Conduct Layered Process Audits as part of your quality management methods to verify and improve manufacturing processes. See an LPA example in action in the article below as well as an official definition that describes its importance to manufacturing success. Discover why companies that utilize these trade secrets perform better than those that don’t with checklists, templates, and app.
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The Layered Process Audit (LPA) is a tool to noticeably improve the compliance and implementation of process standards in companies. The LPA focuses on quality control of products during their manufacture as opposed to inspecting a product once it has been produced. This enables companies to identify process issues early on or implement corrective actions to processes that may have resulted in quality issues.
The good thing about LPA is that it does not require external auditors. With little effort, employees and managers benefit from other positive effects, such as 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", those involved recognize whether work processes have been implemented as agreed, whether they are suitable, and whether the goals have thus been achieved.
The LPA is part of the quality management system. Many companies now require such a process audit from their suppliers. This is to guarantee controllable, reliable processes and standards and, if necessary, to continuously optimize them. An LPA will improve a company's operational performance at all levels.
To many employees, an LPA initially appears to be an additional task imposed by the higher-ups. During implementation, however, it quickly becomes apparent that the layered process audit motivates employees and overcomes hierarchical barriers in communication. Other benefits that result from the introduction of an LPA are:
The introduction of the layered process audit method requires a coordinated arrangement within the company. This is the only way to ensure that quality is maintained through conformity at every stage of production. Crucial to this are the four central elements of the LPA method:
The actual audit then proceeds as follows:
The basis of every Layered Process Audit is the checklist with questions and checkpoints. The LPA checklist is used to verify whether the specified standards are implemented and adhered to before, after, and throughout the duration of the audit. Through LPA, standards should become routine in production.
The LPA questions for the 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 jointly between the manager and employee.
Even experiences of employees and managers can serve as the basis for questions. Customer requirements and results from ongoing processes must also be formulated as questions. There are two different directions to formulate LPA questions:
A layered process audit checklist is designed to be short and easy to answer for simpler and faster reporting. All checklist questions are ideally phrased as closed-ended questions. That is, they can be answered "yes" or "no." In addition, it is advantageous to limit the number of questions in the checklist to one page.
Many companies use LPA software to manage the documentation of results from the checklists. The collected audit reports are analyzed at the end to provide an overview of trends that impact production. Immediately reporting deviations and taking action will help minimize the impact on production. In addition, the collected data can be used for future LPA checklists.
Since an LPA checklist depends on asking questions, success lies in asking the right ones. But there’s also the question of how do you know which questions to ask. Earlier in the article, we mentioned the importance of including employee experiences to formulate questions specific to the business’s product expertise so that problems can be anticipated and resolved before they make an appearance in the supply chain. Below, you’ll find an example of layered process audit sample questions:
These are just a few examples of questions you might find or write on your own LPA checklist. However, if you plan on creating your own checklist or template, then it’s important that you have questions that address each of the following categories:
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The answer to this question largely depends on the size, productivity, company resources, and degree of nonconformity within your organization. For example, if there’s a high level of disorganization and loss of productivity or product rejects, it’s advisable to increase the rate at which you conduct an audit. However, performing an LPA audit is completely voluntary, so there are no federal or legally binding regulations that say you have to participate in this method of review.
Generally, an example of a layered process audit schedule would look something like this:
Obviously, daily audits will require the most amount of personnel and resources to support. Daily audits are great for managing business operations to make sure everything is running smoothly. It sets aside time each day to address customer concerns and stay on top of small issues before they grow into big problems. However, keep in mind that daily audits can become tedious to those who have to perform them every day, so it might be a good idea to assign them to different employees otherwise oversight may experience a reduction in quality.
Conducting so many audits might seem like overkill, but it’s important to make sure that all the cogs in the machine are aligned and churning out productivity and capital. The reason that an LPA schedule is so intensive is to iron out any small kinks before they cause any real damage. This is especially important in manufacturing industries where a product defect, if not caught in time, can lead to product recall, loss of revenue, or even injury or death to consumers. Depending on its severity, a product recall has the potential to tank a company, not to mention damage a business's reputation.
There’s nothing to say you can’t perform daily, biweekly, quarterly, and annual audits, but if the company is smaller or lacks the resources to keep up the volume of audits, it’s okay to reduce the frequency to not exhaust personnel or capital, but the goal is still to do as many as the company can afford. It’s recommended to do at least a weekly audit just to make sure that no major complaints or risks fly under the radar.
A layered process audit system requires an efficient system to record and manage the data from a multistage process audit. The basis for a successful implementation is the optimal use of time and resources within the quality team and throughout the company. Using Lumiform's Layered Process Audit Layered software, auditors can address the following challenges: