Layered Process Audits/Published: November 19, 2015

Taking Process Audits to the Next Level with Layered Process Audits

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It all boils down to ensuring quality. Conducting audits helps do this.  

Popular and effective approaches to achieving quality are: conducting process audits and conducting layered process audits (LPAs). We will examine both, pointing out the differences between these two methods and revealing why layered process audits can be more effective and thorough.

What They Have in Common

Both process audits and LPAs do the following:

  • Systematically observe the processes on the plant floor
  • Evaluate compliance to the quality program (or to contractual specifications)
  • Document the results of the evaluation
  • Suggest improvements toward achieving compliance
  • Measure progress toward attaining compliance

Other benefits of both types of audits may include:

  • Discovering new problems (and potential solutions) during the audit process
  • Integrating audits as a part of a continuous improvement plan
  • Integrating the audit results into an overall company growth and improvement plan

Process Audit Details

Third parties (that is, individuals who aren’t performing the work) primarily conduct process audits. Typically, QA auditors have been hired to conduct these audits across an entire plant.

Process audits are meant to verify if staff is following prescribed procedures for accomplishing the work. If a nonconformance is found, it is usually corrected on the spot and indicated in the audit results.

Layered Process Audit Details

Layered process audits also employ third-parties to implement, but approach the process from a different angle.


To form a layered process audit program, auditors are pulled from various strata of the company: administration, shop supervisors, HR, IT, shop personnel, suppliers, shipping, receiving, purchasing, and engineering.

Managers are responsible for informing employees about what auditors are doing and what types of questions they will be asking – assuring them that LPAs are part of an effort to improve quality and efficiency.

Schedules and Milestones

Depending on the specific LPA, audits will be conducted on varying timetables: daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or bi-annually. Like process audits, auditors monitor whether shop personnel implemented corrective actions and whether further action is required.

Also like process audits, part of the LPA process is to document what occurred during the audits and to document any conclusions. LPAs should be on-going for best results.

More is Sometimes Better

It is perhaps easy to see that LPAs involve an array of your facility’s personnel, which means it reduces the feeling of “us versus them.” Because LPAs involve people from many areas of the plant, the result is often more thorough: more and different sets of eyes looking at potential problems and areas for improvement means a more in-depth audit.

With information from LPAs, plant owners can move forward, confident that the information is the most complete and most accurate they can get. While LPAs may need more organizational tasks, extra time up-front, and more effort simply because there’s a team involvement, the efforts will provide better information and from a well-rounded perspective.

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