How to Write LPA Questions to Verify Training Effectiveness

Layered Process Audits

By Richard Nave
April 6, 2022

LPA Questions for Training Effectiveness

Your plant floor audits might verify employees are up-to-date on training.  However, the truth is that doesn’t necessarily mean operators have retained the required skills to do the job safely and meet the high level of quality our customers demand.  Most importantly, do they have the knowledge of “why”?  Do they still remember why their job is critical, why following the standard matters and most importantly, why safety protocols must be followed for the job? 

For many companies, layered process audit (LPA) questions related to job skills focus only on checking that training has occurred, rather than whether that training is actually effective and put to use. In other blog posts, I’ve talked about the best-in-class practices for LPAs.  One key practice is to audit the process, not the paperwork.  Checking the training record is the paperwork, not the process – it does not verify if the process is running well today. 

For example, some LPA questions require the auditor to scan the operator’s badge to verify their training certificate is valid. The problem with this is that it tells you nothing about how the employee is doing their job. Furthermore, skills aren’t static. If you’re in a dynamic environment where processes are changing, this question could pass when in reality training is outdated.  

With that in mind, let’s look at how to rework this type of question, additional examples of LPA questions for verifying training effectiveness and how to structure them. 

How to Structure LPA Questions for Training Effectiveness

In the example above, a more effective LPA question would be one that focuses on whether the operator is executing the job correctly. At The Luminous Group, we recommend that LPA questions address three elements: 

  • What: Can the operator explain step four on the job instructions? 
  • How: Can the operator demonstrate how they complete the step matches the work instruction? Have the operator demonstrate how they perform the key job step and check that it matches the training or work instructions. 
  • Why: Can the operator describe why this step is important to the overall process? 

Auditors should also pay attention for whether the operator has a better way of completing the step or a suggestion for improving the process.  

Framing LPA questions in this way gets to the heart of training effectiveness, instead of just verifying paperwork. Just as important, it encourages interaction and operator feedback. If you open up a conversation with the operator, you may discover they have a more efficient way to execute the task.  

Examples of Questions for Verifying Training Effectiveness

There are several areas plants can focus on when writing LPA questions that verify whether training is working as intended. One classic example is when a skipped step leads to a customer complaint. In this situation, you would want to periodically rotate in an LPA question on that specific missed step, following the structure described above.   

Safety, too, is another important place to incorporate training-related questions, especially in work areas that use specialized procedures or personal protective equipment (PPE). For instance, if employees in a coating department using heavy metals must wear added PPE like black rubber gloves and boots, you might rotate in questions such as: 

  • Does the operator know where the gloves and boots are located? 
  • Is the operator wearing the special rubber boots and gloves required at this operation? 
  • Can they explain why it’s important to wear the specialized PPE? 

Finally, if a specific operation requires a degree of craftsmanship, this is an ideal place to incorporate an LPA question to verify the operator knows the what, how and why of their job. For example, if an operator of a blow molding press is required to scrape flash off a part to within 0.3 mm, that’s something that takes some skill. Here you’d want to add a question having the operator explain and demonstrate that step.   

Getting Organization-Wide Participation 

One huge benefit of using audit questions to verify training effectiveness is that it can help get other departments involved with LPAs. It’s not just the increased frequency of LPAs that helps reduce quality issues—it’s also the fresh eyes and added layers of verification that ensure problems don’t get missed. 

Within this context, plants can have the human resources (HR) department set up training qualification audits. HR specialists and supervisors can then perform some of these checks, bringing new perspective to the process while also involving more of the organization in quality efforts. LPA software like EASE makes it simple to rotate and randomize new questions based on tags or categories, easily add auditors to your schedule, and provide reference files such as photo images of what proper training looks like in practice.   

Base-level questions may help you check the box when it comes to compliance or certification with a standard like ISO 9001 or IATF 16949. But the truth is, that’s just the first bar to clear. To achieve a true culture of quality—and prevent quality escapes—you have to make sure people aren’t just trained, but they are actually using that training.  

Richard Nave, Luminous Group
Richard Nave
Senior Consultant at | Website

As a senior consultant with The Luminous Group, Richard has more than 18 years of experience in Product Development, Program Management and Manufacturing Management. He has a proven record of success in bringing new technical products to market for clients, a deep knowledge of layered process audits and combines a background in mechanical engineering with a broad knowledge of the global automotive industry.