Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fix and Prevent Mistakes and Deficiencies in the Workplace

Meyer Moldeven


Edited September 20, 2010

'. . . chart a course for every endeavor that we take the people's money for, see how well we are progressing, tell the public how we are doing, stop the things that don't work, and never stop improving the things that we think are worth investing in.

President William J. Clinton, on signing the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993


(Excerpt, page 22) Initial Implementing Guidance for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

[para] '3.8 What risk mitigation actions must [government] agencies take for risks specific to their agency and programs?

'… agencies should develop mitigation plans that align with specific risks. At a minimum, agencies should focus on those risks with the highest probability of occurrence and the greatest impact if not mitigated. As with the common government-wide risks, agencies are strongly encouraged to identify common agency risks and corresponding accountability objectives.

'Agencies should ensure whether final action has been taken regarding weaknesses or deficiencies disclosed by prior audits and investigations in program areas under which Recovery Act funds are authorized. If final action has not been completed, agencies should: (1) expedite such action to preclude the continuance of such weaknesses or deficiencies in the administration of Recovery Act funded programs; or (2) provide an explanation of why such corrective actions cannot or should not be taken in the administration of Recovery Act funded programs.'

(Rare indeed is the 'government' entity that does not interact commercially with a NGO or private sector business. The product quality of hardware, support or services of one inevitably extends to and generally affects others.)


Building K-20 Connections; A Review of the Issues and Current Models in K-20 Education

'How can we ensure that all of today’s K-12 students become motivated and engaged learners? How do we prepare today’s high school graduates for the rigors of postsecondary education and working in today’s global economy? How can we guarantee that all of our nation’s students – from kindergartners to PhD’s – are gaining access to the best technologies, the most useful information and greatest resources our country has to offer?'


Mistakes, failures and deficiencies are realities and 'facts of life' in all civilizations and cultures and throughout the industrial, academic and professional world. Knowing how to fix and prevent mistakes, avoiding failures and reducing deficiencies is everybody's business and deserves to be taught to youth nationwide, starting at an early age.


Where the public can discover consumer products that have been found to have significant mistakes or deficiencies in their manufacture, a description of the 'mistake, and what they may consider doing about it.





Author's Note: The original version of PART ONE was submitted by the author to the United States Small Business Administration in 1979 as a proposed article under the SCORE Program (The Senior Corps of Retired Executives). The SBA published the article as 'Management Aid for Small Manufacturers' pamphlet number 242 'Fixing Production Mistakes' (March 1979 and edited/updated subsequently.) PART TWO is a revised expanded version of the author's article 'Supervisory audit of internal operations,' in the November/December 1981 issue of National Development (Middle East-Africa-Asia), a journal for '… those responsible for all sectors of a nation's growth.' (International Publications, Westport, CT). A consolidated version with both 'parts,' plus new material was initially posted online by the author in the 1990s and occasionally edited to include new and revised material. By its nature, this is a work in progress and is presented here 'for your information (FYI).

Constructive comments that freely contribute to the intent of this posting, specifically tips and suggestions for the 'public domain' that may be useful to small manufacturers and/or 'start up' businesses will be considered for adding to or adjusting content. Please include them in the 'Post a Comment' space provided at the end of this blog.

Fixing and preventing mistakes and deficiencies on the job is everybody's business.



Excerpt: 'Culture and Communication. Within most of our partner organizations, failure to meet performance goals results in a comprehensive review of problems and solutions. As one partner explained, ' . . . the culture is based on understanding the reality of human error and striving to improve . . . employees do not fear admitting mistakes.' Periodic meetings allow staff to review progress and strategize about solving problems. Several participants emphasized that the focus is on corrective action, not blame. A number of our partners have established policies that institutionalize problem-solving approaches for failures and substandard performance.

'Generally, organizations have a formal written plan describing how performance measures will be implemented. In many cases, the plan details the measurements, goals, objectives, and the common alignment to the organizational strategy. In addition, it is a common practice to identify one individual who will be responsible and accountable as a respective measurement owner.'


'PART ONE' may be useful to develop 'corrective action' checklists in government and private sector entities and also to encourage proactive ideas by supervisors and managers that will prevent and avoid conditions that lead to errors and deficiencies. The checklist and supervisory guide may also contribute 'background' to Regional Occupational Programs (ROP) and supervisory and crew chief training generally.

One rarely reads a newspaper without noting an announcement that the manufacturer has recalled a foodstuff, medication, equipment, or device on the market or in use for its intended purpose. Whatever the problem, a product was not doing the task for which it was intended or designed, and continued use might risk life, quality of life, or property.

Faulty design, manufacture, construction, inspection or training in any function concerned with creating a product or providing a service all too often has serious consequences.


Management and technical inspection and other oversight methods have changed enormously with computerization. Nevertheless, mistakes still happen, at times same as before computerization, and they continue to happen. Management audits and supervisory oversight and controls over fixing/preventing mistakes and 'root causes' keep abreast with proactive analytical techniques of a mistake's occurrence, its complexity and safety implications, and other immediate and ripple effects of the event. Useful ideas on preventing and fixing mistakes need to cross feed across all elements and levels of our society. Ignoring cross feed escalates the unconscionable waste of the nation's and the world's diminishing resources and could increase needless loss of lives and property.

The guide suggests a few of the many steps and considerations that go into preparing for and following through on a 'fix' for a mistake in manufacturing, support, services, or other operations in the work place. Record keeping has improved with the computer; but it's still up to people to think the problem through, arrive at resolutions, and ensure that the fix is implemented, effective, and that actions were taken to preclude recurrence.

The options are shown as a general checklist. Any listed step in the process may or may not apply to a specific situation in a shop or office. Actually, any mistake, and its causes and effects, as a collection of distinct but interacting events, is unique and needs to be addressed in that context. There is no general all-purpose after-the-fact corrective action plan, nevertheless, generalized contingency planning, for example, in the form of a documented Practice on getting organized around the corrective action job would be useful. The objective is to (1) fix the mistake, (2) keep it from happening again, and (3) integrate what was learned from the experience into the organization's existing engineering and other production functions, training and other management systems.

Although the mistake (event) and the fix relates to a manufactured product, the options (check list elements) might be applicable or adaptable to public and private sector construction, health care, support and services, general administration, and other functions and processes, as appropriate to the reader's interests. The intent of this article is to encourage proactive thinking.

No two manufacturers, institutions and service entities, down to their first line work units, are exactly alike in their tasks, equipment layout, skills, environment, human factors, staff and supervisory personalities, etc. The interaction of all, within and outside the work unit, affects how an approved fix is installed and how it works out. The planning for and integration of a fix (the clarity of procedures and sequencing of who does what and when) takes into account such variables as skills within a group, the uniqueness of the problem, available/accessible resources, and the work site and its environment.

Mistakes challenge a leader's sense of order. Timely and effective corrective action may be vital to the safety of a product, the welfare of consumers, and the stability of the organization in which the mistake occurred.

Each product, its design/production system and support functions have unique characteristics. Fixing a mistake that results from the manner in which these and other unique characteristics are organized or operate needs to consider all of the elements that contributed to the circumstances and environment within which the mistake occurred. The most immediate task, beyond safety to life inside and outside the workplace, is to organize available skills and resources so as to pinpoint the cause of the mistake; determine, specify, and correlate the steps of a corrective action, implement the fix, and reduce the likelihood of the mistake's recurrence.

The tailored *analysis* section of the Corrective Action Planning Checklist' is a tool of the CAP Team for a specific (sometimes 'unique) problem. The 'Root Cause Analysis' (RCA), as *process* for fixing and preventing mistakes, errors and deficiencies has been adapted generally by industries and other entities, be they big business, small business, government, NGOs, whatever the enterprise. Descriptive terms for the nature of findings in the organization's products or services that are often noted in inspection/audit reports and other analyses and the terms' contexts, are:

ERROR: a misconception resulting from incorrect information; part of a statement that is not correct; (computer science) the occurrence of an incorrect result produced by a computer; a wrong action attributable to bad judgment or ignorance or inattention; inadvertent incorrectness. (Error detection: The inspection of a part before it has been completed to determine if it conforms to specifications.)

PRODUCT QUALITY DEFICIENCY: A nonconforming condition that limits or prevents the product from fulfilling its purpose. This includes defects in design, specification, material, manufacturing, and workmanship. For 'workplace deficiency' see PART TWO.

MISTAKE: ('Mistake' and 'error' are often used interchangeably.) Misunderstanding or erroneous belief about a material-fact that may prevent formation of a valid contract. It is of three basic types (1) Common mistake: all parties make the same error. (2) Mutual mistake: all parties are mistaken or fail to understand each other. (3) Unilateral mistake: only one party is mistaken.


(Speculation) Several thousand completed/inspected motor vehicles (the end items) allegedly incorporating referenced defective parts move to the plants post-final-assembly holding bays on their way to or are already in the shipping department's temporary storage warehouse.

Another quantity are on/in shipping transports of which the drivers are completing documents clearing them to depart for ports, land/sea transport hubs, or for other destinations (wholesalers, distributors, or ultimate retailers.) Another several thousand cars previously departed the plant and were in the transportation pipeline, at dealers and retailers, or in the possession of purchasers/consumers. Each completed car (the manufacturer's end item) and its shipping container has its unique, prominently displayed serial-number identification and final assembly inspector's signature or stamp.

The manufacturer has been formally notified of 'defects' in a sample quantity of the vehicles that had been shipped by the manufacturer and formally received by the entity that had ordered them.

The manufacturer (allegedly) accepted notification that the vehicles may have 'defects' and has issued/publicized their 'recall' notice.



- What happened? Was your source reliable?

-Which parts (assemblies, subassemblies, components are affected? In what way?

- Did a part break, fail, crack, bend, misalign?

- Was a circuit incomplete?

- Were incorrect materials used or dimensions applied? (design error? At which work station? What? Where? Anybody injured? If 'yes,' were appropriate actions taken? Status?

- Have you and concerned supervisors and staff examined physical evidence of the event?

- Do you know where in the plant the event actually occurred?

- Have you pinpointed and brought to the attention of the management and production staff the specific work unit and workstation where the error was first noticed?

- Did you backtrack along the production line to the workstation and employee where the 'root' mistake was made?

- Did you trace the event forward along the production system to ascertain the extent to which the fault was included in higher assemblies?

- Did you stop the work operation that was creating the problem?

- Should you institute a work stoppage?

- Did you identify the people, skills, materials, tools, equipment, and data in all related programs, work practices and procedures that caused or contributed to the error, deviation, deficiency, mistake?

- Do you know which were 'directly' responsible?

- Do you know which were 'indirect' contributors?

- Do you know how they became part of the approved design, source vendor, and/or production process?

- Have you identified where (functions, work units) and with whom (supervisors) the accountability stops?

- Must you correct the fault on the completed/shipped end items or on items on which rework would be economically or technologically unprofitable or impractical? In deciding, have you considered?

- Safe and economical use of the final product by the ultimate consumer?

- Acceptability under established quality standards and the governing technical specifications and contracts?

- The effect on the part's and the end item's maintenance and total service life?

- Maintainability and accessibility of the part in the end item during normal usage?

- The effect on the cost of operating the end item, and reducing the time between maintenance inspections, parts replacements, and end item overhaul schedules?

- Have you reviewed the design specifications to ensure that the (consumer's) intended use of the device has not been compromised by the defective part?

- If the error will not cause significant deviations from approved drawings, technical and contractual specifications, should you review the situation with the customers (consumers) before taking any further action on those items that now incorporate the defect?

- Should you impose a work stoppage on the affected product lines?

- Do you know what the effects of a work stoppage will be on:

- The affected product lines and the shop activities that support them?

- Your contractual commitments?

- Do you have alternate workloads that can be readily inserted into the production line gaps until a corrective action decision for the mistake can be implemented and routine production continue?

- Were parts, assemblies or end items incorporating the error shipped from your plant and/or are they in your packaging/ shipping departments being prepared for shipment? If they were/are:

- Have you estimated the effects of the event on the market place?

- Have you estimated the effects of a decision to recall the defective items from your customers, dealers, and consumers?

- Should further preparation for shipment (preservation and packaging) of the item be halted?

- Are trucks, freight cars or other transporters being loaded by your shipping department with items that contain the defect?

- Should the shipments be halted in place immediately?

- Should the shipments be off-loaded now?

- Do you know the effect of a stop shipment order on the customers/consumers who are scheduled to receive the items?

- Do they have sufficient stocks on hand that do not contain the defect to tide them over the re-work period?

- Should you permit shipments to continue and dispatch technicians to replace or repair the defective parts at the customer's/consumer's holding facility or maintenance and/or operating site?

- If the defective items have been shipped to distributors and from them to ultimate consumers, can you identify all shipments that incorporate the production error by customer/consumer, shipping order number, method/date/time of shipment, and any other means that will assist the recipients to locate and, if necessary, segregate defective from useable stocks in their warehouses, dealers' stocks and in consumer's possession?

- Have you issued instructions to cover the situation?

- Have you alerted all of the sources for component parts, assemblies and materials.

- Have you confirmed that they were sufficiently responsive to your 'alerts?

- Based on your analysis to this point, should the recipients of items containing the defective part be notified?

- If notification is to be made, have you issued instructions to do so and are your instructions clearly understood?

- Have you and your legal advisors reviewed the notification for adequacy, including legal and contractual implications?

- Do notification procedures include recording date/time/method of notification and names of individuals originating and receiving the communications?

- Are you certain the notification was received and understood by the intended recipient?

- If you have imposed a work stoppage on the affected items and stopped further shipments, do you know your shipping commitments for the next 24, 48 and 72 hours?

- Should the recipients for those shipping commitments (preceding question) be notified of the delays, lead time until the situation can be clarified, and when a new shipping date will be provided? Was this step followed up with formal notification of a new shipping date?

- If the faulty items are to be recalled to the plant, can shipments in the transportation pipeline be diverted back?

- If they can be returned, were instructions to that effect issued, and has receiving function prepared paperwork for the non-routine receipts and for their segregated storage until shop processing can be accomplished?

- Should you arrange with your customers for them to rework the defective items in their service support shops or contractually?

- Would it be more practical for you to send your technicians to do the rework on site, considering your customer's resources (time, special tools, equipment, replacement parts, materials, skills, calibration), the economics of the situation, and your company's reputation?

- Have you identified and analyzed your options for each location where the fix will be made? Have you listed them and evaluated their interactions?

- Does 'just-in-time' logistics/business techniques apply in this corrective action strategy? (Just-in-time (JIT) is an inventory strategy implemented to improve the return on investment of a business by reducing in-process inventory and its associated carrying costs. In order to achieve JIT the process must have signals of what is going on elsewhere within the process.) See:

- Have you evaluated the effects of your decision to fix or not fix?



- Identify the factors and decisions that would bear upon the corrective action process for that particular manufacturing mistake.

- List, in checklist form, the considerations and options that would enhance management's understanding of the exact nature and significance of the mistake and its effects on the pipeline, wholesalers, other points in the transport/warehousing system, consumers, vendors of components, and you, the manufacturer and affected staff down to the first line supervisory/crew chief levels.

- Review relevant policies and procedures; activate the plant's corrective actions task group; designate and appoint a task group leader; prepare a comprehensive corrective action plan; select subordinate (function) leaders, production staff and line crew chiefs, technicians, and line workers; design and procure or manufacture replacement parts; marshal tools, equipment and other resources; designate and commit work stations, and implement the approved 'corrective action plan.'

- Notify and make/secure commitments to/from concerned entities that are located outside of the plant. Integrate the fix and what was learned from the experience, into the organization's management, engineering (RDT&E), procurement, production and supporting management systems to preclude the mistake's recurrence. (Root Cause Analysis)

- Have you considered the demands that will be made on and the adequacy and availability of your:

- Plant facilities (structural and environmental)?

- Finances/accounting?

- Energy sources?

- Communications systems?

- Transportation?
- Public relations and marketing?

- Shop equipment and tools available and tested?

- Supplies and long-lead acquisition time materials?

- Data?

- People (skills, training, safety, working hours, etc.)?

- Resources in other functions that will be involved?

- Can the faulty assemblies be processed economically for tear down to get at and remove the defective part and then to return the remaining (good) parts to your routine production system without disrupting the product line?

- If not, do you need a special, one-time production task group for the defective sub-assemblies to do the tear down, repair, and re-assembly job?

- If, after teardown, the parts (minus the defective item) can be returned to routine production, have you identified the points along the production system where each good assembly and/or component can be re-checked and reused?

- Have you identified all the work units and workstations that will be directly affected by the rework of the faulty items?

- Do you know precisely how each will be affected?

- Do the supervisors and direct workers of those work units and at each workstation understand the problem and what is expected of them?

- Have you ascertained which work units and workstations can be by-passed during the fix to minimize disruption to routine operations and production and thereby reduce cumulative adverse effects?

- Will the fix make it necessary to?

- Realign workspace?

- Move shop equipment?

- Modify tools and equipment?

- Fabricate jigs and special holding devices?

- Redesign parts and assemblies?

- Revise quality assurance standards and procedures, and production practices?
- Retrain people?

- Reschedule and reprogram other work?

- Modify contracts with suppliers and customers?

- Does fixing the mistake call for a documented Corrective Action Plan, commitment of significant resources, and detailed production scheduling?

- Can the corrective action taken as a result of this error be applied to future designs, and management policies and practices, and for production system improvements elsewhere in your plant?

- Has this experience given you ideas to improve your operations?

- Have you documented what you learned, tested them, and injected the results into your plant practices?


The Corrective Action Implementation Plan provides specific action steps and their sequence toward fixing the defective items and devising changes to be integrated into product line management. The technical Plan is positive-oriented and concentrates on the fix rather than speculate on the past: who-did-what 'finger-pointing.' The investigative and blame job is not planning and belongs to another group.

As a manager, supervisor and leader, take that extra step that prevents the same or comparable mistakes from happening. What really caused the problem? What can and should be done about it? Is a significant change needed in tools, equipment, or materials? Should the shop layout be changed? Do workers need additional training? Are product inspection and quality assurance skills, methodologies and standards tight enough? Are you using the right vendors?

The mistake and its underlying causes that were resolved at one shop location could provide opportunities for a significant technical or management improvement throughout the plant. Have you and your staff thought through the possibility of recurrence, and have you done something constructive to preclude its happening?



Implementing and conducting supervisory audit and oversight of first level work units are normally conducted by first and second level supervisors. Crew chiefs, specialized technicians, and certified experts conduct preventive inspections of pre-selected, pre-authorized areas under surveillance of designated qualified (certified) authority.

The concept and process lends itself to computerization in sequencing steps in planning, committing and pre-positioning appropriate tools, inspection equipment, periodic servicing and replacing materials, parts and lubes, in conducting follow up, and as a guide for training and motivating supervisors, crew chiefs, and participants in Regional Occupational Programs generally.


A first-line supervisor's personal inspection or audit of his/her work unit varies according to the unit's mission, layout, equipment, and product or service. The concept may interest students who are training for a skill or vocation as a career, developing their managerial skills, or are preparing to establish themselves in a business. It may also be useful to businessmen and women who are refining their supervisory training courses and the quality of their product line environment. The objective is an optimal working environment with high standard employee safety and productivity.

The supervisory audit/inspection is an on-site, searching examination of the operating level of a work unit, its internal environment and its operating systems. The audit is conducted by the unit supervisor who is directly responsible for the work unit or, where special skills are required, by technicians or administrators who are under the unit supervisor's surveillance during the inspection.

The inspection checks for compliance with the organization's and the supervisor's policies and accepted work practices. In the process, deficiencies that need early attention are identified and acted upon.

Examples of where expeditious actions might be needed are those that would prevent damage to or failures in product, equipment and material, reduce or eliminate a potential safety hazard, or modify an environmental condition or operational practice to meet a new requirement. The inspection technique draws upon, and enhances, the experience of managers, supervisors and technicians at all levels. It also provides higher-level superiors with a means to evaluate a subordinate supervisor's capabilities and judgment.


- detect existing and potential errors and deficiencies as close to the points of origin as possible so as to protect property;

- verify adequacy of work unit procedures and controls; and ensure compliance with safety directives.

The indirect benefits of the audit are opportunities to:

- observe conditions that have diagnostic value, such as identifying barriers to mission accomplishment and operational effectiveness;

- assess consequences of changes brought about by new policies, procedures, and corrective actions for previously noted inadequacies;

- enhance supervisory and staff familiarity with company objectives, policies, and operations;

- promote beneficial communications (especially where actions on an inspection-disclosed problem depend of the support of others outside of the unit in which it was found); and

- motivation.


The adoption of a formal supervisor's inspection program is an upper-management decision. The decision should be based on a comprehensive staff analysis of the costs, benefits, and operational for and against factors of the program in relation to the size and character of the organization and its mission; the nature of facilities and equipment, and the technical expertise and existing motivation of first-level supervisors.

Promoting supervisory expertise and motivation takes into account the quality and potential of each supervisor based on knowledge of the work area(s) under his or her supervision. They include ability and willingness to accept and integrate new, approved techniques of administrative and/or technical skill; and competence in exercising authority (conditional, of course, on the scope and level of authority delegated by superiors).

Advance planning and detailed preparations are essential for proper program implementation. It is advisable to issue a statement of general policy as soon as possible after a decision to proceed is made, so as to preclude the spreading of rumors that might distort the intent of the program. It may be necessary to introduce the concept in stages, down through the levels of supervision.

In planning the auditing program, the manager takes into account that two work units are rarely exactly alike. For some units or functions (administrative or clerical operations, for example) an inspection of the physical facility may not be needed, or, because of the simplicity or stability of an office layout, may be left to the discretion of the supervisor. Conversely, the operating unit in shops, warehouses, motor pools, power distribution centers, construction sites, or dams are unique to their functions and will need to be treated accordingly when devising inspection ground rules. Furthermore, those work areas in which heavy traffic, high densities of people and/or equipment, or safety (of people and things) are significant factors may require examination at frequent and, perhaps, random intervals.

For some work units, an inspection can be conducted in a single sweep. For others, it might be best to spread the review over days, or even weeks, so that different systems, operations, locations, or equipment could be seen at those times when an inspection would have the optimal potential to detect weaknesses. Circumstance may dictate that an audit occur before the normal work period begins or after it ends, since work routines might render the area inaccessible for inspection purposes.

Audit policies should allow sufficient flexibility, without weakening controls, to permit each supervisor to adjust his/her inspection schedule to the priorities and character of the unit. Each supervisor's inspection schedule would be subject to the approval of the next higher level of supervision. There should be no confusion on one point, however -- a supervisory inspection is a tool of the supervisory chain of command. It is not a quality assurance inspection of product or service, nor does it replace, duplicate, or infringe on the organization's staff management inspection and audit systems.


'Motivation' should be organized around accepted criteria: approved management policies and directives, personnel management guidelines, health and safety standards, security controls, inventory management systems, facility and shop equipment authorization lists and layouts, and other rules and procedures that govern daily operations. The supervisor will need to be selective in his/her decision as to which criteria are the most appropriate for his/her work unit.

Decisions may be required on the practicality of maintaining an ideal qualitative level in a work environment or an operational process. In some situations, the nature of the mission or service may permit no options; in others, many options may apply. The upper and lower limits of acceptability are management decisions, as are the decisions to act when the inspection discloses significant deviations from established norms.

The inspection process will, on occasion, focus attention on problems beyond the capability or authority of the person(s) doing the inspection. Organizational procedures should present clearly defined channels for such problems to be referred quickly to that level of management with the power to take appropriate action. In most situations, normal administrative follow-up will ensure that effective action is taken. However, in instances where multiple actions are required, or where significant costs may be incurred, it may better serve management's purposes to have documented reports to facilitate analysis, assign responsibilities, schedule actions, and exercise control. Management should also consider disseminating summaries of important disclosures and resultant actions to those units or functions in which comparable conditions are likely to prevail.


A vital tool for supervisory oversight or inspection process is a guide that is tailored to each unit supervisor's area of responsibility. To serve its purpose, the guide is flexible in scope and depth, easy to revise to meet changes in organizational procedures, technology, or facility arrangements. It should be understandable to the supervisor's superiors, since they will review it for adequacy, controls, and results.


- Items (what to look at): equipment, facilities, tools, energy systems, security, communications and transport networks, supplies, materials, people, data and publications files, incoming and outgoing services that support the work unit, reporting controls, training.

- Observations (what to look for): safety in keeping with approved plant security and safety directives and experience, performance, condition and arrangement of tools and equipment for conformance with approved plans and specifications, compliance with preventive inspection and maintenance guides (see Note); availability of administrative and technical resources in accordance with authorizations, work backlogs and current validity of the reasons, causes of unacceptable stop-and-go operations, work stoppages and equipment downtime, status of skills upgrading and training to meet upcoming work requirements, effectiveness of internal communications systems, morale and discipline, currency and availability of operational directives, accuracy and timeliness of unit reports, disposition of nonessential records.

- Conditions (what was found): OK, damaged, unsafe, worn-out, surplus/shortage, unsuitable, unenforceable, unclear, out of place, out of sequence, late calibration checks, not authorized, nonstandard, obsolete, not being complied with, in violation.

- References: organizational directives, numbered or otherwise identifiable specifications covering facilities, equipment and tools; manufacturer's operations manuals and parts catalogs, documented safety and security practices, unwritten but widely-accepted work and shop housekeeping practices, historical inspection records.

The format of the inspection guide should be as simple as possible. It should confine itself to uncomplicated headings that provide unit title, location, name and telephone extension of the unit supervisor (or technical inspector), and the date/time of the inspection. When the inspection is phased over a period of time, the date/time entry should be adjacent the corresponding inspection item. At the discretion of the inspector, abbreviations used can be defined to facilitate review by others.

The main body of the guide includes the specifics of what to look at, when (how frequently) to look at it, and what to look for. Findings are recorded for each item. The inspection items should be expressed in specific terms. For example, it would be unacceptable to use general questions, such as: 'Are we complying with all safety rules?' 'Are all reports being made?' 'Is equipment satisfactory?' Instead, taking the matter of safety as an example, the guide should state important safety requirements by location within the unit and indicate what would constitute compliance. Thus, the guide would lead the inspector directly to items requiring review and any adverse findings would automatically trigger action. (See Exhibit)


The supervisory inspection, as a management technique, places emphasis on direct, disciplined application of the supervisor's traditional responsibilities. They include, as a minimum: to analyze the mission of the work unit and the availability of resources and capabilities, and to determine what is required to provide satisfactory product and service for the organization.

The inspection will help to nourish and fine-tune supervisory ability to bring about a clearer awareness of what is needed to get the job done. A carefully planned and implemented supervisory inspection program will enhance supervisory abilities and discipline, enforce the sense of responsibility, contribute to team-oriented operations and, in the process, significantly reduce the conditions that lead to errors, deficiencies, and waste of essential resources.




The supervisory guides should not be confused with the routine preventive inspections of facilities and equipment for normal maintenance purposes. Preventive inspections are conducted by specialists or craftsmen using checklists and prescribed test sets and calibration tools specified by equipment manufacturers and facility engineers/technicians. The supervisory inspection is concerned, rather, with the entire work unit as an integrated entity comprised of people, materials, facilities, equipment, and management systems. Its prime concern is the ability of the unit to perform tasks in a designated environment, which may, at times, be different than when or where it was intended to function.

The adequacy of the preventive inspection system within the unit is only one of the many elements of interest in the overall inspection process. Both processes, however, are of a 'preventive' nature. Using preventive inspection of equipment as a case in point, the supervisory inspection ensures that:

- preventive inspection data for equipment located in the unit is available;

- the data has been updated to correspond to the unit's equipment modernization schedule;

- inspection guides contain the essential elements of information on technical requirements (i.e., steps to be followed in the preventive inspection process, frequency of inspections, records, tolerances, identification of tools and test sets, suggested skills to be applied, repair and maintenance procedures);

- prescribed inspection and maintenance tools and test sets are on hand, and are verified as calibrated for their preventive inspections use.



Elements to consider for a Supervisory Inspection Check List: (examples)

Entry Codes:
ok = satisfactory
x = unsatisfactory
xx = unsatisfactory/needs immediate attention
inc = incomplete
dlnqt = delinquent

Inspection Schedule
d = daily
w = weekly
m = monthly
6m = semiannually
ar = as required
d+ = daily, and to be observed at opportune times whenever passing through shop
sp = special advance preparations



Examples Of Things To Look At:

Technical: Guards installed on machinery and power equipment; electrical power equipment grounded; preventive inspection records up-to-date; metal containers in place for oily rags; metal disposal cans marked according to contents; workers not wearing loose clothing or hand/neck jewelry; eye and head protective gear being used; engineering and manufacturing data for work orders on hand and checked against work orders.

Housekeeping: Work areas clean; fans in working order; clean-up equipment on-hand; sand buckets, filled; fire extinguishers in place and current.

Administrative: Downtime/backlog/equipment location reports current; equipment and machinery Tech Reps scheduled for preventive maintenance on machines 123, 345 and 456; in-house preventive maintenance reports complete; tool crib stock verified, materials requisitions reviewed; skills upgrading reviewed with Training Dept; Policies and Practices Handbook current with latest Index.


PREFACE: During the last dozen or so of my 34 years as a U. S. Civil Service employee in various USAF 'logistics' functions. I was senior civilian (management analyst) in the Inspector General's Office at McClellan Air Force Base, California, a USAF major logistics center near Sacramento, California. My primary duties included preparing the Commander's responses to and conducting follow-up reviews and on-site inspections of 'corrective actions' for 'findings' by higher headquarters Command IG inspection and USAF Auditor General and Government Accounting Office teams.


The Internet lists and updates an extensive selection of free and commercially promoted and published 'corrective and preventive action' programs (capa), practices and procedures.' Content of this posting is based on personal experiences and training as an Inspector General staff management analyst. This posting is 'public service' and has neither commercial intent nor expectations. The author is not in competition with others who provide their professional services in the same subject area.


Among the authors other works:

The Universe—or Nothing (an enovel)


Spacefaring and Resources, A Future History


Memoir: Military-Civilian Teamwork in Suicide Prevention

in work


Suicide Prevention is Everybody's Business

Memoirs: Hot War-Cold War, Back-of-the-lines-logistics

in work


Fix and Prevent Mistakes and Deficiencies in the Workplace


Grandma! Grandpa! Write Stories To Me!


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