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How To Conduct a Layered Process Audit Checklist

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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What Is a Layered Process Audit?

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.

These topics are covered in this article:

1. Why LPA implementation is beneficial

2. The flow of a multi-stage process audit

3. Why an LPA checklist is important

4. Don’t forget to include these in an LPA checklist

4. When to schedule a process audit

5. A digital solution for LPA implementation

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Why Implement Layered Process Audits?

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:

  1. High involvement of managers and employees
  2. Clear requirements for process standards
  3. Common understanding of process standards
  4. Standard operating procedures are more securely implemented
  5. Variations in production results are minimized
  6. The production ecosystem improves
  7. Material waste, scrap, rework, and rejects are reduced
  8. More efficient production accompanied by decreasing costs
  9. Other internal audits can be partially replaced and thus less effort is required

How to Conduct a Multi-Stage Layered Process Audit?

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:

  1. Leaders as auditors
  2. LPA checklists of questions and checkpoints
  3. Immediate corrective action for non-conformances and action for non-conformances
  4. The traffic light colors red, yellow, and green visualize the results and measures

The actual audit then proceeds as follows:

  1. Executives of different hierarchical levels (layers) check with the support of process audit checklists that standards, rules, and specifications (process) are adhered to. For this purpose, short conversations (audit) of one to five minutes are held with the employees.
  2. If deviations from specifications and standards occur during the process, these are corrected by the manager (auditor) and the employee (auditee) together immediately. If tasks prove to be unfeasible, further action must be initiated.
  3. On-site employees must visualize the LPA process and communicate their intent before they take corrective action. 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 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:

  1. ...from the process - What can I ask? Simple, logical, quick.
  2. ...from the result - What do I have to ask? Analytical, competent, successful.

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.

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What Are the Components of Making a Successful LPA Checklist?

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:

  • 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?

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:

  1. Communication
  2. Workplace Organization and Enviornment
  3. Set-Up
  4. Operators Standardized Work
  5. Control Plans/ Work Instructions
  6. First Time Quality
  7. Measurement Systems
  8. 5S Activities

You can use Lumiform’s free layered process audit to help you get started!

How Often Should I Conduct an LPA Audit?

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:

  1. Daily Audits—are conducted by supervisors and employees.

    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.

  2. Weekly Audits—are handled by middle management
  3. Biweekly Audits—are also handled by middle management
  4. Monthly Audits—are performed by plant managers
  5. Quarterly Audits—are supported by executives
  6. Annual Audits—are also supported by executives

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 Digital Solution for the Implementation of LPA in Manufacturing

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:

  • Uncoordinated Planning
    Regular multistage process audits, which are to be completed per shift, week, or month, can be forgotten. The scheduling feature reminds quality auditors when a multistage process audit schedule is due and indicates the time window in which an LPA should be completed.
  • Audits Not Completed
    Audits can be perceived as a nuisance, which is why they are not given priority in day-to-day business production. Lumiform promotes audit completion through its real-time reporting capability. The scheduling feature also shows managers if audits are overdue. Besides, each layered process audit checklist can be conveniently completed anytime, anywhere via a mobile device.
  • Continuing Non-Conformity
    Nonconformity can be overlooked if it is not reported and corrected. With the Lumiform App, it is possible to take photos and notes via a mobile device to capture any non-compliance found. Besides, problems can be assigned immediate action with the appropriate urgency and deadline.
  • No Follow-Up or Verification
    Paper-based audits are filed upon completion and later manually retrieved for review, thus, losing a lot of time that could be better used for corrective action in case of nonconformities. Lumiform's layered process audits software can automatically generate reports and share them with other team members and business stakeholders via mobile devices or the desktop.
  • Disorrganized Records
    Lumiform enables quality managers to fill out LPAs via mobile devices and then instantly generate CEO-ready reports that are automatically organized and secured 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, quality staff can quickly review frequently failed checks to determine which issues need to be addressed as a priority. They can also view trends to determine which areas are performing well and which need improvement. The evaluation also allows them to see how checks are progressing over time.

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