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A3 Reports – The Missing Link to Effective CAPA Process Management

A3 Workbook A3 Reports – The Missing Link to Effective CAPA Process ManagementYour CAPA process is the most important process in your Quality System for two reasons. First, CAPA is the tool you use to fix quality problems. Second, your CAPA process is guaranteed to be an area of interest for your next FDA inspector.

If CAPA is so important, why do companies still have inefficient CAPA processes?

When auditors review a CAPA process, some of them start by reading the procedure. When FDA writes a 483 observation about CAPA processes, the wording begins with “Procedures for corrective and preventive action have not been adequately established. Specifically…”. The approach of auditors and inspectors seems to suggest that your procedure is the key to an effective CAPA process, but your procedures are not the reason for the success or failure of processes.

Processes are effective when the management of the processes is effective. If a CAPA falls behind schedule, writing a justification for an extension is a process “solution.” A real solution is managing the process better. Management needs to monitor the progress of CAPAs regularly, should prioritize resources to ensure that CAPAs are completed on time, and needs to make decisions on which actions should be taken to prevent recurrence of quality problems. Therefore, you need to spend more time developing a method of managing CAPAs than you spend developing the CAPA process itself.

What is an A3 Report?

An A3 report is a tool that is ideally suited for managing CAPAs. “A3” refers to the size of the paper used (i.e., – approximately 11”x17”). An A3 report is a one-sided, single piece of paper that is used to build consensus among company management when you are making an important decision. The initial draft of the A3 report is distributed to each of the affected departments to ensure that all possible inputs to a quality problem are received. By encouraging 360-degree feedback for a proposed solution to a quality problem, you will ensure that the CAPA you develop addresses the issue completely.

In addition to encouraging 360-degree feedback, an A3 report includes an analysis of the problem, identification of the cause, proposed actions that require management decision, a section for documenting actions taken, and a follow-up section for management to review at specific milestones during the implementation plan. Including all of this information in one page forces CAPA owners to summarize information for management, and the standardized format makes it easier for managers to locate the information they want.

Here’s how these sections would be used for managing CAPAs.

Analysis of the Problem

This section is identical to the section of a traditional CAPA record, where the investigation of the problem is documented. This is where tools such as 5 Why analysis, Pareto charts, and Fishbone Diagrams would be used to illustrate the analysis of the problem. This section may change a great deal during the 360-degree review of the A3 report.

Root Cause or Potential Cause

In this section, there should be a concise statement of the root cause for corrective action plans or the potential cause(s) for preventive action plans. During the initial review of the A3 report, management may ask the person or team assigned to the CAPA to investigate the problem in greater depth or investigate other possible sources of information if the analysis appears to be inadequate. Management should also ensure that the causes are within the control of the company to correct or prevent. Identifying a cause that is outside the control of the company is just placing blame.

Proposed Actions

This section is similar to a typical CAPA plan, but the section includes the reason(s) why the proposed actions are recommended. The reasons why actions are proposed is important during the process of management reviewing the initial A3 report and approving the recommended actions. The best practice is to phrase the reasons in terms of quantitative results that will be achieved because this will provide a framework for metrics during follow-up by management.

Actions Taken

This section of the A3 report is updated throughout the implementation of the project. By comparing this section with proposed actions, management can monitor the status of each task included in the CAPA plan.

Follow-up

This section of the A3 report identifies how management will monitor the implementation of actions and when. The initial A3 report identifies what management will be monitoring, how it will be monitored, and at what milestones. Ideally, the monitoring includes quantitative metrics that demonstrate the effectiveness of the CAPA. During the implementation of the CAPA plan, actual metrics will be recorded in this section, and any adjustments that management makes are recorded here.

If you are interested in learning more about A3 reports, you can learn more from Daniel Matthews at http://bit.ly/A3Workbook.

You can also learn more about improving your CAPA process by attending one of the workshops on CAPA: September 9 in Orlando or October 3 in San Diego. Each workshop is one day, and early bird pricing is $249 per day if you register before August 1. Click Here to learn more: http://bit.ly/12AxxQ0

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CAPA Advice – 15 Tips for Creating an Effective CAPA Form

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This blog reviews 15 tips for creating an effective CAPA form, including CAPA source, description of the issue, investigation of the root cause, and more.

CAPA Form 1024x362 CAPA Advice   15 Tips for Creating an Effective CAPA Form

The reason for creating a “great CAPA form” is to improve the effectiveness of your CAPA process. Anyone in your company could be assigned to a CAPA, but not everyone is a CAPA expert. Therefore, designing an effective CAPA form can reduce errors and improve the effectiveness of the actions taken. You can also purchase our CAPA procedure and CAPA form, which is compliant with ISO 13485:2016.

Corrective and Preventive Action CAPA Procedure CAPA Advice   15 Tips for Creating an Effective CAPA Form
SYS-024 Corrective and Preventive Action (CAPA) Procedure/Form

SYS-024 – The CAPA procedure is a 4-page procedure which includes a CAPA form, and CAPA log. The procedure is compliant with ISO 13485:2016 and 21 CFR 820.100.

Price: $299.00

Provide adequate space in CAPA form

The most important feature of a CAPA form is to ensure that there is adequate space for writing a complete response for each section. Having sufficient space is more important than the benefits of a shorter record.

Date your CAPA form was initiated

The date your CAPA form begins to be completed can be used to verify that there was no “undue delay” in the initiation of a CAPA in response to internal audit findings. The date of initiation is also used to calculate the due date for completing the investigation and providing a corrective/preventive action plan.

Include a cross-reference number in your CAPA form

This is typically a sequentially assigned CAPA log number. Ensure the number is prominent on all pages—just in case pages are separated.

CAPA source

The source of a CAPA is useful information when performing data analysis—especially for internal audits where the audit schedule should reflect the results of previous audits. Examples of CAPA sources include:

  • Complaints/Reportable Events
  • Internal, Supplier and Third-Party Audits
  • Service Work Orders
  • Nonconforming Materials
  • Management Reviews

Description of CAPA issue

I use the word “issue” instead of nonconformity because you need a CAPA form that will work for potential nonconformities (i.e., – preventive actions), as well as nonconformities. Typically, the wording is identical to a customer complaint or an auditor’s text, but the description of the issue identifies the symptoms observed. Specific references to records, locations, times, equipment, products, and personnel involved may be necessary to the root cause investigation.

Investigator assigned / target due date for the plan

In ISO 13485:2016, the only change to the requirements for corrective actions and preventive actions was the clarification that planning is required. Since this was always implied in the standard, your procedure should already comply with clauses 8.5.2 and 8.5.3 in the 2016 version of ISO 13485.

This section of your CAPA form should identify who is going to investigate the root cause of the issue and the date that a corrective/preventive action plan is needed. The FDA requires submitting a corrective action plan for all 483 observations within 15 business days, or it will result in an automatic Warning Letter. Most certification bodies require a plan within 30 days. Your target due date should be risk-based unless there is a specific regulatory requirement. The date will also need to be based upon the date the issue was identified—not necessarily the date the CAPA was initiated.

Investigation of Root Cause

This section always reminds me of the story about the Ohno Circle. Every company asks if they can close a nonconformity during an audit, and the answer should always be “No.” You can correct a problem, but you cannot perform a root cause investigation and implement an effective corrective action during the same audit. You need to investigate the cause and the investigation documented. Some companies include a specific tool in this section, such as a “Fishbone Diagram.” This is also a mistake because there are many root cause analysis tools, and you need to select the best one for your specific situation. You might even need to use more than one tool.

Containment of nonconforming product

If the issue requires preventive action, there is nothing to contain. If the issue is specific to a procedure’s deficiency, there is also nothing to contain. If the issue requires corrective action and nonconforming materials or products are involved, then you need to quarantine the affected items. If the affected product has already left the company’s direct control (see 21 CFR 806.2(l) for a definition), then you have a potential recall. Regulators often look for “bracketing” or “bounding” of the upper and lower lot limits for an issue. Therefore, this section is where you document the rationale for why certain lots of products/materials are quarantined, and other lots are not.

Correction(s)

Fixing the immediate problem does not prevent a recurrence, but regulators will verify that each occurrence of the issue identified during the investigation of root cause has been corrected. You should verify that each of the nonconformities identified in the original finding and the investigation is addressed in this section of your CAPA form. For preventive actions, this section is not applicable.

Corrective Action Plan/Target Due Date for Implementation

These are the steps planned to prevent a recurrence. If the plan changes, then it should be updated. There is no need to delete the old version of the plan, but the new version should include a date when the plan was revised. For preventive actions, this section is not applicable. The target date of implementation should reflect the risk associated with the issue.

Preventive Action Plan/Target Due Date for Implementation

These are the steps planned to prevent the occurrence of a nonconformity. If an issue occurred for one product, but not for others, the actions taken for other products can be preventive. In this case, both the corrective action plan and the preventive action plan sections should be completed. The target date of implementation should reflect the risk associated with the issue.

Corrective and Preventive Actions Implemented

This section details what specific actions were performed—both corrective and preventive actions can be documented here. The dates of completing actions should be documented, and reasons for delays and overdue actions should be identified.

Plan for Verification of Effectiveness

I recommend filling this section before the plan for corrective and preventive action is developed. This often helps the person developing the plan to ensure that actions planned are adequate. Whenever possible, this should be quantitative, and it helps to identify a specific date for performing the effectiveness check.

Verification of Effectiveness

This section of your CAPA form is where you document verification of effectiveness. Specifically, what verification activities were performed to ensure that the corrective and preventive actions you implemented were effective. The date verification of effectiveness was performed should be documented, and if the actions were not effective, then a new CAPA should be referenced here.

Signature and Closure Date

Someone needs to review, sign, and date your CAPA form when it is completed. Often, regulators will review only closed records.

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CAPA Training Remediation Case Study: Hundreds of Open CAPAs

This blog presents a CAPA training case study related to hundreds of open CAPAs, and how to effectively remediate this issue using a CAPA filter to avoid “death by CAPA.”

Years ago, when I took my first CAPA course, the student sitting next to me explained that he was taking the course as part of a consent decree with the USFDA. Evidently. his company had hundreds of open CAPAs that were not being closed promptly, and the CAPAs were ineffective when the records were finally closed.

Hundreds of open CAPAs?!

I was in total shock. You probably only have five to ten open CAPAs at your company. How could anyone have hundreds open?

He told me that every time a customer asked for technical support, a person was paged. If the page was not answered within three minutes, this was considered a customer complaint, and a new CAPA was opened automatically. The course instructor described the situation as “Death by CAPA.” His company did three things wrong    

1. Overreaction with Microscopic Focus

The company incorrectly identified failure to meet the three minute target response time as a customer complaint. Also, several complaints related to the same issue should not result in a CAPA specific to each complaint.

2. Lack of Management Oversight

Nobody was tracking how long CAPAs remained open. There were no actions taken when target completion dates were missed. There were no reports to management on the status of CAPAs, and the only time CAPAs were discussed in a meeting was at the annual Management Review meeting.    

3. Failure to Check Effectiveness

Instead of verifying that corrective actions were effective, the company confirmed that corrective actions were implemented. Most of the corrective actions involved “retraining” or “revising the procedure.”

For any process to work correctly, you need to ensure that the process can handle the volume. If one person is responsible for managing hundreds of CAPAs each year, the CAPA process will be ineffective. You need more resources or fewer CAPAs. My recommendation is to use a CAPA filter.

 

Capa funnel photo CAPA Training Remediation Case Study: Hundreds of Open CAPAs

A CAPA filter does two things. First, it sorts CAPAs into problem categories. For example, all the poor response times to pages should be one problem with one CAPA. Second, a CAPA filter sorts CAPAs according to risk. A response to a page within five minutes instead of three minutes results in a customer waiting longer. A customer receiving no response could have a more severe impact, especially if the customer has diabetes that cannot seem to get their glucose monitoring device to work correctly.

Trend Analysis

Therefore, response rates to pages should be a metric subject to monitoring and measuring—not necessarily a CAPA. You have a positive trend if the number of late responses is declining, and the average delay is steadily shrinking. In this case, there may be no need for a CAPA. You have a negative trend if the number of late responses is increasing, or the average delay is getting longer. In this case, one or two CAPAs may be needed—not one CAPA for each occurrence.

Depending upon the issue, there may be a safety issue associated with extreme limits. In this case, it is recommended to establish alert limits and action limits. Alert limits may increase the frequency of monitoring and measuring, and corrections may also be implemented. However, if the action limit is reached, then a CAPA may be required.

Quality Plan

When I audit a company, it is not uncommon to observe a problem and to quickly identify a root cause. This frequently happens when the issue is familiar to many companies, and the root cause is: 1) inadequate procedures, 2) insufficient training, or 3) inadequate management oversight. If the problem is limited to one area, a CAPA may be entirely appropriate. However, if I observe the same type of problems in several areas, then the root cause is systemic. This can happen in a company where the following problems exist at the same time:

  1. The training procedure does not require demonstrating training effectiveness
  2. Employees are only required to “read and understand” procedures
  3. The top management has put a “freeze” on spending related to training

In a small company, this trifecta of doom is not uncommon. Therefore, in these cases, a CAPA does not address the root cause. Many companies will mistakenly identify the root cause as an “inadequate procedure.” The correction will be to fix the problem caused by the inadequate procedure. The corrective action will be to revise the procedure.

This is only a partial solution because it does not address the root cause. A stronger approach is to identify the root cause as an “ineffective training process.” The correction will be the same. The corrective action, however, will be expanded to include the initiation of a Quality Plan for changing the company training process.

The combined approach of a CAPA plan and a Quality Plan is a better solution because the process change will affect the entire Quality Management System and will require many months to implement fully. This is especially true if resources are constrained.

Here are a couple of upcoming webinars I am doing on CAPA and Complaint Handling:

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When to Initiate a Corrective And Preventative Action (CAPA)

This blog reviews the differences between a corrective action and preventive action, and when to initiate a corrective and preventive action.

I’ve completed almost 100 audits in the past two years, and I review the Corrective Action and Preventive Action (CAPA) process during every single audit. Surprisingly, this seems to be a process with more variation from company to company than almost any other process I review. This also seems to be a major source of nonconformities. In the ISO 13485 Standard, clause 8.5.2 (Corrective Action) and clause 8.5.3 (Preventive Action) have almost identical requirements. Third-party auditors, however, emphasize that these are two separate clauses. We are purists. Although we acknowledge that companies may implement preventive actions as an extension to a corrective action, we also expect to see examples of actions that are strictly preventive in nature.

Many companies seem to be confused, but it doesn’t need to be.  Just ask yourself one question. What is the source of this action?

If the answer is a complaint, audit nonconformity or rejected components—then your actions are corrective.

If the answer is a negative trend that is still within specifications or an “Opportunity For Improvement” (OFI) identified by an auditor—then your actions are preventive.

Root Cause Investigation

If you are investigating the root cause of a complaint, people will sample additional records to estimate the frequency of the quality issue. I describe this as investigating the depth of a problem. The FDA emphasizes the need to review other product lines, or processes, to determine if a similar problem exists. I describe this as investigating the breadth of a problem. Most companies describe actions taken on other product lines and/or processes as “preventive actions.” This is not always accurate. If a problem is found elsewhere, actions taken are corrective. If potential problems are found elsewhere, actions taken are preventive. You could have both types of actions, but most people incorrectly identify corrective actions as preventive actions.

Another common mistake is to characterize corrections as corrective actions.

The most striking difference between companies seems to be the number of CAPAs they initiate. There are many reasons, but the primary reason is the failure to use a risk-based approach to CAPAs. Not every quality issue should result in the initiation of a formal CAPA. The first step is to investigate the root cause of a quality issue. The FDA requires that the root cause investigation is documented, but if you already have an open CAPA for the same root cause…

DO NOT OPEN A NEW CAPA!!!

If you do not have a CAPA open for the root cause that you identify, then what should you do?

I know this will shock everyone, but…it depends.

The image below gives you my basic philosophy.

death by capa When to Initiate a Corrective And Preventative Action (CAPA)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most investigations document the estimated probability of occurrence for a quality issue. This is only half of the necessary risk analysis I describe below. Another aspect of an investigation is to document the severity of potential harm resulting from the quality issue. If customer satisfaction, safety, or efficacy are affected by a quality issue—the severity is big. Risk is the product of severity and probability of occurrence.

Estimated Risk-Initiating a Corrective And Preventive Action (CAPA)

If the estimated risk is low and the probability of occurrence is known, then alert limits and action limits can be statistically derived. These quality issues are candidates for continued trend analysis—although the alert limit or action limit may be modified in response to an investigation. If the trend analysis results in identifying events that require action, then that is the time when a formal CAPA should be opened. If the trend remains below your alert limit, then no formal CAPA is needed.

If the estimated risk is moderate or the probability of occurrence is unknown, then a formal CAPA should be considered. Ideally, you will be able to establish a baseline for the occurrence and demonstrate that frequency decreases upon the implementation of corrective actions. If you can demonstrate a significant drop in frequency, this verifies the effectiveness of actions taken. If you need statistics to show a difference, then your actions are not effective.

If the estimated risk is high, or there are multiple causes that require multiple corrective actions, a quality improvement plan may be more appropriate. There are two clauses in the Standard that apply. Clause 5.4.2 addresses the planning of changes to the Quality Management System. For example, if you correct problems with your incoming inspection process—this addresses 5.4.2. Clause 7.1 addresses the planning of product realization. For example, if you correct problems with a component specification where the incoming inspection process is not effective, this addresses 7.1. Depending upon the number of contributing causes and the complexity of implementing solutions, the plan could be longer or shorter. If it will take more than 90 days to implement corrective action, you might consider the following approach.

Step 1 – open a CAPA

Step 2 – identify the initiation of a quality plan as one of your corrective actions

Step 3 – close the CAPA when your quality plan is initiated (i.e., – documented and approved)

Step 4 –verify effectiveness by reviewing the progress of the quality plan in management reviews and other meeting forums…you can cross-reference the CAPA with the appropriate management review meeting minutes in your effectiveness section

If the corrective action required is the installation of new equipment and validating that equipment, the CAPA can be closed as soon as a validation plan is created. The effectiveness of the CAPA is verified when the validation protocol is successfully implemented and a positive conclusion is reached. The same approach also works for implementing software solutions to better manage processes. The basic strategy is to get the long-term improvement projects started with the CAPA system, but monitor the status of these projects outside the CAPA system.

Best practices would be the implementation of six-sigma projects with formal charters for each long-term improvement project.

NOTE: I believe in closing CAPAs when actions are implemented, and tracking the effectiveness checks for CAPAs as a separate quality system metric. If closure takes more than 90 days, the CAPA should probably be converted to a Quality Plan. This is NOT intended to be a “workaround” to give companies a way to extend CAPAs that are not making progress in a timely manner.

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