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Reduce Process Nonconformance with Layered Process Audits (LPA)

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Consider upcoming LPA training at AIAG to improve quality metrics, customer satisfaction and profits by getting more work elements right the first time.

Consistently meeting or exceeding the requirements set by your company, customers and quality standards is critical in the automotive industry. These criteria are in place for a reason and failing to adhere to these standards results in inflated scrap and rework costs, increased customer complaints, audit findings and preventable costly quality incidents. So, how do you ensure process requirements are met the first time around?

Implement or Improve Your Layered Process Audit System

A Layered Process Audit (LPA) is a structured set of quick process verifications conducted by various employees within an organization, from team leaders and quality engineers up through plant leadership. It is called a “layered” process audit because all levels (or layers) of management perform the verifications. Similarly, all functions should participate in conducting these quick verifications.

The purpose of this management strategy is to confirm that actions and controls which are critical to quality are done right the first time. This is accomplished by providing consistent attention to high-risk processes, ensuring adherence to your own procedures and established standards.

What Does LPA Do for You?

LPA might be a requirement of your customer, but your company’s top management might want to implement an LPA strategy regardless because of the inherent benefits. An effective, efficient LPA strategy will help you to:

  • Know that your process is correct (don’t assume). This builds confidence and engagement in your workforce.
  • Know when your process is not correct – quickly detect occurrence of a non-conformance before any ramifications move downstream.
    • If your process is incorrect, take corrective action promptly – make the right changes to prevent costly mistakes.
  • Capture and analyze this information – act upon root causes to prevent similar problems and create a culture of continuous improvement.

Because LPAs are largely normalizing supervisors’ and managements’ responsibility to oversee and improve processes, there are barely any additional costs. Software is available to simplify scheduling, notifications and audit results without added administrative busy-work. With very low costs and huge benefits, insightful leaders see a compelling case to implement and support LPAs.

Why Reduce Non-Conformances?

In the automotive industry, the legacy meaning of ‘non-conformance’ is a quality defect on a part. Those defects cause internal disruptions, and can also cause disruptions for your customers, which are costly for you. Reacting to these defects – think of non-value-add containment and problem solving activities – distracts attention away from productive workflow.

Since the introduction of Automotive Quality Management System standards (e.g., QS-9000, TS-16949 and now IATF 16949) ‘non-conformance’ is better understood as a failure to conform to accepted standards of behavior. In other words, the process wasn’t executed as intended. Poor execution leads to defective products and sub-par service delivery. 

If you don’t notice or verify that work effort or process are not being executed according to defined standards or work rules, then you and your customer are at risk and will likely see non-conformances as:

  • Scrap and rework costs.
  • Reduced customer satisfaction metrics.
  • Decreased number of conforming parts per shift.
  • Warrantee claims and costs, even safety issues.
  • Recalls, or even litigation.

The Big Picture, Beyond the Checklist

Implementing an effective Layered Process Audit program is a low-cost, easy to follow practice to reduce and eliminate process non-conformance and costly problems. With minimal effort and a painless adjustment to leadership practices, non-conformances can be significantly reduced. The return on the investment for LPA includes reducing scrap and complaints (in the current year and future years when LPA is maintained), reduction of warranty claims and recalls, and growth of a culture that resects people, quality and continuous improvement.

Upcoming LPA Trainings at AIAG

The next LPA training sessions scheduled at AIAG are:

Click the links above to learn more about these training options or read the feedback below from a recent attendee who was able to implement an improved LPA system at his facility with impressive results!

“I attended your LPA training in October 2018 in Michigan. The training material was very helpful in implementing an improved LPA system in our facility. The new improved system started in March 2019 and since then we are meeting our goals of On time Completion Rate, Completion Rate and Non-Conformance Closures. […]  We went from around 60% completion rate to 99% completion rate for last 5 months.” – Babla Bogam, Quality Engineering Supervisor, BorgWarner Morse Systems, Transmission Components.

About the Author: Murray Sittsamer is viewed as an expert in Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA), Root Cause Problem Solving, and Layered Process Audits (LPA).  He was the leader of the AIAG industry team that updated the LPA CQI-8 2nd edition guideline. Murray holds a Master of Science in Industrial Administration from Carnegie Mellon University. He earned his undergraduate degree in industrial engineering from the University of Pittsburgh.



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