Layered process audits (LPAs) get their name from the multiple layers of the organization that check high-risk processes on a daily basis. LPAs require companies to put significant effort into writing questions, scheduling audits, tracking audit completion and following up on findings.
But one element critical to success often doesn’t receive the attention it deserves: the LPA team itself. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, more than 60% of companies recognize that cross-functional collaboration is necessary to achieving their strategic goals. And yet, a similar number of them continue to operate in separate silos.
Today we look at why and how LPAs break down these silos, and explore who should be part of your LPA team if you want to achieve your biggest goals.
Layered Process Audit Team Basics
LPAs help companies leverage limited resources, which is important considering that quality management only comprises 4% of the average auto manufacturer’s workforce. That number drops to 1% for aerospace manufacturers, setting up quality as an afterthought that can’t come close to competing with production goals.
By requiring participation from all layers and departments, LPAs make quality part of everyone’s job description. A robust LPA program involves 3 to 4 layers:
- Layer 1: Operators and team leads from the manufacturing area
- Layer 2: Shop-floor supervisors and middle management
- Layer 3: Plant manager, director of quality and executives
Each layer conducts audits at a frequency that corresponds to their level in the organization. For example, layer 1 supervisors conduct audits every shift, while the layer 3 plant manager might do an audit every week or month.
Planning Your Layered Process Audit Program
LPAs provide a formalized structure that supports company-wide engagement and quality culture. The key word here is supports, as LPAs can’t substitute for the top-down commitment that’s a basic requirement for these audits to work as intended.
Getting buy-in from diverse groups means explaining the value to and requiring participation from departments across the organization. In addition to quality and production teams, these include:
- Human resources
- Order fulfillment
- Shipping and receiving
It’s important to pick team members with broad knowledge of the organization, its customers and even its suppliers. These process owners will need to sell LPAs to their team and set expectations around participation.
Conducting Layered Process Audits
As for actually conducting the audits themselves, some companies require all salaried employees to participate. LPAs are designed as a simple set of yes or no questions that only take 10 minutes or so to complete. Audit questions should be written with the layperson in mind, allowing you to get fresh perspective and insight from non-experts throughout the company.
But what can you do when people don’t perform their audits, or when they just check ‘yes’ without actually verifying the item? These problems can torpedo your entire LPA program, so you’ll want to consider strategies such as:
- Tracking audit completion rates and publishing team results via electronic dashboards or white boards. This method can encourage healthy competition between different departments, pushing metrics in a positive direction.
- Including LPA participation in annual reviews, creating accountability for laggards while allowing for easier recognition of leaders.
- Making quality personal by connecting your employees with the voice of the customer whenever possible. Linking your work to the greater good can also help sell LPAs to diverse teams, so they’re more willing to donate time and resources.
- Using audit software to streamline scheduling and access to checklists. Automation ensures your LPA program doesn’t get crushed under the administrative burden of managing 100-plus monthly audits. You can also leverage reporting capabilities in LPA software to prevent data integrity issues with question randomization and timed tracking.
If you’re struggling with managing the details of your LPA program, don’t make the mistake of thinking you can delegate audit responsibilities to other employees. That’s because if you delegate audit responsibilities, the audit program no longer meets the basic definition of LPA.
While theoretically many companies understand the need to engage a large cross-section of the organization in LPAs, it doesn’t always happen in practice. Making it a reality means investing time in planning and supporting your LPA program, following up as necessary to break down barriers to participation.