Companies that implement a layered process audit (LPA) system must account for a wide variety of questions. Which process areas will you audit? How often will you audit them? What will the process audits cover? How will you take action when you find non-conformances?
At the heart of these high-frequency checks, however, are the questions you include in your actual audit checklists to verify processes are being done right. We’ve discussed strategies for writing LPA questions, such as providing context on why and how to check individual items. Today, we’re examining 7 types of questions to consider for your process audit checklists, including:
- Workstation design
- Process for reporting issues
While companies tend to separate safety and quality, any expert will tell you that they directly influence one another. That’s why LPA checklists should verify that equipment is safe, workers use it correctly, and that they follow safety protocol. Example questions such as:
- Are employees wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as hearing protection, hardhats and/or safety glasses?
- Are machine guards are in place and functioning properly?
- Do workers follow standard safety procedures, using movements that reduce ergonomic risks?
- Is loose clothing tucked in and long hair tied back?
- Is safety equipment like fire extinguishers and eye-washing stations easily accessible and in working order?
Manufacturing quality products starts with having your materials in order, making this an important area to cover in your process audit checklist. Questions you might ask include:
- Does each workstation have the right materials in the right quantity?
- Are operators using materials in the correct order?
Do workers receive materials just in time, or are delays and excess materials contributing to waste and inefficiency?
The specific motions workers use can impact efficiency, quality and safety. Manufacturing audit checklists often cover motion-related questions, for instance:
- Do employees follow each step of standard work instructions?
- Are operators moving in the most efficient manner, or is there a better way to execute the task?
- Are assembly operations uniform, or are hiccups interrupting the process?
- How do people move materials? Are there steps that could be eliminated or improved?
4. Workstation Design and Location
Process audit checklists should incorporate questions that assess whether the workstation itself supports safety and efficiency. As you write your quality audit checklist, consider questions such as:
- Is this the best place in the plant for achieving this station’s objective?
- How does the location fit into your process in terms of shipping, receiving and safety?
- Does the station have the appropriate equipment and fixtures for the task?
- Are error-proofing devices available and functioning correctly? Do operators use them every time?
5. Process for Reporting Issues
A robust process for reporting issues is critical to creating a culture of quality. Because if you don’t act on issues quickly, people are less likely to speak up when they see problems.
Process audit checklist questions for this area might ask:
- What reporting options do employees have to express concerns about quality, safety or efficiency? Are people aware of these options?
- Do operators have direct access to manufacturing engineers to give feedback on work instructions?
- Are reported problems documented and corrected quickly, or is there a delay?
6. Documentation of Processes
Documentation, particularly standard work instructions, is the cornerstone to an effective quality process. Document-related quality audit checklist questions should look at issues like:
- What is the standard work documentation process on the shop floor?
- Can operators access the most recent instructions? If so, are they reviewing them regularly and do they actually understand the process?
- What’s the procedure for changing or modifying the documentation? Do operators regularly review changes, and can they explain them?
Your manufacturing quality checklist needs to cover follow-up and action items to make sure any non-conformances are handled appropriately. Areas to focus on are:
- What are the proposed changes to the process or area?
- How will you monitor and assess follow-up?
- What new questions should you occasionally check in future audits based on customer complaints or corrective actions?
- If you don’t use an automated platform, how will you rotate audit questions and ensure auditors have updated checklists?
- Can you address the problem on the spot, or will you need to focus on containment until root cause analysis and corrective action are complete?
The types of questions discussed here cover some of the most common categories of questions addressed in process audits. But this list isn’t comprehensive, nor will each category appear on every checklist.
The key is to use your own internal process failure modes and effects analysis (PFMEA) forms to identify high-risk processes and design questions around them. An automated LPA platform can help, allowing you to randomize and update questions to reflect current risks.
With discipline and continuous verification of critical processes, your process audit checklist can help you make meaningful quality improvements. A robust process audit that goes beyond checking the box proves that quality is top priority for leaders and the organization as a whole.