Meaningful Layered Process Audits

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Too many times I've seen the practice of Layered Process Audits implemented poorly or for simply the wrong reasons. A customer may require you to perform these tasks, but even your customer is expecting something value-added to come from it. As should you... it's one of the basic tenets of Lean to eliminate as many non-value-added activities as possible. This is a requirement for many in the automotive industry but helps to improve processes in any industry.

So how do you make your Layered Process Audit program work for you? By doing it for the right reasons and by understanding the how and why of LPA. Let's start by identifying the right reasons.

The goal of every process in your company is to satisfy a customer. Every manager or supervisor must be focused upon this goal for a company to be truly successful. Each of these process owners also must focus on reduction of variation within their process so that the company continually improves. Layered Process Audits can, and should, be a part of your improvement process. LPA's will help you to sustain the gains from improvements you make.

LPA's also drive quality and improvement from the top down. Top management is integral to the implementation and maintenance of this program. They, too, regularly perform the same checks as the daily auditors. This shows the workforce not only that the audits are important, but so are the topics covered by the Layered Audit.

Management must be involved; they conducts audits; they identify concerns; they help improve the auditing checksheets; and they make certain that the auditors understand how to audit as well as understand the process model.

Another facet of the Layered Process Audit includes the identification and monitoring of the process steps that vary the most. In other words, if you have a high degree of variation in cycle time, what is changing to cause the variation? Employees not following instructions? Poorly written instructions? Too many mistakes being made? No error-proofing available? These, among others, are some high risk factors you should identify as part of the LPA implementation. But what is critical is to identify what is important to the process. After all, you can't audit everything!

Once you've identified what to audit, it's time to implement your Layered Process Audit program. Ensuring that relevant data flows from the program to management is the priority at this step. What good is the program if you only conduct the audits? I'll be blunt... it is not good at all. Learn from the audits; see what is not conforming, and act upon those items. Make certain that this information flows upstream to management, too.

We're in the process of building a seminar on the Layered Process Audit topic and would enjoy hearing your feedback. For those of you involved in conducting the audits, tell me how well it's working (and why, if it's not). We're targeting December-January to roll this class out, so please click on the quality-improvement-matters.com contact page and let us know what you think. We’ll cover the how during the session.

Learn more about about what we do by clicking the Carpenter Consulting Group link.


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