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Diana Avram09/28/20235 min read

Shift Quality Management from reactive CAPA to proactive PACA

Corrective and Preventive Actions (CAPA) are an integral part of quality management. They help to manage potential deviations from quality standards and avoid potential issues.

However, in recent years, quality experts have started to realize that CAPA is a reactive approach, rather than proactive one. It places the focus mainly on immediate, short term corrective action. 

A more forward-thinking approach to quality lies in flipping the order and putting preventive action first, i.e. PACA.

In this article, we’ll take a look at why it’s a good idea to shift from CAPA to PACA and what that looks like in practice.

The limitations of CAPA

In most cases, CAPA interventions only address quality issues after they have happened, with a focus on quick fixes to get operations back on track. Although there’s no denying this approach works in the short-term, it doesn’t deal with the underlying root causes, which means problems are likely to reoccur. 

Additionally, the over-emphasis on corrective action places too much focus on the speed of closure, rather than how effective the solution is. Too often, this results in companies getting caught in a never-ending cycle of corrective actions, with little to no focus on more strategic, long-term solutions.

The benefits of prioritizing prevention with PACA

PACA is similar to looking after your health by exercising and eating well, rather than neglecting yourself and seeking medical treatment later on down the line.

Adopting a PACA approach means you dive deep into the root causes of quality issues and devising ways to avoid them. Taking a pre-emptive approach like PACA leads to a number of benefits including:

  • Cost savings – cuts the expense of redoing tasks
  • Reduced material waste
  • Less customer complaints and product recalls
  • Enables continuous improvement and improved quality across the board.

Think of it like this – PACA doesn’t just make quality issue prevention a strategy – it becomes an embedded value across your operations.

Examples of PACA in action

Rigorous risk assessments
The main principle of PACA is the consistent application of rigorous risk assessments. By regularly assessing risk, companies pinpoint potential hiccups in processes and production. This allows for well-timed interventions to rectify the issues at hand. 

Take a chemicals company for instance, who carries out regular supply chain risk assessments. They notice that one of their suppliers has recently had several regulatory non-compliances. Acting on this insight, they decide to diversify their suppliers to prevent supply chain disruptions or quality issues.

Automated data analysis
Quality managers can use digital systems to gather, process, and analyze quality data to identify negative trends before they escalate. For instance, a cloud-based QMS such as AlisQI gives you all the necessary tools to gather relevant data and look for patterns and correlations.

Let's imagine an automotive manufacturing plant that uses sensors to monitor machine performance in real-time. The system detects a pattern of performance decline in a particular machine after it is running continuously for 8 hours. Now that they have this insight, the company decides to schedule a short maintenance break after 6 hours to try and prevent production defects and extended machine downtime.

Enhanced process controls
Rather than setting a standard operating procedure and hoping it's followed, enhanced controls use real-time data, feedback loops, and sometimes automated systems to adjust processes as needed. This helps to avoid deviations from standard procedures and keeps everything running smoothly. 

How would this look like in practice? Imagine a beverage company that tracks the temperature of its drink fermentation process. If the temperature deviates from the ideal range, automated systems instantly bring it back in line. In doing so, they ensure that the taste of the product remains consistent.

Better training
Another factor in the smooth running of operations is to make sure that all staff and teams are properly equipped and trained to do their job properly and efficiently. Preventive action includes closing any skills gaps that are identified, then proactively implementing training programs. In other words, a PACA approach involves finding weaknesses and building strengths in your team. 

Improved design
Last but not least, PACA endorses the use of proactive design alterations and improvements. Rather than waiting for product flaws to emerge after release, or simply aiming to meet the minimum standards, design enhancements are made early on in the process. This helps to ensure that products reach optimal quality and reduces the risk of future problems.

Example: A tech company, while in the prototype stage of a new smartphone, identifies a potential issue with battery life based on initial beta user feedback. If they hadn’t picked this up and went to mass-market release, there would be an inevitable backlash. Instead, they improve the design to extend battery life, thus ensuring a positive reception upon release.

Shift the mindset from reactive to proactive

Shifting from CAPA to PACA is more than just changing the order from corrective to preventive action. You also need to change the overall mindset and culture. Here are some tips on how to manage the transition effectively:

Training and awareness: Begin with regular training sessions. Ensure everyone, from the ground up, understands the value of prevention. Make sure they are equipped with the tools and knowledge to predict and prevent problems.

Communication: Encourage open communication. Oftentimes, frontline staff can foresee quality issues way before they escalate. You should create open communication channels for feedback and idea sharing.

Risk assessments: Make regular risk assessments a routine. If you constantly evaluate processes, you’ll be able to anticipate and address possible hitches.

Celebrate proactivity: Set up rewards for teams or individuals who come up with preventive strategies or highlight potential risks. This way, you're promoting a culture that values foresight and intervention.

Incorporate tech: Apply advanced tools and systems to analyze patterns and trends, giving you a head start on potential issues. A QMS is a smart move as it helps to automate the gathering, processing, and analysis of quality data.

Above all, remember that PACA is not just a strategic move. It’s about building a culture of quality where prevention is the main focus, rather than an afterthought.

Take the first step to a more preventative quality approach with AlisQI, as well as saving up 20% of time on manual tasks and cutting waste by 15%. To see AlisQI in action, book a demo today.

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Diana Avram

Marketing & Media