manufacturing the nonconformity is usually the product or production process. The corrective action requests can be used on several different levels of concern.


What is Preventive Action?

Preventive action involves the prediction of problems that could arise and creation of plans to mitigate them accordingly. It is often used to identify potential discrepancies in a company before they even arise so as to set measures to prevent them. The identification process involves analysis, internal audits, review of customer feedback and participation of employees and workers at all levels.  Preventive action involves stages of investigations, making reviews on analysis, taking actions, reviewing results and taking further action if need be. This practice fits well in the Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) philosophy invented by Deming-Shewhart cycle.


Differences Between Corrective and Preventive Action?


Corrective actions are a set of plans taken to identify root causes of a problem and find solutions for the consequences. Preventive actions are a set of actions taken to identify potential risks that could affect operations and creation of plans to mitigate them.

Point of use

Preventive actions are taken before problems arise as a means of avoiding them. Corrective actions take place after the problems have already occurred as a means of solving the consequences and reducing additional risks. In manufacturing some of the corrective actions can involve recalling of sub-standard products after they have been released in the market. In HR it could involve coaching or even firing of an employee.


Corrective actions start at investigations, audits and analysis of potential risks. Corrective action process starts at identifying causes of a problem that has occurred.


Corrective actions are reactive in nature. Preventive actions are proactive in nature.


Similarities Between Corrective and Preventive Action

  • Both have similar intentions to ensure proper and expected running of all functions of an organization.
  • Both practices fit under the Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) philosophy invented by Deming-Shewhart cycle.
  • Both apply to all departments in an organization and can be applied to any industry.
  • The two sets of actions are considered to be Good Manufacturing Practices under the GMP.


Corrective vs. Preventive Action: Comparison Chart

Summary of Corrective vs. Preventive Action

Corrective actions are plans undertaken after a problem has arised and distorted the normal functioning of an organization in the relevant department.

Preventive plans are proactive actions taken to prevent and diversions from the set plans and goals.

Both the action sets can be applied simultaneously, organizations that apply both are able to have better management and goal achievement.

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  1. “Process
    Corrective actions start at investigations, audits and analysis of potential risks.”

    I think that should be ‘Preventive’

  2. I agree that “Corrective actions start at investigations,” should be Corrective, however, I believe that “audits and analysis of potential risks.” would be Preventive in nature.

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References :

[0]Sprung, B., Froschl, M., & Hinitz, B. S. F. (2005). The Anti-bullying and Teasing Book for Preschool Classrooms. Gryphon House.

[1]Ketola, J., & Roberts, K. (2003). Correct!, Prevent!, Improve!: Driving Improvement Through Problem Solving and Corrective and Preventive Action. ASQ Quality Press.

[2]Horne, H. (2016). I know CAPA: CAPA - Corrective and Preventive Action. BoD – Books on Demand.

[3]Image credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6b/Balancing_process_with_delay.PNG

[4]Image credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/7a/PDCA_Cycle.svg/500px-PDCA_Cycle.svg.png

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