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This is part two of The Layered Process Audit. If you haven’t already, you should read part one. 

In many organizations, the line supervisor has the responsibility for auditing to ensure that structures and processes such as standard work, 5S, safety, and quality checks are adhered to. The supervisor is usually the only one who is knowledgeable enough about the process to make these observations. This results in a narrow organizational view of the process. By providing cross functional involvement of the support staff, the collective perspective and experience of the broader organization is integrated into the process directly at the point of value added. For example:

  • Human resources should be observing the process to ensure that health & safety as well as processes for training and operator certification are functioning as planned. They should also be observing that the basic team structure is providing the operator with the necessary support needed to provide value through operator engagement and solicitation of ideas.
  • Engineering should be observing and auditing to ensure that product and process design is capable of producing high quality products or services with the highest repeatability.
  • Quality should be auditing the process with an emphasis on how well the quality system is being adhered to at the operator level. This includes defect tracking, error proofing, adherence to quality key points, etc.

When the functional staff finds a deviation from a standard, this should be considered as an opportunity to do several things. First of all, it provides a method for calibration and coaching. When outside eyes see that a supervisor has only recorded good observations in the past, this becomes a coachable event. Why do they not see the same deviation? Coaching the supervisor on how to observe the process from different perspectives will build capability on the front line. Secondly, it provides the functional staff with a structured process for direct observation. This allows them to see how well the part of the system that they are directly responsible for is designed and functioning. A quality manager during the audit of the process may observe operators fixing defects without properly notifying others or documenting problems. This would indicate that the system is not working to surface problems. In addition, if a product engineer sees that all operators are struggling with a certain assembly task, the product or process can be redesigned as needed. This will reduce overburden on operators and the potential for errors.

Auditing serves the critical function of surfacing and solving systemic problems. To maximize audit effectiveness, conduct audits frequently to detect variation in the 4 M’s prior to the creation of defects. Expand auditing to other functional groups beyond supervision to gain multiple perspectives as to how well the process is designed and being adhered to. A cross functional audit team will provide for integrated solutions that strengthens the total system.

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The Lean Learning Center was founded in 2001 to address the gaps and barriers that are holding back companies from successful and sustainable lean transformation. In addition to the advanced curriculum, the Center has developed a learning environment designed specifically for adult learning utilizing techniques that include discovery simulations, case studies, personal planning, and reflection – ultimately engaging people at a deep and personal level. We bring our unique lean understanding in creative ways to executives, managers, supervisors, change agents and front-line employees.

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