Layered Process Audits/Published: May 25, 2023

Core Principles of the CQI-8 Layered Process Audit Guideline

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CQI-8 Layered Process Audit Guideline

Deficiencies with internal audits are a common finding during IATF 16949 certification. The problem can be especially complex for suppliers to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) such as Ford and GM which require layered process audits (LPAs) to be conducted.  

One resource, however, can help: The Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG) CQI-8 Layered Process Audit Guideline. 

LPAs consist of daily checks of critical-to-quality processes, aimed at ensuring standardization and holding improvements in place. Doing LPAs right, though, requires more than just completing checklists. Instead, plants need to embrace the philosophy behind LPAs to get real results.  

With that in mind, today’s article looks at core principles of AIAG’s CQI-8 LPA guideline, so plants can set their sights beyond compliance towards a true culture of quality.  

Download your free Ultimate Guide to Layered Process Audits for more best practices and strategies for designing your LPA program

The Focus is High-Value Processes, Not Products or Paperwork

What makes LPAs distinct from other types of audits and inspections is that they focus on process inputs, not finished product characteristics. The reason this is important is that, according to AIAG, most production quality problems are a result of process noncompliance.  

Therefore, auditing sources of variation in the process is the only way to proactively prevent defects rather than having to detect and correct them after the fact. This process focus means that LPAs verify items such as: 

  • Machine settings 
  • Whether operators are following key steps 
  • Setup and changeover procedures 
  • Compliance with safety protocols 
  • Quality of material inputs 
  • Measurement procedures 

Just as LPAs don’t measure finished products, they also do not focus on paperwork such as completing forms or posting work instructions. While these things may be important, they don’t show whether the operator understands and consistently executes the correct process. 

Layers Are What Make the Difference

Another key difference between LPAs and regular process audits is that they require participation from multiple levels of the organization. Layer 1 auditors include supervisors that conduct audits daily. Layer 2 auditors include engineers and people from other departments performing audits weekly. Layer 3 auditors include plant managers and site leaders, who conduct audits monthly.  

Layering audits in this way offers several advantages: 

  • Having multiple people checking the same items helps ensure checks are being performed properly 
  • You can more quickly detect variation in processes as it occurs, such as if a new procedure is implemented  
  • It creates opportunities to catch items that others may have missed 
  • It brings new perspectives to problems, such as when someone from another department finds an issue others have glossed over  

Layered Process Audits Are Fast and Frequent

For audits to take place on a daily basis, they can’t take an hour to complete. Rather, they should take about 10 minutes to conduct, with simple yes/no questions that anyone—even non-experts—can quickly answer.  

These are important principles to keep in mind when creating your checklists and question library. If questions are too complex or checklists take too long to complete, people will quickly fall off completing their required audits. This results in wasted effort and resources as well as less buy-in for your LPA program overall.  

Layered Process Audits Go Beyond the Quality Department

We’ve already looked at how the different layers are essential to results with LPAs. But it’s not just the increased frequency that drives results. It’s also the fact that getting everyone in the organization involved, including departments like finance, warehousing and HR, has a huge impact on quality culture. 

Why is this? 

First, it makes quality part of everyone’s job description—not just something the quality department is responsible for. Second, it increases awareness of customer satisfaction requirements across the organization, a vital part of creating a culture of quality.  

Finally, it gets people out of their offices and onto the plant floor. In other words, going to the Gemba where work is done. This helps people understand their contribution to quality, showing them their work matters and that leadership truly prioritizes quality.  

Layered Process Audits Create a Culture of Communication

One important benefit of LPAs is that they foster a culture of engagement and openness between leadership and operators.  

By visiting the plant floor, management and other departments learn about the practical realities of manufacturing processes firsthand from operators. Engineering, for example, might discover that what they are asking an operator to do isn’t feasible, or downright unsafe. 

LPAs also give operators the opportunity to learn what’s important to management, as well as the most critical elements of the process from a customer satisfaction perspective. Management also has the chance to recognize operators for a job well done, which is crucial to both employee retention and quality culture.   

At the end of the day, accountability is the key to success with LPAs. If people aren’t completing audits—and if management doesn’t regularly review results—the entire system breaks down. An LPA platform like EASE can help streamline the details, so plants can focus on LPAs that follow these core principles rather than struggling to keep audits on track.

Download a free case study to learn how Jacobs Vehicle Systems replaced their Kamishibai system with EASE to improve quality

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