A Buyer’s Guide Checklist to Mobile Layered Process Audit Software
Under pressure to achieve zero defects, many automotive and aerospace suppliers are leveraging mobile technology to strengthen their layered process audit approach. Layered process audits (LPAs) have traditionally been a time-intensive activity, requiring scheduling, follow-up and reporting on process checks taking place every single shift.
This complexity makes LPAs a prime target for automation, but like any digital transformation initiative, making the right choice requires careful consideration of a wide range of product capabilities. This checklist highlights some of the most important, so you can make an informed choice that helps enable process excellence.
1. Audit Notification Emails
A common quality challenge is the tendency for people to skip scheduled audits. Whether it’s an issue of quality culture or simple forgetfulness, mobile LPA software adds accountability to the audit process.
The first step is notifying people that audits are due, but equally important are notifications when audits are overdue. Additional functions to look for are Outlook invites with reminder emails, which should link to the audit checklist via the web or mobile app.
2. Intuitive Interface
Usability is key to engaging your team when it comes to successfully automating audit processes. When evaluating mobile LPA software options, pay attention to how easy it is to:
- Use the app as well as the web interface
- Access and edit LPA checklists
- Initiate follow-up on non-conformances
- View and share audit results
3. Reporting and Analytics
Reporting is critical to any audit process, heightening visibility so manufacturers can proactively prevent and respond to problems. A robust LPA platform will offer:
- Roll-up and drill-down reporting for both big picture and granular views, including by division, region and plant level
- Live dashboards to help you stay on top of problems and key priorities
- Custom reports such as Pareto charts to prioritize fixes
- Advanced data warehouse options for integrating large datasets with business intelligence tools
- Data on audit duration so you can quickly identify if people are pencil whipping audits
4. Corrective Action
Your mobile LPA software should make it easy to document and fix non-conformances identified during audits. Look for the ability to:
- Record on-the-spot fixes
- Assign corrective actions to team members, as well as review responsibilities
- Report on open corrective actions to shorten response times
5. Automated Scheduling
High frequency audits such as LPAs are recognized as a best practice for quickly improving quality, a principle that also extends to areas like safety. Mobile audit software cuts administrative time associated with scheduling and following up on audits by up to 90%, helping you complete more audits and proactively identify quality and safety risks.
Within this context, the software should enable you to:
- Use layered scheduling to customize audit frequency according to level of management, a must for anyone conducting LPAs
- Automatically schedule around time off, holidays and planned downtime
- Send escalation emails for missed audits so managers can hold people accountable for overdue action items or missed audits
6. Custom Question Library
Mobile LPA software lets you move away from generic checklists so you can create custom ones for each work area, promoting faster and more meaningful improvement.
What are some essential functions to look for in your LPA question library?
- Question rotation and randomization to prevent pencil whipping or inattention to audit questions
- Variable question response types including scored, pass/fail (LPAs), number, text box, multi-select and pick list
- The ability to update questions rather than only being able to create new ones, so you don’t lose the compliance history for questions
- Revision history to track changes to the question library and documents, including who made changes and the ability to instantly revert
- Question tagging so you can quickly add questions to different checklists and for roll-up reporting
7. Photo Upload
One of the main advantages of conducting audits with a mobile device is the ability to incorporate photos and images. Instances where a picture is worth a thousand words include:
- Adding visual standards to show what ‘good’ vs. ‘bad’ looks like in verifying compliance
- Requiring each auditor to take a photo at some point in the audit to verify it took place
- Uploading photos of non-conformances to quickly show what’s not working, or adding them to the corrective action record to document fixes
8. Secure Platforms
Collecting data in a manufacturing environment raises questions about intellectual property security. What you want to look for here is:
- Data encryption for both stored data and data in transit
- Multi-level security options including enterprise single sign-on and advanced configuration settings
- Custom audit viewing and editing permissions available for all levels, including individual workstations
9. Accessibility and Scalability
When evaluating mobile LPA solutions, investigate how easy it is to access audit checklists and data, and how easy it is to scale the system across your organization. Considerations include:
- Offline auditing capabilities, so you can conduct audits even without Wi-Fi or cell service
- iOS and Android apps to conduct audits on any device, as well as web access
- Automatic data backup with data stored in a secure environment
- Cloud-based platform for faster rollout and lower infrastructure costs
- Multiple languages to enable use across global sites
10. Customer Support
While a user-friendly mobile LPA platform won’t require tons of training to get up and running, don’t discount the value of a strong customer support team. From implementation to more advanced training, you want a team that’s going to be with you for the long haul. And if you have multiple sites worldwide, that should also include multi-lingual support for global plant rollouts.
Look for a vendor with a solid track record in customer service and numerous customer references to back it up. Beyond just the technical capabilities, focusing on the human side of your audit management needs can determine the ultimate success of your digital transformation initiative.
Shawn Faircloth has been a customer-centric business development leader and account executive for EASE since 2011.