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Achieve Success with Control Plans

Nicole Radziwill

What steps do you have to take to make sure a business or production process performs the way you need it to? This is the essence of the control plan -- a living document that provides instructions for what variables to check, when to check them, and what to do if a problem is detected that requires action.

By Nicole Radziwill

Each process is typically associated with a control plan placed under version control, so that the people who use it can be assured of its timeliness and accuracy.

A control plan is created when designing a new process, and updated each time an existing process is improved. (This is the “C” in the DMAIC Six Sigma process improvement approach, which stands for “control.”) Often, controls are identified during risk assessment, particularly when performing a Failure Mode Effects Analysis (FMEA). Control plans usually incorporate many different types of controls, such as inspections, control charts used in Statistical Process Control (SPC), design reviews or management reviews, preventive maintenance, and process adjustments for mistake-proofing (poka-yoke).

Here are some steps you can take to make sure control plans help your organization achieve its quality goals:

  • Document the process. Make sure everyone involved in executing the process shares a common view of what needs to be done at each step. Visuals, like flow charts, are essential.
  • Identify participants and stakeholders. The most informative and descriptive flow chart is useless unless communication, training, and follow-up are planned. In addition, remember that internal customers are just as important as external customers, and their needs should be addressed as well.
  • Determine what matters. For each process step, what are the needs and expectations of the participants? Are there any Critical to Quality (CTQ) parameters that are impacted during the process step? Figure out what to focus on.
  • Identify controls to prevent and detect issues (and emerging issues). Can you require approval? Should you establish periodic audits or maintenance? Should you sort or clean the area on a regular basis? Focus on the things you can affect.
  • Determine who will be responsible for enforcing the control or making alternative arrangements. Tasks may not get done unless responsibility and accountability are clearly defined and accepted.


Finally, a control plan is only effective when it is actively used. In addition, it should be continually improved as skills develop and as new information about the process is learned. Make sure that all participants and stakeholders have the opportunity to contribute to organizational learning by being actively engaged in control plan development and improvement.

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Additional Reading

Belu, N., Al Ali, A. R., & Khassawneh, N. (2013). Application of Control Plan - a PPAP Tool in Automotive Industry Production. Calitatea, 14(136), 68. Available from

Radziwill, N. M. (2018). SPC & FMEA: Integrating Systems Thinking into Your Quality Architecture to Drive Improvement. Intelex/Quality Digest Webinar. Available from

Radziwill, N. M. (2018). SPC & FMEA: Integrating Systems Thinking into Your Quality Architecture to Drive Improvement. Intelex/Quality Digest Webinar. Available from

About the Author: Nicole Radziwill, Vice President, Global Practice Leader, Quality & Supply Chain

Nicole Radziwill is the Vice President, Global Practice Leader, Quality & Supply Chain at Intelex Technologies. Before Intelex, she was an Associate Professor of Data Science and Production Systems, Assistant Director (VP) End-to-End Operations at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), and manager and consultant for several other organizations since the late 1990's bringing quality management to technologically-oriented operations. She is a Fellow of the American Society for Quality (ASQ) with a Ph.D. in Quality Systems from Indiana State University. Nicole serves as Editor of Software Quality Professional (SQP) journal and is a former Chair of the ASQ Software Division. She is an ASQ Certified Manager of Quality and Organizational Excellence (CMQ/OE) and Certified Six Sigma Black Belt (CSSBB).



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January 24, 2019 @ 11:00 AM EST Quality

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