Layered Process Audits/Published: January 22, 2019

7 Signs Your LPA Program is Struggling

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Quality problems

If your organization conducts layered process audits (LPAs), which of these statements accurately describes your results?

A. We’ve significantly reduced defects and complaints, using these high-frequency process audits to improve standardization.

B. We’ve been doing LPAs for awhile, but we’re not seeing much change in quality.

Those of you that answered B may question if LPAs are just a pointless customer requirement, or whether there are deeper problems within your approach. Here we examine 7 signs of a struggling LPA program, with tips and strategies for improving your results.

1. Low Audit Completion Rates

The most obvious sign your LPA program is struggling is low audit completion rates. It’s a common problem, especially for companies that rely on paper-based or manual tracking.

Part of it is an administrative issue. Scheduling audits daily and shift-level audits isn’t easy, to say nothing of the time and resources it takes to follow up with people who skip their audits. In this sense, LPA software can resolve the problem with automated scheduling, reminders and links to checklists.

It could also be a management commitment issue, however. If management doesn’t hold people accountable, then those who don’t complete their audits will keep ignoring their responsibilities. In this case, you may need to go back to get buy-in from management and build more accountability into the process.  

On-demand webinar with free workbook] Management’s Role in LPAs

2. Ultra-Short Audits

LPAs should be short—about 10 minutes—but too short is a sign of a problem. If people fly through process audits while barely reading questions, you won’t get accurate data on the process issues causing defects and complaints.

Timing audits and investigating whether people are just checking ‘yes’ on every question can help you identify who’s doing this so you can provide extra coaching.

3. Pass Rate is Too High

A 95% pass rate on checklist questions isn’t something to be proud of. When most questions pass for every audit, you’re probably not asking deep enough questions to drive improvement.

While it seems counterintuitive, a lower pass rate means you’re actually finding problems that need fixing. Make sure to regularly review questions and add new ones based on emerging risks like recent complaints and corrective actions.

4. Low Management Participation

Part of what makes LPAs so powerful is management participation. Having leadership on the plant floor provides new perspectives and ideas, also showing LPAs are supported at the highest levels.

That means layer 3 auditors should conduct audits at least monthly. If your plant manager only participates quarterly, it sends the message that LPAs are just another box to check—not something leadership cares about.

5. Generic Checklists

If you’re using the same LPA checklist for every area, you won’t gain much valuable information from audits. Uncovering process non-conformances means taking time to develop customized checklists based on issues specific to each work area, including:

  • Previous defects and complaints
  • Recent change management initiatives
  • Process failure mode and effects analysis (PFMEA) reports
  • Corrective actions

6. Backlog of Corrective Actions

A large number of overdue corrective actions is a clear sign that your LPA program is struggling. LPAs aren’t just about uncovering process issues—they’re also about solving them.

Ideally, you want to implement on-the-spot mitigations and assign corrective actions right away. You also need to close the loop by tracking action items and verifying that corrective actions are effective.

7. Extended Turnaround Time on Reporting

Taking days or weeks to compile findings and crunch LPA data represents a serious quality risk to any organization. Even if you’re doing everything else right, this problem alone can derail your LPA program.

That’s because every minute between identifying and solving the problem is an opportunity for defective products to reach the customer. Make it a priority to review data daily, and you’ll be in a better position to solve problems before defects leave the plant. Preventing defects rather than taking a reactive approach to quality will end up saving your organization a significant amount in hidden quality costs.

How Automation Can Help a Struggling LPA Program

If the signs here sound familiar, automating LPAs could help you get better results, enabling you to:

  • Increase audit completion rates with email reminders, links to online checklists and notifications when people skip audits
  • Boost engagement with mobile audits and corrective actions
  • Update checklists regularly with new questions based emerging quality issues
  • Create custom checklists for each work area from your question library
  • Improve data integrity with timed audits and question rotation
  • Assign mitigations or corrective actions to close the loop faster on process non-conformances

Success with LPAs comes down to authenticity of purpose and commitment. If you treat them as just another box to check, you won’t see much in terms of reducing defects and complaints. If you commit to getting the details right, however, you can build a system centered on accountability, customer satisfaction and a culture of quality.

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