How to Streamline Non-Conformance Reporting

October 21, 2022


What is an NCR?

There are many standards required by manufacturers to operate safely and create quality products. ISO 9001 provides guidance for the industry by highlighting these standards. Nonetheless, although manufacturers like yourself work relentlessly to conform to regulations, it is not uncommon for things to go wrong. When you don’t meet a standard, either in product quality or adherence to a process, a non-conformance arises. If this happens, it is important that you document it and identify the root cause issue, to minimise recurrences.

A non-conformance report (NCR) documents the failure that occurred, the parties involved, the corrective action implemented and a root cause analysis. All parties involved in the non-conformity must be included in the resolution process to correctly identify a solution and prevent a recurrence.

Challenges with existing NCR management

Whilst an NCR is a crucial element of the non-conformity procedure, it’s not always the most efficient procedure. This can cause delays, leading to lower productivity and a loss of profit. Let’s take a look at the scenario below.

Stephen’s situation

Let me introduce you to Stephen, the Quality Supervisor for a Special Process company. A staff member informs him that a previous batch has not been cured correctly due to an inadequate temperature reading. Stephen reports this issue as a non-conformance on his ERP system and produces a report template. Stephen needs to undertake every step carefully to ensure that the failure doesn’t happen again. He sends the report to the parties at fault and continues with his other daily tasks.

Two days have passed, and Stephen is unsure on the next steps of the NCR, so he mentions this to the Quality Manager. Stephen learns that all stakeholders must be informed, and he hasn’t done this. Consequently, two customers have received rejected materials. Unfortunately, Stephen’s mistake was due to a lack of understanding in the NCR process. However, regardless of this, one customer has rejected the materials due to non-conformity. Another customer, who was expecting a delivery of materials, has contacted the company requesting an update on the delay. Stephen is now in a difficult situation with several parties as the NCR is inadequate. As a result, numerous stakeholders are losing time and money.

Let’s step away from Stephen’s situation for a minute. We can see that there is a confusion on which step needs to take priority when undertaking an NCR. Consequently, this cost Stephen’s company, and their stakeholders delays and additional costs.

The advantages of digital NCR management

Due to their nature, companies operating in the high value manufacturing sectors risk extremely negative consequences should something go wrong. We’ve established that everyone makes mistakes, but a lack of understanding in non-conformance reporting will increase the likelihood of those mistakes. So, how can we simplify the process to make it easier, and ensure the future quality of products and processes?

Standardised NCR processes

The first advantage of digitalising the NCR process is to standardise the steps required. If Stephen had a checklist that enabled him to work through the NCR step-by-step, he could prevent the rejected materials from reaching any customers. We believe two employees will complete work differently if they do not have a procedure to follow. This means that they will complete your NCRs to a different standard. Even though every non-conformance is unique, the process of completing an NCR for your company will be almost identical. Standardising your NCR process will ensure all employees to undertake NCRs in a reliable, universal manner. Whilst this is still possible without digitalisation, it is much harder to maintain. Mountains of paperwork that need to be filed, difficulty reading handwriting, duplicated notes, several versions of documentation… sound familiar?

Digitalising your NCR process will make it simple to ensure everyone is using the same form rather than an outdated spreadsheet. There will be minimal risk of duplicated data entries and human error as you only need to enter the information once and moving to a digital method will allow you to maintain a central repository of all NCRs.

Improved quality and consistency

We know that the quality of every single NCR would be improved if your employees were able to quantify success. By digitising your NCR process, staff members will be able to clarify how comprehensively steps have been achieved. With the option of different question types, managers can create scaled questions which can be assigned a score. So, each participant’s response to the NCR can be scored on the process form, enabling the responsible staff member to request a resubmission if they provide insufficient evidence. This will therefore improve the consistency of all NCRs within your company and simplify quality compliance.

Question types on Data Capture

Simplify audit traceability

Are you still undecided on whether to take the plunge? Think of your current NCR process. When conducting an internal audit, you may notice missing paperwork, messy handwriting, or that information is missing. However, digitalised NCRs hold the benefit of being fully completed, every box ticked, with a full audit log of activity. Managers can set mandatory fields so they can’t be missed, and version control will ensure all staff are working on the latest revision. This ensures both quality and consistency of documentation, and easily provides full traceability at the click of a button. This saves a vast amount of time and would also give you an additional line of support during audits and updates to affected stakeholders.

Improved communication

With a digital platform, you can check current progress on NCRs in real-time. You can view when a staff member opens them, identifies a root cause, and when they undertake a corrective action. This gives you visibility to know what impact, if any, the non-conformance is having on your production. Maybe a faulty machine is causing the issue which hinders delivery performance for this job (and now you can let the customer know straight away). Potentially, the machine fault means that you have to re-allocate jobs to different machines. Or maybe it’s something which can be fixed easily without affecting the current batch. Being aware of issues as soon as possible is vital, and digitalisation can save you valuable time to speed up the discovery.

Team management

Following on from the need to identify and resolve issues quickly, digitalising NCR management can further streamline team and action management. Let’s take a look at the typical process. You might find a non-conformance in an inspection, but then complete an NCR in the office once the inspection is finished. Despite opening an NCR for any issues found, you would still have to action someone to investigate the issue, and they’d have to report back to you, for someone else to fix the issue. By this time, a couple of days may have passed.

With digital NCR management, you can issue a job to someone during the identification procedure, right on the shop floor. That person can add photos and evidence of the issue when capturing the root cause, and immediately send that to you to action the maintenance person. And, you can monitor who is assigned to which tasks and when they’re being completed.

Data Capture taskboard for employees
Data Capture taskboard for employees

Should you digitalise your NCR process?

On the other hand, you may have got as far as digitising your NCRs, but you are still wondering whether digitalising your NCR process is worth it. A well-written NCR will highlight the non-conformance that has taken place, investigate the issue adequately, and undertake root cause analysis to minimise the fault from happening again whilst providing information on how to overcome it concisely if it does. A step-by-step digitalised process that syncs with your ERP system will make it highly likely that you can improve on safety, quality, and cost within your company.

Data Capture

With decades of experience in High value manufacturing sectors, Fitfactory understands the drain in producing manual excel reports and the tiresome task of maintaining paper audit trails. That’s why we have developed Data Capture; an intelligent tool that drives continuous improvement for internal processes. If you’re now searching for a reliable platform to use to digitalise your NCR process, why not use Data Capture?

By using Data Capture, you can build a bespoke NCR process form that is unique to your business. With a variety of question types available, designing a process form is simple. You can also export completed forms as PDFs, providing you and your stakeholder with one source of seamless, truthful information. If you like the idea of a trouble-free NCR process, Data Capture can help. Assign tasks to staff members working on the NCR and track their progress via the Data Capture taskboard. If you’re looking to increase productivity further, use the built-in metrics to analyse staff performance within a matter of seconds.

Non-conformance form on Data Capture
Non-conformance form on Data Capture

Are you looking for an effortless NCR option? Use Data Capture’s Library of templates to find a ready-made NCR template that is perfect for your business. For even more features, take a look at some more information on our internal processes solution.

For help on streamlining your NCR process, our team at Fitfactory are happy to help. Contact us today to set up Data Capture for your business.

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