Strengthen Your QMS with Layered Process Audits

4/12/2019


BY: STEVE VAMPLEW

Manufacturers face an ongoing, daily challenge to people-tower.jpgmake sure quality is maintained in all of their products and processes. Scheduled management reviews and audits required by a certification body are not always enough to ensure quality is consistently being upheld throughout all levels of the organization. For those manufacturers who wish to go the extra mile with quality, Layered Process Audits are a solution.

Layered Process Audits, or LPAs, are an effective way for management to guarantee all processes are being conducted according to specified requirements – providing them confidence, or assurance, with each process or procedure. The LPA is not so much an audit, but a verification that appropriate controls are in place and a company’s standard process is being followed in accordance with documented requirements. 

As the name indicates, “layers,” or levels, of management perform these quick, checklist-based audits at the work cell. Therefore, LPAs involve the working level team members (e.g. team leader/supervisor), department managers (in manufacturing/operations) and ultimately the executive/top management level. This interaction between various levels demonstrates to all workers that conformance to requirements is everyone’s responsibility. 

Since first being introduced by DaimlerChrysler (now Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) in 2000, other OEMs now require suppliers to conduct LPAs in their facilities. Whether you are looking to implement LPAs to fulfill this requirement, or simply to maximize quality in your facility, read on for best practices and tips to follow to ensure all aspects of your LPAs are completed effectively.

  • Get your priorities in order. While LPAs have the potential to be performed on any defined process, organizations should first target processes that have the most severe or frequent problems. These problems might be related to customer complaints, safety, high-risk items on your Failure Mode Effects Analysis (FMEA) or current company-established Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). 
  • Train the auditors. LPAs can be conducted by workers who have not had any formal auditor training, if they are familiar with the process being audited and the standard or criteria required by the process. One recommended approach to training auditors is to share the LPA process with workers and have them conduct “practice audits” with experienced auditors using a prescribed checklist.   
  • Develop a good checklist. Outlining a checklist is one of the most critical steps in implementing LPAs. These must be customized to a specific company process – not product – to make sure unwanted variation within the process gets addressed. Typically, checklists should be relatively short, containing five to 15 questions, and the audit should not take much time to complete (i.e.,10 to 30 minutes). Additionally, the questions should be based on known standards or specifications and worded to elicit “closed” responses (Yes or No, OK or No Go).
  • Create metrics. Like the adage says, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”  Metrics need to be developed to guarantee your LPAs are effective. Typical metrics include percent of Audits Completed (by layer), percent of Conformance (by area), number of Corrective Actions completed (by area) and verification that corrective actions are still in place.

Implementing an LPA program provides a company many benefits, such as:

  • Reducing scrap and waste 
  • Improving communication between departments 
  • Enabling management to effectively implement corrective actions 
  • Pursuing continual improvement initiatives

It’s no wonder this type of audit is now mandated by OEMs, as it ensures quality and consistency throughout an organization, and thus ensures customer satisfaction with each part produced. 

For more information on how to implement LPAs at your company, click here or contact The Center at inquiry@the-center.org


MEET OUR EXPERT

vamplew_s2-web.jpgSteve Vamplew, Quality Program Manager
Steve is a Quality Program Manager at the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center. In his role, Steve manages and delivers consulting, training and implementation assistance for Quality and Environmental Management Systems to small and medium-sized manufacturers.  Steve has extensive quality, manufacturing and management experience working in the automotive industry at OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers. He leverages this experience to assist manufacturers with the implementation of ISO 9000:2015, IATF 16949, ISO 14001, AS 9100D and training on automotive Core Tools.  


Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.

 


Tags: Quality Management