Why Getting Reliable Data Is Key with Layered Process Audits

Layered Process Audits

February 9, 2022

Getting Reliable Data

With layered process audits (LPAs), the insights you get are only as valuable as the data they’re based on.  

Getting reliable data, however, can be a challenge when trying to conduct high-frequency audits that take place every shift.  

Part of the problem is the “check the box” approach that’s so prevalent with LPA programs in plants today. What’s more, traditional audit approaches such as pen-and-paper and spreadsheets reduce the reliability of data and introduce a higher likelihood of errors.  

In today’s post, we’re looking at why reliable data is so important when it comes to LPAs. We’ll examine common issues with manual LPA approaches, the implications of unreliable data and how LPA software can help address the problem. 

Data Reliability Issues with Manual LPAs

LPAs are a requirement for automotive suppliers that sell parts to automakers like General Motors (GM) and Stellantis. LPAs, involving multiple layers of the organization verifying high-risk process steps, are also becoming more prevalent in other industries such as aerospace, chemical, and electronics manufacturing.  

While LPAs should be short and quick, trying to complete a high volume of checks using paper checklists and spreadsheets causes several issues around data reliability. These include:  

  • Pencil-whipping and desk audits: When people have to complete the same checklist over and over, they tend to skim over questions without actual verification. Worse, some people will just tick off all the checklist questions without ever setting foot on the plant floor. 
  • Low audit completion rates: For many plants, low audit completion rates are the direct result of the administrative burden involved with paper checklists and entering findings. Without accountability measures in place, it’s very easy for people to miss their audits, intentionally or not.  
  • Transcription errors: Having to move data from paper checklists to spreadsheets increases the opportunity for errors, impacting the accuracy of LPA data.  
  • Timeliness of reporting: Manual data input means reporting is always a step behind what’s actually happening on the plant floor, creating lag time that allows problems to grow. 
  • Incomplete details on non-conformances: LPA questions without a reaction plan or method for capturing details on audit failures slow down corrective actions. 

The Problem with Unreliable Data

When plants are dealing with unreliable LPA data, it can create a host of problems that almost defeat the purpose of conducting these checks altogether. 

That’s because without accurate, timely and complete data—and a high volume of it—manufacturers aren’t getting the full picture of the reality on the plant floor. They’re only getting a snapshot at best, rather than a continuous record of compliance. 

These problems are only compounded when you consider the impact on quality culture. When the de facto approach is to do just the bare minimum, employees notice. They see a lot of paperwork without a lot of action, reducing buy-in that further lowers audit completion rates.  

The result is a negative feedback loop that reduces management’s credibility around commitment to quality. With less (and less reliable) data available, quality issues can easily fall through the cracks—and end up impacting customers. 

How to Get Reliable Data with Mobile LPA Software

Using a digital solution to conduct LPAs ensures more reliable data, and in turn better decision-making. Key capabilities that improve the quality and reliability of LPA data include: 

  • Question rotation and randomization: When checklists are unique every time, it’s harder for people to skip over questions thinking they already know the answer. 
  • Automated reminders and checklists: More audits get done when people get email notifications and links to online checklists, and when missed audits are escalated to a manager. Manufacturers report higher audit completion rates when using LPA software like EASE, providing more robust data to guide their decisions. 
  • Audit photos: LPA software enables you to require a photo as proof the audit took place, so people can’t just complete checklists from their desk. Audit photos are also useful for capturing more detailed information on non-conformances, driving more timely and effective corrective action.  
  • Live reporting and dashboards: LPA data is immediately available in reports when an audit is completed rather than having to wait for someone to enter findings, allowing for faster risk mitigation. 

Getting reliable data is critical to seeing measurable results from your LPA program. For plants using traditional checklists and spreadsheets, this can be difficult, with negative impacts on quality and plant culture overall. Implementing mobile LPA software eliminates many of the issues around data reliability, so plants can achieve real improvements that employees—and customers—can see. 

  • Learn how Jacobs Vehicle Systems increased audit completion rates more than 40% in just six months in this free case study