Corrective or Preventative Action: What’s the Difference?

As simple as it may seem corrective action and preventative action (CAPA) can become confusing. When it comes to CAPA, there is a problem within your company or business that needs to be fixed and analyzing the root cause is a good way to find what is making the problem occur and/or recur. This article will seek to show a few tools that can be helpful in analyzing CAPA. A case might be helpful looking at the problem and the process of correction.

 Case Study – A Man and His Jacket

Let’s look at an example: a man goes to work each day, heading out the door grabbing things that he needs. But on this day, he forgets to bring his rain jacket. The occurrence of not having a rain jacket leads him to walk under overhangs, attempting to share another’s umbrella, and generally ruin his nice suit.

What is the man’s problem? Was the problem not having a rain jacket or forgetting it? Maybe, it would be easier to blame the weather that he did not watch.


For this case study and for CAPA it is helpful to look at what occurs and what recurs, which might take the case study a little further down its narrative trail. What specifically occurred: man goes to work, grabs things, forgets rain jacket, it rains, he walks under overhangs, shares umbrella, and ruins suit. The occurrence tells the story back on itself; they are similar to the inputs of experience (Ins and Outs of Design, Development, and Review). What then are the recurrences? Asking that question is a bit harder without asking a few more questions of the story. Otherwise, what recurs could be nothing because it is a one day snap shot.

Corrective Action

It would be simple to form a corrective action for this man. Do not forget your jacket as a key imperative, and implement it with some help from his family. But it would be much harder if the man forgets his jacket at work in the first place, or he lost it entirely.


The recurrence of the man’s forgetfulness is much harder to stop. Now there are “five why questions” that can help in this situation. Here is the link: Sig Sigma Tool. Here is a video explaining the 5 Why’s: click here.


Let’s follow the narrative trail to see what the forgetful man can do to prevent forgetting his jacket.

Q: Why did you forget your coat?

Man: It was not hanging on the hook.

Q: Why was it not hanging on the hook?

Man: I lost it last week.

Q: Why did you not replace it?

Man: I did not need it.

Q: Why did you not need it?

Man: It did not rain.

Q: Did you know it was going to rain before it rained?

Man: No.

Q: Do you pay attention to the weather forecast?

Man: No.

 Analysis of the Why

It would be simple to say as an imperative: to replace all lost jackets immediately, have more than one jacket in multiple locations, pay attention to the weather and plan accordingly, and make sure everyone in your household is aware this same list.

Root Cause – Benefits of Recognition          

The root cause of a problem for a company can save money, and also provides safety in procedures. Even though this narrative is rather arbitrary, life can be that way. A company can use the five whys to analyze their potential actions, with some thought and practice, a company can change potential occurrences to those that are prevented in the first place before recurrence.

We at K & S Quality Associates are committed to helping companies look and design a method for handling corrective action occurrences and preventive action recurrence. If your organization is interested in benefiting from international standards, CAPA implementation, or just has general questions please email

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