One of the fundamental considerations of manufacturers is ensuring that whatever they’re producing meets certain quality standards. Those standards are either set internally by manufacturers or, in some cases, by industry regulators. When they aren’t met, nonconformance reporting is a vital tool for getting production processes back on track.

What is a nonconformance report?

A nonconformance report (sometimes known as a nonconformity report, or NCR) is a document that captures details of an incident where standards have not been met. It explains why the event happened and outlines how it can be prevented from occurring again.

Nonconformances may not necessarily result in the production of defective physical products. The term also refers to when processes used in production do not align with standard operating procedures (SOPs) and approved work instructions.

Whether or not the incident has resulted in defective products being made, the purpose of detailing the event in a report is to provide a learning opportunity so manufacturing processes can be improved moving forward.

What’s included in a nonconformance report?

To maximize its effectiveness, an NCR should be customized and structured to meet the specific circumstances and requirements of your organization.

In general, however, it should be formatted to capture the following information:

  • The Situation: An outline of what happened to bring about the nonconformance, where and when it occurred, and what personnel was involved.

  • The Cause: An explanation of how and why the nonconformance occurred. This may include a detailed failure analysis.

  • Corrective Actions: Details of the corrective actions taken (or that are planned to be taken) to address the incident.

  • Preventive Actions: An explanation of preventive actions that are required to ensure that a similar failure does not occur again. If action has already been taken, has it proven to be effective in preventing a reoccurrence of the problem?

  • Disposition: What the organization needs to do with the nonconforming product, part, or process at the heart of the problem. In the case of a product, does it need to be scraped, or can it be repaired or reworked to comply with the required standard?

The importance of NCRs in quality management

NCRs are an important component of a manufacturing organization’s quality management system (QMS) which will require operators to document nonconformances, along with details of the action taken to remedy them.

There are several reasons NCRs are important:

  • To ensure quality and compliance: By clearly and methodically identifying nonconformances when they occur, manufacturers can ensure they are producing products to the standards required by customers and regulators. Ongoing failure to achieve the necessary quality standards would have obvious negative impacts on a manufacturer’s reputation and, ultimately, its ability to remain in business.

  • To prevent nonconformances from reoccurring: Through the documentation and identification of the causes of nonconformities, NCRs help prevent those nonconformities from happening again. This leads to improved product quality and boosts operational efficiency.

  • To enable product improvements: By surfacing problems and highlighting solutions, NCRs contribute to improving processes and, ultimately, the quality of the products being manufactured.

  • To reduce operational costs: Lessons learned and implemented as a result of NCRs can have a significant impact on reducing costs by minimizing scrap, waste, and the need for rework. Improved quality can also result in better profit margins on the products a manufacturer sells.

  • To improve efficiencies: Similarly, implementing the findings of NCRs can result in a more streamlined operation, with resulting savings across everything from reduced energy input costs to fewer overtime payments for factory staff.

What happens when a nonconformance report is created?

Like any report, an NCR will only be effective if its findings are acted upon, lessons are learned, and changes are implemented.

Organizations all have their own unique processes for responding to a nonconformance, preparing an NCR, and acting on its findings, as part of their wider QMS. One approach is to have nonconformities dealt with by a nonconformance board. Made up of personnel from across relevant parts of the organization, the board’s role includes deciding how to deal with nonconforming products, overseeing the NCR process, and implementing NCR findings.

When an organization finds itself dealing with a nonconformance that has resulted in the manufacturing of substandard products, decisions need to be made about what happens to those products. Can they still be used or sold? If not, can they be repaired, regraded, or reworked? Or do they need to be scrapped? A nonconformance board’s decision is likely to be guided by the contents of the NCR.

Building nonconformance reports into your digital workflows

NCRs are most effective when they are integrated into a conformance monitoring solution that is part of an organization-wide digital QMS.

Having a digital solution enables an organization to more seamlessly implement all aspects for conformance: from monitoring to documenting nonconformities, and assigning and tracking the steps required to take corrective action.

With Tulip, manufacturers are able to build quality management practices into their production processes resulting in a streamlined, simplified nonconformance report. By leveraging digital workflows built in Tulip, every step of the production process is tracked and accounted for, preventing nonconforming processes in the first place.

When quality issues do arise, inline quality checks help operators document defects and nonconformances in real-time, allowing them to document details, causes, and even images of the specific problems. As a result, nonconformances can be responded to much more quickly, and necessary actions can be taken to correct the problem.

If you’re interested in learning how Tulip can help streamline quality management practices and digitize nonconformance reports, reach out to a member of our team today!

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