What is CAPA

Guide: Corrective and Preventive Actions (CAPA)

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Daniel Croft

Daniel Croft is an experienced continuous improvement manager with a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and a Bachelor's degree in Business Management. With more than ten years of experience applying his skills across various industries, Daniel specializes in optimizing processes and improving efficiency. His approach combines practical experience with a deep understanding of business fundamentals to drive meaningful change.

The importance of a systematic approach to addressing discrepancies cannot be overstated in an era where quality assurance is paramount. The Corrective and Preventive Actions (CAPA) methodology is a beacon in this realm, providing a structured path to not only identifying and resolving nonconformities, but also preventing their recurrence. CAPA, which is widely recognized in a variety of industries ranging from healthcare to manufacturing, not only improves the quality and dependability of products and services but also fosters a culture of continuous improvement. This guide walks businesses through the CAPA process step by step, ensuring they are prepared to face challenges and raise their standards.

Table of Contents

What is CAPA?

Corrective and Preventive Actions (CAPA) form a key approach in quality management systems. They provide a structured approach to managing and resolving issues as they arise. Both corrective and preventive actions are often used within other methodologies, such as 8D.

CAPA is divided into two focuses:

  • Correct Actions: Corrective actions focus on identifying and resolving existing issues, which are often triggered by customer complaints, the results of internal or external audits, and process monitoring.
  • Preventive Actions: Preventive actions are a proactive approach to identifying potential failures before they result in actually being an issue and allowing businesses to take action to prevent them. 

Corrective Actions

Corrective actions target existing problems and  usually follow the following steps:

Step 1: Identification

The first step of taking corrective action is to identify existing issues or non-conformity. These can come in various forms such as customer feedback or complaints, internal audits, external audits from customers who review your processes, government regulator audits, or internal performance metrics. 

Most medium to large businesses will have various forms of audits such as finance, health and safety or environmental, the audits review processes and usually result in corrective actions needing to be taken.

Step 2: Investigation

Once an issue has been identified the next step is to understand the cause of the issue. Structured methods are usually used to understand the root cause of the issue that occurred in the first place.

Root cause analysis tools such as Fishbone Analysis or 5 Whys are usually used. These tools are used as they provide a clear demonstration of root cause analysis of the issue which can be demonstrated to the stakeholder who raised the issue, such as the auditor or customer.

Fishbone diagram Lean Six SIgma Tool Ishikawa Diagrams Root Cause Analysis (RCA) Fish Bone Diagram Ishikawa Diagram Cause and Effect Diagram

Step 3: Action Plan

Once the root cause analysis is complete and the root cause of the issue has been identified, the next step is to take action to address the root cause. This could involve changes to the process, training staff, or investment in new or upgraded equipment. These actions need to demonstrate that they resolve the problem that was identified.

Step 4: Review

Finally, after the actions are implemented, there should be a review of the effectiveness of the actions. To understand if the actions sufficiently resolved the problem, if they did not the cycle should be repeated again until the issue is fully resolved.

Preventive Actions

Preventive actions are proactive measures that aim to reduce the likelihood of problems occurring in the first place. Where Corrective Actions deal with existing issues, Preventive Actions seek to avoid potential future issues.

Here’s a breakdown of the steps involved:

Step 1: Forecasting

The first step in taking preventive action is to foresee ways in which potential issues might occur. This can involve looking at KPIs for trends, control charts behaviour, FMEA, SWOT analysis, customer feedback, and market trends.

Step 2: Risk Assessment

Once the potential risks of failure are identified, the next step is to assess the risk. A risk assessment looks into what the impact, detectability and likelihood of the risk occuring and can be scored a risk priority number (RPN) which is calculated when using an FMEA analysis

Example of FMEA:

FMEA Step 8

Step 3: Action Plan

Based on the risk assessment, a preventive action plan should then be developed. This could involve process changes, employee training, or resource allocation. 

Step 4: Review

Preventive actions are not a set-it-and-forget-it process; they are a continuous process of reviewing and improving. Businesses need to continuously monitor processes and feedback, adjust, and improve as necessary.


Through its systematic approach, CAPA is two-fold: It addresses current non-conformities via Corrective Actions and aims to reduce future risks through Preventive Actions. This guide provided you a structured walk-through of each stage in the CAPA process, ensuring your business is fully equipped to both tackle challenges and elevate its standards. So, it’s not just about compliance or ticking boxes; it’s about ingraining a culture of continuous improvement.


A: The CAPA process aims to identify, address, and prevent nonconformities or issues within processes, products, or services, ensuring continuous improvement and adherence to quality standards.

A: Corrective Actions address existing nonconformities or issues, ensuring they do not recur. In contrast, Preventive Actions focus on identifying potential issues or risks and implementing measures to prevent them from occurring in the first place.

A: Root Cause Analysis (RCA) identifies the underlying reasons for an issue, rather than just addressing its symptoms. By understanding and addressing the root cause, organizations can implement more effective and long-lasting solutions.

A: Absolutely! Documenting each step of the CAPA process ensures traceability, facilitates reviews, provides evidence for regulatory compliance, and offers a reference for future problem-solving activities.

A: Several tools aid RCA, including the “5 Whys” technique, Fishbone Diagram (Ishikawa), and Fault Tree Analysis. The choice of tool depends on the nature of the problem and the preference of the investigating team.

A: The frequency of the Effectiveness Review can vary based on the severity of the initial issue and the industry’s regulatory standards. However, it’s generally advised to set regular intervals (e.g., monthly, quarterly) to ensure continued effectiveness of implemented actions.

A: A blame-free environment promotes openness and transparency. When team members feel safe reporting issues without fear of reprisal, it leads to quicker identification and resolution of problems and encourages a culture of continuous improvement.


Daniel Croft

Daniel Croft

Daniel Croft is a seasoned continuous improvement manager with a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma. With over 10 years of real-world application experience across diverse sectors, Daniel has a passion for optimizing processes and fostering a culture of efficiency. He's not just a practitioner but also an avid learner, constantly seeking to expand his knowledge. Outside of his professional life, Daniel has a keen Investing, statistics and knowledge-sharing, which led him to create the website learnleansigma.com, a platform dedicated to Lean Six Sigma and process improvement insights.

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