Corrective action management in Additive Manufacturing (AM) isn’t just about compliance, though that’s how many manufacturers treat it. When it comes to corrective action, Additive Manufacturing companies need to approach it as a crucial step in their overall quality control process.
It’s especially crucial in AM because defects can be hidden when additional layers are added to builds. You don’t want to wait until a part is completed and fails the testing process to find out that there was a problem earlier in the manufacturing that could have been resolved. This creates waste, additional scrap, and rework.
When a nonconformance is uncovered, what happens next can make the difference between a quick resolution or significant (and costly) problems.
Dealing with Recurring Problems
One of the most time-consuming (and potentially expensive) problems is when a nonconformance continues to occur. When the same issue happens more than once, it indicates a problem in the corrective action process. When corrective action Additive Manufacturing processes fail, it’s typically because of one of two reasons:
- The investigation failed to uncover the actual root cause that led to the defect.
- The corrective action taken was ineffective in solving the problem.
In medicine, many health issues can be resolved by changing habits or acting on preventative measures. Too often, we treat the symptoms rather than the underlying cause. It’s similar in Additive Manufacturing. Recurring problems happen most commonly because a symptom was treated rather than the root cause.
Steps for Effective Corrective Action Additive Manufacturing Managements
Here are five steps for solving problems and putting corrective actions in place:
1. Identify the problem
The first step is to identify the problem and prioritize the biggest threats. Some corrective actions don’t require a full-blown investigation. There may be obvious solutions that can resolve the issue. Others may take an in-depth analysis to find the root cause.
2. Identify the root cause
Let’s say that you determine that your vehicle is constantly running low on oil and causing your engine to run rough or overheat. You can just keep pouring oil into it, or you can hunt for leaks or otherwise find the underlying cause. If the symptom is low oil pressure, then the root cause might be a leak in the oil pan. So, until you replace the pan, the symptoms will remain.
In any manufacturing operation, avoid treating just the symptoms. You need to treat the underlying problem. That said, you’ll likely need to take a deep dive to uncover and identify the patterns. Examine each step in the process. You may find that you need to make changes in processes, training, raw materials, or suppliers.
3. Execute the Corrective Action Additive Manufacturing Plan
Once you’ve identified the root cause and created the plan to address the underlying problem, you need to put the plan in motion and document the changes. Your audit trail should capture what changes are made, and all paperwork needs to be updated so the information stays current on the production floor.
Many Additive Manufacturers will do all of the above processes but fail to take the next crucial step: checking for effectiveness.
4. Check for Effectiveness
Once your corrective action plan has been put in place, it’s crucial to continue to evaluate results against performance goals. If the problem hasn’t been fixed, you’ll need to stop again and reassess risk.
5. Standardize and Document
After you have confirmed that the corrective action has done its job and eliminated the nonconformance, you need to make sure to standardize your procedures, update your documentation, and communicate it to everyone involved in the production process. Changes made through corrective actions need to be part of your standard operating procedures going forward.
These five steps will work as a framework for you to diagnose, implement, and measure your corrective action. Depending on your compliance needs, you may need to follow an even more formal process. For example, if you must comply with ISO 9001, there are similar but more defined steps that you’ll need to meet:
- Define the problem.
- Define the scope.
- Take containment actions.
- Find the root cause.
- Plan a corrective action.
- Implement the corrective action.
- Follow up to ensure success.
There’s an additional step to ISO 9001 compliance. It’s not listed but it is implied: do documentation to prove that you took the necessary steps for remediation.
In any case, make sure the process you follow meets any compliance requirements.
When it comes to making Additive Manufacturing work, one of the vital components is consistent quality. To be efficient, AM must encompass standardization and an efficient corrective action procedure.
Bluestreak | Bright AM can increase efficiency with improved scheduling and management of personnel, providing real-time feedback to catch missteps in production, and identifying preventive or corrective measures to avoid downtime, wasted material, and delays. Bright AM also includes a comprehensive and automated audit trail and provides critical information for everybody, from the front office to individual operators on the production floor, thus eliminating information silos and outdated information.
Bluestreak | Bright AM tracks quality throughout and creates a standard process for repeatability, even across multiple locations or teams. Contact Bluestreak | Bright AM for more information and improve your corrective action Additive Manufacturing process.
If your service includes Additive Manufacturing, we provide specific solutions in our Bright AM software. To request an Additive Manufacturing software demo, click here!