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Improve the quality of manufacturing with a layered process audit checklist

Conduct Layered process audits as part of your quality management methods to verify and improve manufacturing processes. Learn the questions to ask and the best practices for administering layered process audits so you can improve process quality as much as possible

What is a layered process audit?

A layered process audit (LPA) is a tool to noticeably improve the compliance and implementation of process standards in your company. An LPA focuses on quality control during product manufacturing as opposed to inspecting a product once it has been produced. This enables companies to identify process issues early on or implement corrective actions if they identify any quality issues.

The good thing about conducting an LPA is that it does not require external auditors. Additionally, performing a layered process audit helps promote solution-oriented communication, greater understanding of processes, and a higher awareness of process specifications.

”Layered” refers to the different management levels involved in the process audit. Through the “Process Audit”, you evaluate whether work processes have been implemented as agreed, whether they are appropriate, and whether your goals have been achieved.

The LPA is part of a thorough quality management system. Many companies now require such a process audit from their suppliers. A layered process audit guarantees, reliable processes and standards and helps you continually optimize them. These inspections improve a company’s operational performance at all levels.

Table of contents

1. What should a layered process audit checklist cover?

2. Why implement a layered process audit?

3. How important are LPA checklists?

4. How often should you conduct a layered process audit?

5. A digital solution for your layered process audit checklists

What should a layered process audit checklist cover?

Since an LPA checklist depends on asking questions, you need to find the right ones. To decide what to ask during a layered process audit, use employee experiences to formulate questions specific to your business. Below, you’ll find an example of layered process audit sample questions.

  • Do employees know the quality policy?
  • Do employees follow the quality policy?
  • Are all product containers properly labeled for their use in production?
  • Are instruction available for each task?
  • Are operators following standardized work orders or control plans?
  • What makes each employees job successful?
  • How can you tell if employees are doing their jobs?
  • Is a reaction plan in place in case a problem arises?

When you’re designing a layered process audit checklist or template, then it’s important to ask questions that address each of the following categories:

  1. Communication
  2. Workplace organization and environment
  3. Set-up
  4. Operators’ standardized work
  5. Control plans/ work instructions
  6. First time quality
  7. Measurement systems
  8. 5S activities

Why implement a layered process audit?

To many employees, an LPA seems like an extra task from management. During implementation, however, it’s easy to see that the layered process audit motivates employees and overcomes hierarchical barriers in communication. Other benefits your business gets from an LPA include:

  1. Increased engagement from managers and employees
  2. Clear requirements for process standards
  3. Common understanding of process standards
  4. More securely implemented procedures
  5. Minimal variation in production results
  6. A more effective production ecosystem
  7. Less waste, scrap, rework, and rejected products
  8. Lower cost and higher efficiency production
  9. Saving time with only a single audit to adhere to

How do you conduct a layered process audit?

Introducing a layered process audit method requires everyone at the company to be on board. This is the only way to ensure that quality is maintained all the way through production. You can incentivize this collaboration by following the four elements of layered process audits, which are:

  1. Leaders as auditors
  2. LPA checklists of questions and checkpoints
  3. Immediate corrective action to address process issues
  4. Using the traffic light colors red, yellow, and green to visualize LPA results

The actual audit then proceeds as follows:

  1. Executives of different hierarchical levels (layers) use checklists to verify that standards, rules, and specifications are adhered to. To do this, they have short (one to five minute) conversations with employees.
  2. If deviations are detected during the process, they are corrected by the manager (auditor) and the employee (auditee) together. If tasks cannot be completed, further action must be taken.
  3. On-site employees must visualize the LPA process and communicate their intent before taking corrective actions. This way, transparency across teams is prioritized, and there’s no confusion surrounding the audit.

How important are LPA checklists?

The basis of every layered process audit is a checklist with questions and checkpoints. LPA checklists are used to verify whether specified standards are implemented and adhered to before, after, and throughout the duration of the audit. By using an LPA, standards should be routinely implemented in production.

Questions included on a layered process audit checklist are derived from the important specifications required to achieve a good process result. These include work and process instructions as well as functional descriptions. Ideally, the questions should be created with input from both managers and employees.

Employee experiences are a good basis for questions. Customer requirements and results from ongoing processes should also be integrated in your LPA. There are two different ways to formulate LPA questions:

  1. Process-based: – “What can I ask?” This approach is simple, logical, and quick.

  2. Result-based – “What do I have to ask?” This approach is analytical, competent, and successful.

A layered process audit checklist is designed to be short and easy to answer, to facilitate reporting. All checklist questions are ideally phrased as “yes” or “no” questions. These checklists are typically around one page long.

Many companies use LPA software to manage documentation of their checklists. All collected audit reports are analyzed to provide an overview of production trends. Immediately reporting deviations and taking action will help minimize the impact on production.And you can use the data you collect for future LPA checklists.

Green and pink manufactured soap boxes on display

How often should you conduct a layered process audit?

The frequency of your layered process audits largely depends on the size, productivity, company resources, and prevalence of deviations at your company. For example, if things are disorganized and many products need to be repaired or rejected, you should conduct more frequent audits. However, LPA audits are completely voluntary, so there are no federal or legally binding regulations making the process mandatory.

The different intervals at which business conduct LPAs are:

  1. Daily audits: These are conducted by supervisors and employees.

    Daily audits require the most resources to support. They help you manage business operations to make sure everything is running smoothly. The process involves taking time each day to address customer concerns and detect small issues before they grow into big problems. However, keep in mind that daily audits can become tedious if performed repeatedly, so it might be a good idea to assign them to different employees, otherwise you may see lower-quality oversight.

  2. Weekly audits: These are handled by middle management
  3. Biweekly audits: These are also handled by middle management
  4. Monthly audits: These are performed by plant managers
  5. Quarterly audits: These are initiated by executives
  6. Annual audits: These are also initiated by executives

Conducting so many audits might seem like overkill, but it’s important to regularly ensure that things are running smoothly. The reason that an LPA schedule is so intensive is that small problems can easily cause large issues if left unchecked. This is especially important in manufacturing industries where missing a defect can lead to product recall, lower revenue, or even injury to consumers.

If your company is smaller or lacks the resources to perform so many audits, it’s okay to perform fewer LPAs to avoid exhausting your employees, but you should aim to do as many as the company can afford. It’s recommended to perform at least one audit per week so that you don’t miss any major errors.

A digital solution for your layered process audit checklists

Successfully performing layered process audits is easier when you have an efficient system to record and manage your data. Such a system helps you find the optimal use of time and resources within the quality team and throughout the company. Using Lumiform’s layered process audit software
, auditors can address the following challenges:

  • Uncoordinated planning

    The scheduling feature of the Lumiform app reminds quality auditors when a multistage process audit schedule is due and indicates the deadline for completing an LPA.

  • Incomplete audits

    Audits can be perceived as a nuisance, which is why they aren’t always prioritized. Lumiform promotes audit completion via its real-time reporting capability. Managers can also see when audits are overdue. Layered process audit checklists can be completed from your mobile device whether you’re online or offline.

  • Continuing non-conformance

    Thanks to easy image capturing within the Lumiform app, you can gather visual evidence of any noncompliance you observe. And you can immediately assign actions to correct this noncompliance.

  • Lack of verification

    Paper-based audits are filed upon completion and have to be manually retrieved for review, which wastes time. Lumiform’s layered process audit software automatically generates reports and shares them with other team members and business stakeholders via mobile devices or the desktop.

  • Disorganized records

    Quality managers can fill out LPAs via mobile devices and then instantly generate comprehensive reports that are automatically organized, stored in the cloud, and accessible anytime, anywhere.

  • No continuous process improvement

    Paper-based audits must be manually organized, reviewed, and recorded to collect enough data for analysis. With Lumiform’s analysis feature, staff can quickly review their data to determine which issues are priorities. They can also see which areas are performing well. Regular reporting also shows them how performance is changing over time.

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