Manufacturing operates on razor-thin margins. Every part of your end-to-end process must undergo a thorough inspection for streamlining and consistency. As data becomes an integral part of the manufacturing process, it could be time for you to audit your end-to-end pipeline to ensure the greatest efficiency and reduce costs.
Before you get started, however, you need a robust manufacturing process audit checklist to ensure consistency and compliance. Here’s what you need to know.
The Benefits of a Checklist
It’s possible to operate without a checklist at all or with a generic one designed with no particular company in mind. However, can you be sure that your audits are consistent and proactive? If you operate without a checklist, you risk your consistency and your compliance.
Checklists provide the following:
- Consistency: Everyone evaluates the same way.
- Recordkeeping: You never question when or if an audit happened.
- Comprehensive reviews: You’ll never miss a detail again.
- Pro-active feedback: Identify issues before they become catastrophic.
- Preventative maintenance: Based on feedback, you can accomplish one of the biggest success determinants in manufacturing.
A checklist not only improves the process but also helps manufacturers make the shift to valuable proactive operations. A few generations ago, downtime due to unplanned maintenance was part and parcel of the process, but now, it’s a death sentence.
Building a Robust Checklist
When you shift to a checklist-based audit, it can be tempting to copy something generic and use that. But that’s just too risky. Instead, think through a customized checklist that gathers the data you need and ensures a comprehensive yet efficient audit every single time, no matter who conducts it.
- Set your schedule. Checklists only work with regular upkeep. Make sure everyone is on the same page about audit schedules.
- Create your accountability line. Who reports to whom? What happens to records? Who is responsible for initiating and following up? These details matter for follow-ups and accountability.
- Customize your checklist for your process. Your manufacturing process isn’t like anyone else’s. You can view other examples for reference, but your checklist must follow your unique process exactly.
- Edit for length and clarity. You want a comprehensive audit, but you don’t want to exhaust your auditors. Make it easier for them to maintain audit schedules by streamlining and cutting unnecessary repetition.
- Ensure that there’s room for auditor judgment. The checklist isn’t the end-all. It’s designed to guide your auditors, not erase their expertise. Make sure there’s room for this expert assessment.
The “right” checklist is highly intuitive to your manufacturing process. Even one from a company in the same industry may miss crucial details from your competitive differentiation. With a customized checklist, you assess your process as it stands and ensure that you’ve considered your manufacturing process as the unique operation it is.
A checklist isn’t effective if no one is following up with the data gathered. The final parts of a compliance checklist are actionable benchmarks to improve the process and potentially generalize what’s going well. There are three follow-up areas: the checklist itself, the process, and noncompliance follow-ups.
The checklist: Tweak it to provide the data you need
As your manufacturing process evolves with technology or operations changes, make sure your checklist is up to date to cover those new aspects. In twenty-first-century manufacturing, this is a regular need.
Think of the checklist as a dynamic tool rather than a static document. Measure it against your data and feedback from auditors, figure out what’s missing, and generalize what’s going well. Your auditor can then use it in conjunction with domain level expertise to provide robust data and feedback for your process itself.
The process: Set benchmarks for post-audit strategies with time deadlines
Without a deadline, nothing gets done. All your benchmarks and follow-ups should have actionable deadlines. These include having proactive and preventative measures, reducing unplanned downtime, and ensuring compliance with the latest regulatory standards.
You’ll also need a plan if a timetable isn’t met. This should be part of the checklist records so everyone down to the local level is on the same page.
Noncompliance: Ensure complete documentation and follow-through
When you have an issue of noncompliance or another failing, it’s essential to document these fully. Follow up and use that information for future improvements. This data becomes your information trail and your path forward.
It can be tempting to gloss over the recordkeeping of past failures once everything has been brought back into compliance. However, you rob your organization of the chance to streamline the process and provide a roadmap for improvement in the future.
Transforming Your Manufacturing Process
A manufacturing process audit checklist tailored to your specific needs is the only way to ensure that you get the data and the results you require. You could get by without one, but in a world of data-driven decision making and razor-thin margins, can you afford to?
Think of your checklist as your process auditor’s toolbox. The checklist enhances, reminds, and ensures consistency while allowing their expertise to shine through. Once you have a customized manufacturing process audit checklist, you can reduce your risk and help ease those razor-thin margins of success. Your process depends on it.
If you’re tired of business being halted for lengthy audit processes and want to see how automation not only cuts your audit times in half but also helps build better relationships with your customers, contact us for a free demo today!