Layered process audits (LPAs) are mandatory for automotive suppliers and growing in popularity in the aerospace industry due to its effectiveness in improving quality at the process level. However, you may find that an effective LPA program isn’t easy to manage when done manually through spreadsheets, resulting in administrative burden.
Maybe you’re doing ok scheduling these high-frequency audits, but people are just checking the box during the process checks (if they complete them at all). Or maybe you’re bogged down in reporting, and it’s taking too long to find and fix problems.
Perhaps your quality director has tasked you with researching a better solution, or you’ve taken the initiative to do it yourself. Either way, you’ll likely find that an automated solution would make life easier, but that’s not exactly a compelling reason for your boss to accept your recommendation.
So how do you talk to your quality director about LPA and corrective action software to gain buy-in? The key is to focus on the business case—the metrics and issues your boss cares about most—like quality costs, LPA effectiveness and productivity.
Reducing Quality Costs
Reducing quality costs is a top reason why manufacturers automate their LPA programs. LPA and corrective action software help push down quality costs compared to paper-based methods by reducing:
- Administrative overhead: An automated system often lets suppliers move at least one full-time employee from administrative management to more value-added work.
- Scrap, rework and customer complaints: Implemented properly, LPA software helps identify and prevent defects prior to shipping, reducing both internal and external failure costs.
- Equipment downtime: By identifying process improvements and fixing problems faster, LPA and corrective action software helps minimize costly downtime.
Improving LPA Effectiveness
Another key point to focus on is how automating LPAs can help improve LPA effectiveness and overall productivity. Paper-based or homegrown systems are notoriously inefficient, causing problems such as:
- Lag time in analyzing data
- Difficulty updating checklists
- Low audit completion rates
- Pencil-whipped audits, also known as ‘ticking the box’
- Lack of corrective action and snowballing problems
In contrast, an LPA and corrective action software increases effectiveness and productivity by helping you:
- See data instantly: Real-time metrics let you see immediately where standards are slipping. More robust data also helps develop leading indicators to proactively improve quality.
- Keep questions fresh: You can add or update questions as new issues arise, or to verify corrective actions are working. Question libraries make it simple to customize checklists for different work cells—an LPA best practice.
- Boost audit completion rates: Automated email reminders and escalations help you keep tabs on audit compliance. Question randomization and timed audits also make it harder for people to rush through audits, improving data integrity.
- Close the loop: When auditors identify problems, they can record an on-the-spot mitigation, or assign corrective action for follow-up. This keeps problems from getting buried and driving up costs.
Maximizing Value and Productivity from LPA and Corrective Action Software
Before you present options to your quality director, you want to make sure you’ve done your homework. Critical functions and capabilities to evaluate include:
- Mobile platform: The solution must be user-friendly if you want people to actually use it, as opposed to treating it as just another box to check. Look for a mobile platform that is streamlined, fast and available even when internet is spotty, as it often is on the plant floor.
- Flexible audit types: You’ll get more value from a platform that you can use for different audits, such as 5S and health and safety audits.
- Multiple tech options: You want a mobile solution that is compatible with both Android and Apple devices, so you’re not forced to use one particular platform.
- Deployment and training: Getting the most from LPA and corrective action software requires a team that’s with you for the long haul. Look for one that provides ongoing assistance for deployment, training and scaling across facilities. As with many important purchases, customer support makes all the difference.
Taking a Test Drive
Once you’ve found a solution that you think will work, consider proposing a test run focused on one work area or facility. This step will help ensure it’s a good fit and that you’re getting the benefits you need. Be sure to perform the test run in a work area that you already know to have some problems. That way, you can use the positive results to better convince management that a mobile audit solution is the way to go.
Demonstrating proof of concept will make your case that much stronger with your quality director, reducing risk while giving your team the chance to shine. In the end, remember that it’s not just about technology. It’s about giving your people the tools they need to be successful and engaging your entire team in building a culture of quality.