A corrective action will correct a non-conformance that has occurred in the past, and a preventive action will prevent a potential non-conformance from occurring in the future. While, these are regarded as separate processes that must be documented separately, the ISO 9001:2008 standard does not say that they are separate procedures. However, it is reasonable to think that a Corrective Action should have a Preventive Action element to it, while a Preventive Action on its own could be viewed as progressive management that identifies potential future risks.
A common sense way for resolving a problem could be as follows:
Document the non-conformance, determine any immediate steps that must be taken such as removing the product from the loading dock and placing it in a holding area. Then begin the process of investigating the cause of the problem so as to identify the Root Cause. If this is the first and only time that this problem has occurred and it is not a major threat then it is possible that no more needs to be done other than making sure that the issue does not re-occur.
For problems of greater importance and principally those that are a threat to the organisation then the procedure of resolving the problem will need to be escalated to a Corrective Action. This will mean that the Root Cause will need to be more systematically investigated and an accurate recognition of the required actions will need to be formalised. The actions need to be fitting to the scale of the issue and clear directions and accountability must be given to correct the problem. Verification of the implementation of the Corrective Measures must be provided to ensure that the problem will not persist.
It is an accepted fact that a Corrective Action should be followed by a Preventive Action so that there is a formal recognition that the required steps to prevent the issue from recurring where taken in addition to the correction of the initial problem. Possible non-conformance areas should also be consistently identified and processes put in place to make sure that they do not occur. An effective Preventive Action will require concise directions combined with clear accountability along with proof of completion before is can be closed.
Specific and clear instructions in plain English should be written for each procedure, with assigned accountability and specific time limits to make sure that the required changes are applied in a timely fashion and there is concise evidence of their successful implementation.