If you needed to complete 200 audits this month, would your quality team be able to handle it alone? For most companies, the answer is no, and it’s one reason why companies new to layered process audit (LPA) programs struggle.
LPAs are a type of high-frequency process audit involving all layers of management, from team leads to executives. Repeat checks of high-risk processes prevent defects and foster continuous improvement, providing the best results when companies draw auditors from across the organization.
In our experience, however, not all companies find it easy to get other departments involved. Let’s take a look at why cross-functional teams are so important to LPAs, plus some strategies for increasing participation.
Adding Fresh Perspective to Audits
One reason cross-functional collaboration is so important to LPA programs is the fact that fresh eyes often spot problems other people miss. While someone familiar with a process can easily complete an audit on autopilot, a newbie is more likely to follow the questions to the letter.
For instance, a question like “Is the operator following standard work instructions” might get an automatic yes from a floor supervisor. A finance person, however, is more likely to actually look for posted instructions rather than just assuming the operator is following them.
Breaking Quality Out of Its Silo
A large proportion of auto and aerospace manufacturers treat quality as an administrative function, placing it in its own separate silo. This means:
- Employees believe quality is the responsibility of the quality department.
- There aren’t enough resources available to proactively prevent problems.
- Quality pros spend more time reacting to defects found in inspections than identifying the processes causing them in the first place.
LPAs help break quality out of this silo, helping bring a quality mindset to your operations team. Since operations performs the majority of these audits, LPAs help raise the visibility of quality in a department where quality mindset is especially critical.
Outside of operations, seeing the impact of quality issues firsthand makes it personal for everyone involved in LPAs. Like the finance person who sees product ruined by a roof leak, or the HR person who sees a safety issue hurting morale.
Protecting Data Integrity
An area where companies consistently struggle with LPAs is data integrity. Common issues include:
- Pencil whipping, where people fly through the audit and check ‘yes’ on all items just to get it over with
- Desk audits, where people skip the audit altogether and complete the checklist from their desks
Drawing auditors from other groups helps address problems of pencil-whipping and buddy passing. As we said earlier, those unfamiliar with the process are more likely to examine questions in detail. And if you don’t have to work next to the guy every day, you’ll feel less pressure to let problems slide. Having an assembly manager checking a press process, for example, works as a cross-functional audit within the operations department.
Leveraging Limited Resources
The power of LPAs comes from the fact that you are conducting a very high frequency of audits. For many companies, it would be very difficult for the quality team alone to achieve this level of frequency. Drawing in additional team members helps companies do more with fewer resources.
Of course, each group has its own priorities, and it can be difficult to pull someone out of their day job. It’s not just about one person’s willingness to participate, but also management buy-in to the program.
This problem gets back to quality culture. When people in the company truly believe quality is top priority, they’re willing to contribute to the cause. To get that level of commitment, it’s important to communicate the value of your LPA program with real examples, results and goals.
And if people still aren’t doing their assigned audits? Maybe leadership needs to flex a little muscle and be clear that it’s not a democracy.
How Audit Software Can Help
Logistical details can be a challenge when it comes to scheduling audits, ensuring compliance and analyzing results. LPA software is a big advantage here, allowing you to:
- Schedule an entire year’s worth of audits in just a few minutes
- Prevent desk audits by requiring a photo from each audit
- Automatically generate reports, so people spend less time compiling spreadsheets and more time identifying solutions
- Share dashboard data so everyone can see who’s completing their audits
Companies often find teams will try to out-compete each other in terms of audit completion rates, also putting pressure on those who aren’t carrying their weight. If you really have someone who’s really resistant, you also have hard data to hold them accountable.
When you get down to it, this structure and accountability is key to achieving your goals—and removing any doubt that quality truly does come first.