Corrective Action vs Preventive Action (Preventative Action): A Comparison Guide

Maximize efficiency in quality management! Click here to explore the nuances of Corrective vs Preventive Action with this insightful guide.

Last Updated on January 15, 2024 by Ossian Muscad

Quality management is essential for any business that wants to keep its customers happy and satisfied while maintaining a good reputation. Maintaining high-quality products and services requires organizations to have a system in place for dealing with any errors or defects that may occur. This is where corrective action vs. preventive action comes into play.

Both of these actions are important for ensuring continuous improvement, but they have different roles and purposes. However, they are often confused with one another, leading to ineffective management of quality issues. It’s important to distinguish between corrective and preventive action to use each effectively in quality management.

This guide will provide a comparison between corrective action vs. preventive action. We will highlight their differences and similarities to help businesses understand when to use each one and how they can work together to improve quality management.


What is Corrective Action?

Corrective Action refers to the measures taken in response to identify defects or issues in a product, process, or system. This approach is reactive, meaning it addresses problems after they have occurred. The corrective action process typically involves:

  • Identifying the problem.
  • Investigating the root cause.
  • Taking steps to rectify the issue.
  • Implementing measures to prevent the problem from recurring.


Corrective Action is a crucial component of any Quality Management System (QMS), as it allows organizations to learn from their mistakes, improve their processes, and ultimately, enhance their product or service quality. It’s all about solving problems when they happen. It is taken after a problem has already occurred. Corrective Action identifies the root cause of an issue and then implements measures to prevent it from happening again.


What is Preventive Action?

Preventive Action (Preventative Action), on the other hand, refers to proactive measures taken to prevent potential defects or issues from occurring in the first place. Instead of reacting to problems after they occur, preventive action aims to identify and address potential issues before they materialize into actual problems. This involves risk identification, risk assessment, and strategies to mitigate these identified risks.

In a Quality Management System (QMS), preventive action plays an essential role in minimizing errors, reducing the need for corrections, and enhancing overall product or service quality. In contrast to corrective action, preventive action is about anticipating problems before they happen and planning accordingly to prevent their occurrence. This forward-thinking approach allows organizations to stay one step ahead, ensuring smooth operations and higher customer satisfaction.

Both corrective and preventive action are essential for quality management systems. Corrective action deals with problems that have already occurred, while preventive action helps you avoid these problems in the first place. Both processes can continually improve your products or services and keep your customers happy.


Examples of Corrective and Preventive Action

In the context of a manufacturing company, let’s look into how corrective and preventive actions can be implemented using the same scenario. This will help illustrate the respective roles and benefits of these two strategies within the Quality Management System. Our scenario will focus on an issue with a machine causing defects in the production of a particular product:

Corrective Action

In a scenario where a defect is spotted in a batch of products, a corrective action would be initiated. The defective batch would be isolated, and an investigation would be launched to determine the root cause of the defect. It was found that a specific machine was not calibrated correctly, causing the issue. The machine is recalibrated, and processes are put in place to routinely check and maintain the correct calibration of the machine, thus preventing the recurrence of the same problem in future production runs.

Preventive Action

On the other hand, preventive action could be taken before the machine causes defects. During routine risk assessments, an engineer might notice that the machine is overdue for maintenance, which could lead to calibration issues and potential defects. Therefore, preemptive maintenance is scheduled for the machine to prevent any potential issues from arising, thus ensuring the quality of the product remains consistent. In this way, the company is able to avert any potential defects that could have occurred due to machine malfunction.


Corrective Action Process

The Corrective Action process is a systematic approach that aims to identify the root causes of identified problems or defects, develop solutions, and ensure these issues are unlikely to recur. Performing corrective action involves the following steps:

  1. Identify the Root Cause of the Nonconformity: The first step is to identify the root cause of the problem. This can be done through various methods, such as cause and effect diagrams, fishbone diagrams, or five whys analysis.
  2. Determine the Magnitude of That Nonconformity: Assess how big of a problem the nonconformity is. Doing so will help you prioritize corrective actions and determine the resources needed to fix the issue.
  3. Develop Corrective Actions: Once you’ve identified the root cause of the problem, you can develop corrective actions to prevent it from happening again. These corrective actions should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).
  4. Implement Corrective Actions: Implementing the corrective actions includes putting procedures in place to ensure that the corrective actions are carried out properly and making any necessary changes to your quality management system.
  5. Monitor Corrective Actions: Finally, you need to monitor the corrective actions to ensure they’re effective. This can be done through audits, management reviews, or customer feedback.


Preventive Action Processes

Preventive action involves two main processes that must be performed continuously to ensure potential problems are kept at bay, and product quality remains consistent. These are mapping out potential nonconformities and creating an action plan:

Map Out Potential Nonconformities

The first step in the Preventive Action process – Mapping Out Potential Nonconformities, involves a thorough review and analysis of all processes, operations, and procedures involved in the production process. The goal is to identify potential risks or issues resulting in defects or nonconformities in the final product.

Experts often utilize various risk assessment tools like Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA), Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), and risk matrices to identify potential weaknesses and vulnerabilities. This could include machine malfunctions, human error, supply chain disruptions, or other factors that could potentially lead to nonconformities.

This step also involves understanding the potential impact of these identified risks — how likely they are to occur and the severity of their impact on product quality. Once mapped out, these potential nonconformities guide the next step of the Preventive Action process — creating an action plan.

Create an Action Plan

Take proactive steps in creating an action plan for the possible nonconformities. This will help address any issues effectively and minimize their impact. By identifying potential risks and establishing clear guidelines, you can ensure a prompt and efficient response to any unforeseen circumstances. The following are crucial steps in creating an action plan and implementing preventive action:

  1. Documented management procedures: Establishing well-documented procedures and guidelines that outline the management processes and responsibilities.
  2. Formulate clear working instructions: Develop concise and unambiguous instructions that provide clear direction and guidance for carrying out tasks effectively.
  3. Process Audits: Conduct regular audits to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of the processes and identify areas for improvement.
  4. Constant communication between involved teams/departments: Ensuring open and continuous communication channels between teams and departments to facilitate collaboration and coordination.
  5. Additional training: Providing supplementary training programs to enhance skills and knowledge, addressing specific needs, and promoting professional growth.
  6. Management review: Regularly reviewing and assessing the performance of management practices to identify areas of success and areas that require improvement.


Why Corrective and Preventive Action Are Important for QMS

Corrective and preventive actions are integral components of a robust Quality Management System (QMS). They form the backbone of continuous improvement strategies, ensuring the quality and reliability of products and minimizing defects. While corrective actions address existing issues by identifying and eliminating their root causes, preventive actions proactively minimize potential risks, contributing to the overall effectiveness of the QMS.

Benefits of Corrective Action

Corrective action directly addresses defects or problems to ensure they do not recur, affirming the organization’s commitment to quality and excellence. Here are some of its notable benefits:

  • Ensures High-Quality Products/Services: The primary benefit of corrective action is its ability to maintain the high quality of your products or services. Eliminating issues at their root cause ensures that defects do not recur, leading to more reliable and consistent quality output.
  • Enhances Customer Satisfaction: Corrective action also improves customer satisfaction. When faults are corrected promptly and effectively, customers gain confidence in the organization’s ability to consistently deliver high-quality products or services, increasing their satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Cost Savings: By resolving issues at their root cause, corrective action can save organizations significant costs associated with rework, scrap, or product returns.
  • Continuous Improvement: Effective corrective action leads to continuous improvement, as identified issues are thoroughly addressed, preventing recurrence and promoting process optimization.

Benefits of Preventive Action

Preventive action is just as important as corrective action. Its proactive approach enables organizations to anticipate problems and take necessary steps to avoid them, improving overall process efficiency. Here are some of its benefits:

  • Avoids Potential Errors: Preventive action helps avoid potential errors before they occur. This proactive approach minimizes unnecessary costs and resource consumption associated with fixing defects, improving overall process efficiency and profitability.
  • Enhances Preventive Culture: Preventive action fosters a culture of prevention within the organization. This shift in mindset, from reactive to proactive, encourages continuous improvement and innovation, further strengthening the quality management system and enhancing the organization’s competitiveness.
  • Complements Corrective Action: Finally, preventive action complements corrective action by minimizing the need for reactive measures. By identifying and addressing potential risks before they become problems, organizations can reduce the likelihood of issues occurring in the first place, leading to a more robust QMS.
  • Promotes Risk Management: By identifying, assessing, and controlling potential risks, preventive action promotes effective risk management. This strengthens the organization’s ability to handle unforeseen circumstances and builds confidence in customers and stakeholders.


Introducing The PDCA Cycle

Despite their differences, corrective and preventive actions are meant to stick and work hand-in-hand. They are quality management solutions that should be carried out long-term. But how will you execute them in the most efficient way possible?

One way of ensuring continual improvement through corrective and preventive action is to focus on the check step of the plan-do-check-act (PDCA) cycle. The PDCA cycle is a four-step process that enables you to identify and correct problems. So, it’s often used in quality management systems. The four steps of the PDCA cycle are:

  1. Plan: Develop a plan of action by identifying the problem, brainstorming solutions, and choosing the best action. This step sets the foundation for the subsequent actions.
  2. Do: Implement the action plan by carrying out the chosen solution and closely monitoring its effectiveness. Taking action is crucial to bring the plan to life.
  3. Check: Check the implementation results to assess the chosen solution’s effectiveness. This step ensures that progress is evaluated and any necessary adjustments are made.
  4. Act: Take action based on the check results, making changes to the plan of action if necessary. This step completes the cycle, allowing for continuous improvement and refinement of the approach.


While many other quality management methods exist, the PDCA cycle is the most effective at implementing corrective and preventive actions. By following the PDCA cycle, you can ensure that corrective and preventive actions are systematic and effective.


What Preventive Action Should You Take?

Preventive actions are very similar to preventive healthcare procedures. Both cost money, neither is fun, and they provide long-term value if you pay the short-term cost of long-term stability. With that said, here are some examples of preventive actions that can potentially help prevent nonconformity issues:

  • Auditing suppliers and the goods/materials they provide.
  • Routine inspection and maintenance of equipment to ensure proper calibration.
  • Incorporating alarms into processes in the form of monitoring statistics or control charts.
  • Comprehensive training programs with employee feedback.
  • Collecting process reviews from line workers.
  • Establishing a root cause analysis process.
  • Conducting customer surveys to identify potential nonconformities.
  • Creating an incident response plan for handling potential problems quickly and efficiently.
  • Investing in research and development to build new products or processes that reduce the risk of nonconformities.


By taking preventive action, you can avoid costly defects and nonconformities. Taking preventive action is a proactive step that can help keep your products/services consistently high-quality and satisfy your customers.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1: What is the main difference between corrective and preventive action?

The main difference lies in the timing and approach. Corrective action is reactive, addressing issues after they have occurred, while preventive action is proactive, aiming to eliminate potential problems before they happen. Both aim to improve processes and prevent issues from recurring, all while promoting continuous improvement.

Q2: Can an organization implement both corrective and preventive actions simultaneously?

Yes, both actions can and should be implemented simultaneously. They complement each other in enhancing the quality and efficiency of an organization’s operations. You should prioritize implementing both measures in your quality management system.

Q3: How does the PDCA cycle help implement corrective and preventive actions?

The PDCA cycle provides a systematic approach to problem-solving and continuous improvement. It allows organizations to identify, implement, and assess the effectiveness of corrective and preventive actions, promoting continuous improvement. At the same time, the cycle helps maintain a preventive culture and promotes effective risk management. So, it’s an essential tool in implementing both measures.

Q4: Why is preventive action often perceived as more challenging to implement?

Preventive action is often seen as more challenging because it requires anticipating potential issues before they occur. This process needs a comprehensive understanding of the process, risk assessment, and proactive planning. Not only does this require time and resources, but it also requires a proactive mindset within the organization. However, the long-term benefits of preventive action far outweigh any challenges in implementation.

Q5: What is the role of employees in corrective and preventive actions?

Employees play a crucial role as they are often the first to identify issues and potential risks. They are also essential in implementing solutions and preventing the recurrence of the problems. Additionally, their insights and expertise contribute to the organization’s overall success.

Q6: How do corrective and preventive actions contribute to customer satisfaction?

By ensuring the delivery of high-quality products or services and by reducing the likelihood of issues and failures, corrective and preventive actions help to increase customer satisfaction and maintain customer loyalty. These actions demonstrate a commitment to providing excellent customer service and meeting their needs effectively. This leads to positive word-of-mouth, which can attract new customers and grow the business’s reputation.


Streamline Your Quality Management System with DATAMYTE

DATAMYTE is a quality management platform with low-code capabilities. Our Digital Clipboard, in particular, is a low-code workflow automation software that features a workflow, checklist, and smart form builder. This tool lets you create custom workflows and checklists, enabling you to implement corrective and preventive actions seamlessly.

DATAMYTE also lets you conduct layered process audits, a high-frequency evaluation of critical process steps. This audit focuses on areas with the highest failure risk or non-compliance. Conducting LPA with DATAMYTE lets you effectively identify and correct potential defects before they become major quality issues.

With DATAMYTE, you have an all-in-one solution for effective corrective and preventive actions, promoting continuous improvement and ensuring customer satisfaction. Contact us today to learn more about our quality management platform and how it can benefit your organization.



Both corrective and preventive actions are integral components of a successful quality management system. Corrective action is necessary to address issues after they occur, identify the root cause, and implement solutions to prevent reoccurrence.

On the other hand, preventive action requires more foresight, anticipating and addressing potential issues before they materialize. Each approach offers unique benefits, and using them in conjunction fosters a culture of continuous improvement, thereby enhancing operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Although challenging, implementing these measures yields significant long-term value by reducing nonconformities and promoting a culture of quality. Thus, organizations must understand the nuances of corrective vs. preventive action and strategically use them to drive quality excellence.



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