How to Streamline Scheduling with Audit Management Software

Industry 4.0

October 8, 2015

The unique value of layered process audits (LPAs) stems from building an effective layering system where you have fresh eyes conducting audits on a consistent basis. LPAs involve employees from all levels of an organization, from operators to senior management, who devote periodic attention to core processes. Unfortunately, what makes LPAs so beneficial to your organization also makes them cumbersome—as the sheer number of audits and auditors involved can create scheduling headaches.

The good news is that you can reduce the time-consuming tasks associated with assigning and scheduling audits by using audit management software. For example, you can easily build a schedule where first-level supervisors are performing audits on every shift while top-level management representatives, such as a plant manager, complete at least one audit per week.

For maximum results you want to utilize a variety of employees—from shop floor managers to executives—to verify that standardized procedures are in place and are followed consistently. If process audit questions are written clearly and correctly, any employee can effectively serve as an auditor. You will instill a culture of quality and produce better products because a cross-functional group of employees are involved in the auditing process.

Assembling Your Audit Team

Here are some tips to keep in mind when building your auditing team:

  • All employees, regardless of function, can be auditors.
  • Each management level should perform audits.
  • Schedule multiple layers of management—typically three, sometimes four, but at least two layers.
  • Divide manufacturing areas and rotate so all areas are audited.
  • The first layer of auditors is typically composed of operators from the manufacturing area.
  • Layer two auditors are most likely shop-floor supervisors and managers.
  • The third layer is the plant manager, quality engineer, or director of quality.
  • If a fourth layer is part of your system, these participants are generally from the executive suites.
  • There must be a system to maintain the audit schedule and track completion.

Make it easy for your employees to participate as auditors. Keep the time commitment for serving as an auditor brief and write the audit checklist questions in a highly specific fashion so that anyone can conduct the audit without a great deal of technical knowledge about the process being audited. By incorporating audit management software into your LPA system, your auditors can simply pull out a tablet or mobile device, perform the audit, and then get back to their regular duties in a timely fashion.

Of course, any scheduled audit must actually take place in order to improve quality. If auditors forget to show up for an audit, not only does the organization lose out on valuable feedback but it also risks not fulfilling your customer’s requirements. Audit management software can help ease those concerns with automated audit reminders, optionally required photos, and other tools that reduce pencil whipping.

Managing Nonconformances

When scheduled LPAs are conducted, any discovered nonconformances should be corrected quickly so that your process can return to its intended state. Additionally, your LPA system should help ensure that corrective actions are closed out so that you are not expending valuable resources to fix the same nonconformance on multiple occasions. A corrective action should return whatever is being audited to the intended state, and a future audit (or verification audit) should confirm that the corrective action has taken place.

Maximizing Audit Reports

Not only can software ease scheduling tasks, but it can also help you more effectively utilize the audit reports to improve your processes. With real-time reporting, you can easily track issues and compliance throughout your organization. Here are some ways to get more mileage from your audit reports:

  • Review audit results frequently, especially when starting new processes.
  • Improve your audit checklist based on auditor feedback.
  • Develop and apply lessons learned to improve future audits.

Communication Is Key

It’s important to communicate with all employees regarding your LPA program on a regular basis. Key points to consider include:

  • Why the LPA is taking place.
  • The purpose and benefits of the LPA process
  • Inform workforce of LPA activity and what to expect when audits are performed in their work areas
  • Encourage workforce feedback and ongoing, two-way communication
  • Communicate LPA results frequently

When implemented fully and effectively, an LPA system is as an excellent mechanism to move your organization to the next level of performance. Now is the time to examine audit management software options that will help you to eliminate the chaos of paper audits and checklists, and start finding and fixing process issues faster.