Last week I had a very interesting discussion with a QHSE manager regarding Non conformance report (NCR). While working on improvements on their management system we tried to come up with a clear definition of when to write an NCR.
They form a valuable source for a company to learn from and discover room for improvement, however it is often unclear when to write an NCR. Therefore, we discuss a few situations which should lead to an NCR.
There is the situation when an employee deviates from a procedure. This is a clear NCR. The company created the procedure to streamline business activities and to define what people should do. Some of these procedures are even implemented to prevent frauds or breaking the law. Whenever an employee deviates of a procedure an NCR should be written. A good example is when a mechanic purchases some goods without approval by the financial manager. Due to rules set by financial auditors it is important that the financial manager signs the purchase orders. In this situation it is important that an NCR is written and the mechanic is trained on the reasons why the financial manager has to sign off on a purchase order.
What if a product is finished but not according to the specification of the customer, which is noticed before delivery? The customer hasn’t seen the product yet so no problem right? Wrong actually. When this NCR is not noted down the company can not investigate what went wrong in the production process. The NCR gives the company the opportunity to find out where the mistake was made and take the measures needed to prevent it from happening again.
Deviation from customer expectation
Inline with product deviation is the deviation from customer expectation. The most obvious deviation is just a customer complaint. But in addition, customers might also have expectations that haven’t been addressed in previous discussions. Though the product has been produced as per contract it could very well be that the customer is not satisfied. As an organisation it is important to notice such situations by discussing the satisfaction with the customer, preferably as soon as possible. Early detection of deviation from customer expectation is especially important because rework can get very costly in later stages of the project.
Another great example of an NCR which should be written is an unsafe situation. However, in practice the definition of an unsafe situation is unclear to a lot of people. Some might say that almost hit by a car was a near miss and should be registered while others don’t experience it as an unsafe situation. To get the definition consistent within the organisation, clear communication and proper training is required.
Deviation against statutory or regulatory requirements
It is always good to check if an employee acted within company values and of course within the law. It might happen that an employee acted within the boundaries of a procedure but did break with the company’s core values. Employees should never deviate from those values even when the employee acts according to a procedure, because they represent what the company stands for and breaking them causes harm to the integrity of a company. The same can obviously been said about the law.
In the end, there are thousands of reasons for when to write an NCR and when not. However, it is important that everyone within the organisation writes them down. In order to facilitate this it is crucial that the company clearly communicates the criteria the company has for an NCR. This could be elaborated by providing certain cases of when to write a NCR with the employees.
If you have any experience with this, please share it in the comments.
Indeed very interesting. However, following up NCR`s is equally important as just making the NCR.. it could be considered to write a NCR for not following up a NCR if a company is striving for continues improvement. However, that still does not solve the fact that NCR`s are often not followed up..
Thanks for your response. You are absolutely right. In order to really learn from the NCR you have to follow up and perform a proper root cause analysis.