Five key benefits of implementing Layered Process Audits (LPAs)
Layered Process Audit (LPA) is a type of process audit with varying frequency of execution that is carried out at many (or all) levels of the organization, from process engineer to plant director. Initially, LPA audits were used especially in the automotive industry, and now they have become a commonly used standard. What really makes LPAs such a valuable tool, and what benefits can you expect from their implementation?
With the standard approach to conducting internal audits in a production plant, a defined group of auditors is usually involved in the performing of all audits. These members of the organization, in addition to the duties arising from the position they hold, perform 100% of internal audits in the factory.
The use of LPA revolutionizes the approach to the subject of auditing and overturns (in a positive sense) the company's philosophy in this aspect. In the stratified approach, each employee, regardless of their position, may, even should be included in the process and schedule of audits. Regardless of whether the employee is a line operator, shift leader, process engineer, department manager or plant director, he should also act as an auditor.
A generally accepted rule when creating the schedule of layered audits is the fact that with each layer, the scope of audited issues increases and the frequency decreases.
The subject of layered audits is extremely broad, and you can read more about it here. Let's move on to the topic of this post, i.e. to the key benefits of implementing layered process audits.
The system of layered audits lays the foundations for building a quality culture in the organization and increases the awareness of the entire organization, regardless of the company's current level of maturity in terms of quality culture. LPA brings improvement especially in these 3 aspects:
- Inter-departmental cooperation: LPA auditors are employees from many departments outside the quality control, including: production, logistics, engineering, maintenance and others, as well as management staff. Thanks to this, control and taking care of quality is part of the daily duties of the entire team, not only of the employees of the quality control department.
- Increasing Quality Awareness: Performing process audits many times a day (sometimes even several times a day) makes quality a priority. Quality becomes one of the key means to achieve the measured goals: quality, production, sales and organization.
- Reporting and data analysis: LPAs provide a huge amount of data that companies can use to build reports and conduct analysis, for example, so-called "bottlenecks". With a pre-defined set of indicators, suppliers are better equipped to define expectations, track progress, and communicate results.
LPAs provide greater visibility into manufacturing processes, helping manufacturing facilities to resolve issues faster by:
- Providing higher frequency of process correctness testing than in traditional audits,
- Reaching the source of defects by focusing on input data and details of the process (and not on the analysis of the results),
- The use of employees at various levels of the organization and with varying degrees of knowledge of the process.
The layered approach results in a high frequency of audits, which is best practice when an organization aims to achieve high quality improvement. Audits are short and quick, allowing organizations to define multiple levels of verification for high-risk processes. Correcting process errors early has a knock-on effect that reduces defects, scrap and customer complaints downstream, leading to real improvements in just a few months.
Additionally, what makes layered audits so effective is the fact that they adhere to process improvement methodologies such as Lean and Six Sigma. LPAs, with their high frequency of auditing, are an ideal tool supporting the principle of improvement with the help of small steps, which is the basis of the Kaizen philosophy.
In addition, LPAs fit perfectly into the PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) process for identifying weaknesses, analyzing performance and solving problems.
The use of LPA in a direct and frequent way makes employees, especially those related to production, aware that they also have a real and significant impact on the company's profitability, the quality of manufactured products and the image of the organization. The feeling that "something important depends on me", as well as the need for cooperation of people at all levels of the organization make everyone become more involved and identify more closely with the company they co-create.
The LPA will help put your organization on the path towards increased profitability, but remember that implementing the right systems to track these activities and their results is essential. This is what will allow you to reap real benefits.
Are you ready to take advantage of the benefits of layered process audits in your company?