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Denise Robitaille


Benefitting from Supplier Corrective Actions

If they fix it, will you know the difference?

Published: Tuesday, February 7, 2006 - 23:00

Part of the problem with corrective actions has long been the proliferation of requests for things that just don’t meet the criteria. Significant progress toward selecting the problems that warrant corrective action has been made in recent years. This has improved the image of corrective actions and the effectiveness of the results. Many folks have gone from viewing them as meaningless paper-shuffles to recognizing them as sources of improvement.

Just as you need to be judicious in your internal deliberations when launching a corrective action request (CAR), you must also have defined criteria when requesting similar action from your suppliers.

It’s appropriate for organizations to have a defined process for supplier corrective actions. This includes consideration for responsibility, documentation, implementation and verification of effectiveness.

Authorization and responsibility
Who in your organization is authorized to issue a request for corrective action to your suppliers? The people who have the responsibility and the authority should understand the process, utilize established criteria and work within defined guidelines. Purchasing staff are the most suitable choice as they communicate regularly with the supplier’s contact person. Sending the supplier CAR (also referred to as a SCAR) to the wrong person or department almost guarantees that you won’t get a response, or that the action taken won’t be appropriate to the problem.

The other advantage of addressing the supplier CAR to the right person is that you avoid ruffling feathers or damaging a well-established relationship. It’s never a good idea to send out a CAR to suppliers without communicating with the individuals who generated the original purchase orders.

When requesting corrective action from your suppliers as you do internally, you should apply the same criteria.

Before you even begin to consider sending a CAR to your vendor, do your homework. Make sure that your purchase order or contract clearly and completely spells out your requirement. Check that you have provided them current, correct and unambiguous specifications. Once you’ve established that the cause of the problem doesn’t reside within your own walls, you can begin to decide if a corrective action request is warranted.

The important stipulation from ISO 9001 sub-clause 8.5.2: must be heeded: “Corrective actions shall be appropriate to the effects of the nonconformities encountered.”
If an organization doesn’t adequately define and control the inputs into the decision-making process, they can inundate themselves—and their suppliers—with noncritical problems better resolved through containment, remediation or simple correction.

If you don’t establish criteria, you have no way of answering the question: “How serious is this?” The second question is: “Do we really want our supplier to expend time and money working on this problem?” The propagation of unwarranted corrective actions is counter-productive to the relationship you’ve built with the vendor.

By establishing criteria, you make the decision less capricious, removing the guesswork that isn’t grounded in verifiable fact. This helps to avoid presumptuous conclusions and diminishes the likelihood that one person will exercise undue influence over the decision to issue a corrective action to a supplier.

Data indispensable to this decision-making process will include metrics relating to:

  • Have they sent you defective material before?
  • How many times have they missed a delivery?
  • How much is this problem costing us?

Combined with this objective data is the assessment of risk.

  • Is there risk of loss of life or bodily harm?
  • Will you miss an important delivery?
  • Will you lose a customer?
  • Will you incur a fine?
  • How great is the cost of not addressing this problem?

Have a deliberation process for deciding when to issue supplier CARs. And don’t ask them to conduct the same meaningless exercises some of your customers occasionally foist on you. Corrective actions should ultimately present an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with a vendor and to improve both organizations.

Once you’ve exercised the option to issue a supplier CAR, what documentation needs to be assembled? What exactly are you going to send them? At a minimum, you should send the following:

  • Corrective action request
  • A cover letter defining what you require from them
  • Supporting documentation


  • What do you want from the vendor?
  • Do you want them to assign one specific person to be your primary contact for the corrective action process?
  • Do you have a preliminary date by which you need their root cause analysis, plan for corrective action and anticipated date of completion?
  • Have you considered asking them if you can participate in the corrective action?
  • Is it alright for them to use their own forms or do they have to use yours?
  • Do you wish to be apprised of progress if the plan is going to take several months?
  • Will you require them to submit their plan for your approval?
  • What do they have to furnish in terms of inspection data, test data or other documents before you can close it out?

How are you going to know what the outcome of their plan was? The same rules that relate to your internal CAR process apply to supplier corrective actions. If it’s important enough to ask the supplier to expend the resources to conduct corrective action, it’s worth taking the time to find out if what they did worked.

What signifies to you that everything is done? Have all the deliverables been met? Has their plan been implemented? Did it work? Are you satisfied with the outcome? Do you have all the documentation, evidence, sign-offs, etc., that your process requires? Only when your requirements have been fulfilled is it appropriate to close-out any corrective action.

One of the biggest benefits of supplier corrective actions, besides actually solving a problem, is that it provides you with evidence that the suppliers are capable of addressing nonconformances. This should be factored into your analysis of their performance. Vendors should get the opportunity to be recognized for their willingness to accept accountability for their errors and for expending the resources to make sure they don’t happen again.


About The Author

Denise Robitaille’s picture

Denise Robitaille

Denise Robitaille is the author of thirteen books, including: ISO 9001:2015 Handbook for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses.

She is chair of PC302, the project committee responsible for the revision to ISO 19011, an active member of USTAG to ISO/TC 176 and technical expert on the working group that developed the current version of ISO 9004:2018. She has participated internationally in standards development for over 15 years. She is a globally recognized speaker and trainer. Denise is a Fellow of the American Society for Quality and an Exemplar Global certified lead assessor and an ASQ certified quality auditor.

As principal of Robitaille Associates, she has helped many companies achieve ISO 9001 registration and to improve their quality management systems. She has conducted training courses for thousands of individuals on such topics as auditing, corrective action, document control, root cause analysis, and implementing ISO 9001. Among Denise’s books are: 9 Keys to Successful Audits, The (Almost) Painless ISO 9001:2015 Transition and The Corrective Action Handbook. She is a frequent contributor to several quality periodicals.


Supplier Corrective Action Request

Can and should a "SCAR" be implemented in cases where the parts did not come from your stock?