Creating Your Reaction Plan: 3 Essential Steps


Imagine the following scenario:

An audit reveals a machine that’s out of calibration, impacting an unknown quantity of product. Upon discovery, the auditor makes a note to alert the supervisor and initiates a maintenance request to resolve the issue.

Two weeks later, the problem happens again, along with multiple customer complaints and a spike in warranty claims.

The problem? An ineffective reaction plan that failed to adequately resolve the problem in the first place and prevent it from happening again.

A reaction plan plays several key roles in the quality process:

  • Ensures problems don’t fall through the cracks
  • Communicates the importance of quality
  • Supports a culture of quality

Reaction plans are also central to layered process audits (LPAs), which use a large number of short audits to provide insight into plant floor quality.

Here we look at the three essential steps in a reaction plan, which should be used anytime there’s a quality event such as a complaint, defect or audit finding. We’ll also discuss a problem that can derail the reaction plan—no matter how carefully you’ve prepared ahead of time.

Step 1: Containment

The first step in your reaction plan is containment, where you set aside any potentially impacted products so that they cannot reach the customer.

For example, let’s say a plant floor audit uncovers that a machine’s mold pressure setting was incorrect. The first step in minimizing the impact on customers would be to identify the extent of the problem, setting aside and clearly marking any suspect parts.

The reaction plan should state who is responsible for containment and should require individuals to document any containment actions they take.

Step 2: Mitigation

The second step in the reaction plan is mitigation, which is an immediate action to get the process into compliance and stop the problem from spreading any further.

Examples include:

  • Correcting the mold pressure setting on a specific piece of equipment
  • Submitting a maintenance request to calibrate a machine
  • Having an operator change how they perform a certain procedure

It’s worth noting that not every problem identified will require a full investigation and corrective action. Conducting on-the-spot mitigations can help avoid overloading your quality system with a large number of minor problems that are easily fixed.

Again, it’s critical to document any mitigation actions taken. Whether it’s a complaint, safety incident or audit finding, the reaction plan should also identify who to notify about the problem.

Step 3: Corrective Action

The third step in the reaction plan is the corrective action, which is a more detailed process of investigation and problem-solving aimed at problems that have the potential for recurrence.

Different approaches to root cause analysis and problem-solving include:

Digital Strategies for Closing the Loop

The importance of creating a closed-loop reaction plan cannot be understated. That’s because without a method of ensuring follow-through, the plan can fall by the wayside at any point in the process.

People get busy. Emails get buried. Over time, systems tend toward entropy or disorder. A process aligned with the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) process approach ensures that critical problems don’t end up falling through the cracks.

Plan - Do - Check - Act
Plan: Define the reaction plan / Do: Execute the reaction plan / Check: Verify corrective actions / Act: Make necessary adjustments

Today, digital tools like mobile audit software are enabling manufacturers to create automated, closed-loop processes that ensure problems are prioritized effectively.

So what does this kind of process look like?

  • Audit questions display containment, mitigation and other follow-up steps so auditors know exactly what to do in the case of a finding
  • Actions are documented in a centralized system
  • Supervisors are notified automatically of any incidents requiring their attention
  • Responsible parties receive emails of any assigned action items and due dates
  • New audit questions are added to verify whether corrections are in place and working

The result: more transparency into problems and fewer places where problem-solving can get derailed.

The reaction plan is a critical part of the quality process, and there’s no question that manufacturers must get it right to reduce complaints and costs. By clearly defining, consistently executing and automating their reaction plans, companies can minimize quality escapes and their costly impacts on customers and the bottom line.

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