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Beacon Quality Blog

A blog on plant floor quality: IATF 16949:2016, ISO 9001:2015, layered process audits, 5S, health and safety, gemba & more. Our software, Beacon Quality, simplifies these processes with our mobile auditing solution.

Using Layered Process Audits to Close the Loop on Safety

Jan 21, 2020  |  Eric Stoop

According to the National Safety Council, workplace fatalities have risen 17% since 2009 after decades of steady improvement in occupational safety, outpacing workforce growth over that period.

Companies conducting layered process audits (LPAs) can help reverse this trend by using these verifications to identify safety nonconformances and fix them before they cause safety incidents.

With daily checks of high-risk processes, layered process audits lead to more conversations about safety, also demonstrating leadership prioritizes safe work—both critical to creating a culture of safety.

Achieving this level of reliability, however, doesn’t happen overnight. Organizations must first make a key mindset shift, also taking a strategic approach to uncovering and resolving instances where people don’t follow standards.

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Layered Process Audits: Going Beyond Compliance to Get More Value

Jan 07, 2020  |  Joe Plata

Do layered process audits drive real improvement in your organization? Or are they just another hoop to jump through for customers like General Motors (GM) and Fiat Chrysler (FCA)?

Layered process audits are comprised of quick checks of high-risk processes, preventing defects by identifying when people aren’t working to standard. While each audit only lasts about 10 minutes, they also take place daily, creating an administrative burden that leads many manufacturers to simply treat them as busy work.

This “check the box” attitude creates its own avalanche of problems.

Completion rates are low, delivering little data. People pencil-whip audits by passing every item blindly—a problem for nearly half of respondents in our State of LPA survey. Completed checklists become an overflowing pile of unfinished paperwork, waiting for someone to enter and analyze the findings. When auditors do uncover problems, they may not receive the proper follow-up, sending the message that management doesn’t actually care.

It’s a vicious cycle that adds up to huge amounts of wasted time and money considering the effort required to set up, manage and track LPAs. Ultimately, this bare minimum compliance approach also means more defects, complaints and warranty costs. That’s because process failures lead to product failures, and if nobody’s looking for them, they will continue to impact quality.

In this post, we examine how to break this cycle, leveraging strategies like checklist design, problem-solving and automation to get more from LPAs and move beyond compliance.

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How a Pilot Program can Ensure Success for Your Automated Layered Process Audits

Dec 16, 2019  |  Travis Carlton

Whether we’re talking to a front-line operator, a plant manager or CEO, people’s reactions to being assigned a new recurring task are remarkably similar.

“Oh great—more to do.”

Sound familiar?

It’s a reaction that’s common in organizations transitioning from paper-based to an automated digital process for layered process audits (LPAs), even though the end result may be a sharp reduction in defects and simpler audit processes. While there are numerous benefits to moving from a paper-based to a mobile digital platform for your LPA program, the focus of this article is how to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Layered process audits focus on quick, straightforward elements of process inputs, helping ensure process standardization and reduce defects upstream from the point of manufacture. Automating LPAs can involve a transition process, one made easier by adopting a pilot program to help you learn as you go. Here we discuss different types of pilot programs, as well as some best practices to ensure success.

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7 LPA Questions That Don’t Work (and How to Fix Them)

Dec 04, 2019  |  Richard Ruiz

“Garbage in, garbage out.”

That’s the mantra commonly ascribed to computer scientists and software engineers to describe how low-quality data impacts the software development process.

The same concept applies to manufacturing in the context of layered process audit (LPA) questions. Layered process audits are a high-frequency audit strategy aimed at ensuring process inputs comply with work standards, as opposed to trying to identify defects after production.

When it comes to LPA questions, creating a generic plant-wide checklist and adopting a “set it and forget it” approach doesn’t deliver meaningful data. Instead, manufacturers must invest time in the process, collecting input from quality, engineering and plant leadership to ensure questions are relevant and provide real value.

In other words, the effort you put into writing LPA questions determines the quality of data they ultimately provide.

With that in mind, this post looks at 7 generic LPA questions that don’t work, and how to fix them for more meaningful results.

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16 Terms Every Quality Professional Should Know

Nov 26, 2019  |  Paul Foster

If you’re new to layered process audits, it’s critical to make sure everyone on your team is on the same page with basic terms. Here we provide a guide of 16 essential terms to know when launching your LPA program and getting your team up to speed. Don’t forget to directly download your own copy of this guide to keep as a reference for yourself and your team.

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AIAG 2019 Quality Summit Highlights

Nov 15, 2019  |  Ease Inc

On October 2-3, 2019, the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG) hosted its annual Quality Summit, an event that draws hundreds of industry leaders every year. As in previous years, the event took place at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Michigan, a familiar venue for those who have attended in the past.

We talked with Murray Sittsamer, president of The Luminous Group, and John Rose, quality systems manager for Jacobs Vehicle Systems, about the event. Some of the highlights from this year’s summit include key updates from industry groups about new quality initiatives, informational sessions and even a celebrity appearance.

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How to Hire a Great Quality Engineer

Nov 06, 2019  |  Ease Inc

According to a Deloitte study on the manufacturing skills gap, the U.S. will need to fill 4.6 million manufacturing jobs over the next decade, but over half of those are likely to sit vacant.

It’s a grim prospect for the manufacturing industry, where the average time to fill a position rose from 94 to 118 days from 2015 to 2018. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data show that as of September 2019, a full 500,000 manufacturing jobs remain open, a problem that affects nearly every company in the industry.

Quality departments are already feeling the pain, with a quick search of Indeed showing thousands of open positions for quality engineers nationwide.

What can companies do to adapt to the skills gap? And how can they ensure they’re bringing on the right hires?

To answer these questions and learn how to hire a great quality engineer, we talked to Craig Nowotny, general manager of Arthur Wright & Associates. The staffing firm focuses exclusively on filling positions in manufacturing, engineering and operations, an area where Nowotny has nearly 30 years of experience.

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Advanced Reporting Strategies for Layered Process Audit Data

Oct 29, 2019  |  Chris Shoe

Organizations just getting started with layered process audits typically focus on basic metrics like audit completion rate and overdue corrective actions. As they progress along their digital transformation journey, however, they could be getting more value from these specialized audits by asking more complex questions.

Executed correctly, layered process audits (LPAs) take place every shift, generating hundreds of data points daily. Multiply that out over the course of a year, and it’s clear that manufacturers have some pretty robust data sets at their fingertips.

Managing these vast quantities of data can be difficult when relying on spreadsheets and other manual data analytics tools. An automated LPA platform integrated with business intelligence tools like Tableau and Power BI makes it much simpler (even if many analyses still require having an analyst or data scientist on staff).

With that in mind, let’s look at some examples of how manufacturers can leverage deeper insights from the volume of data they collect daily.

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Breaking Down the Results of Our First Ever Hackathon

Oct 14, 2019  |  Scot Larsen

Leaders of established companies often wonder why they can’t innovate as fast as during the startup phase, when energy levels are high and the sky’s the limit. 

In truth, it’s a bit like wanting to be a freewheeling kid again, despite the fact that more mature companies have a much different set of responsibilities.

Ease’s 2019 Hackathon—the first ever—was aimed at seeing what would happen when we let our developers play like kids again. 

The goal: come up with bold new solutions to our customers’ most pressing problems, and fast. While the event represented a significant investment in time and resources, it’s already paying off big, with surprising results that will soon translate into increased productivity for our customers.

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