Identifying Continuous Improvement Opportunities


Fully vaccinated are you?
I am looking for examples of Opportunities for Continuous Improvement which arose from Internal Audits. Have an example or two (or more)? What were (are) they?
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barb butrym

Quite Involved in Discussions
well the rant and do not agree with the lack of OFI in Internal Audits.

So you want a few? well lets say first that OFIs don't always need to be major $$$$ process improvements, that said you may now agree?

1. An internal audit team (in training) audited the electronic assembly area of a client of mine. They noted that the operator was repositioning the components in the tray before assembly at stage 2. They asked why, and did the procedure tell them to do that. The answer was, they did it because it was easier for them to mount from that position, and they had less assembly mishaps (poke yoke?) procedure, just experience. The same team did stage 1, there they found that the operator was placing the units in trays in the same position as the stage 2 operator. When asked why, they stated that they used to work on stage 2 and knew it would benefit the process. Does everyone do that? What happened in the mean time? A cleaning process (not on the router or audit plan, just added to enhance stage 3 performance due to a contamination problem), the (new) operator there was just merrily plopping the units down as she went along...random positions. The OFI? Have the cleaning operation do the same positioning, make sure everyone is doing the same thing. the operators were thrilled that someone listened (value #1)...the efficiency and quality of less seasoned operators improved (value #2) All the auditors did was ask why...the area group leaders did the investigating and corrections as a result of answering the why's........An acceptance/applaud of the internal audit process by the manufacturing leaders (value #3)

2. During an audit of contract review, it was noted that all the information was in the files, but clumsy to walk through the trail of evidence to verify compliance. An opportunity perhaps? The auditee agreed, although compliant, even she had difficulty when the order came in verifying that the order met the original quote...she always did, and it was evidenced, but was very timely....So they created a summary form, and indexed the supplied data, and cut back her review time by more than 3/4

OFI yes..rocket science no.....but value none the less...and these were both from auditor trainees, during the training practice sessions.

As the company grows, so do the auditors, and so do the OFI.....Won't happen every day, every audit....but there will be a trend.
Response to #1:

To me, this brings up the bigger question of Rooot Cause. We heve here an illogical sequence in a series of operations. Was process validation poor resulting in an illogical sequenceing? Was the plant layout (or local area rearranged) to introduce this 'process sequence fault'? Was a process step added without careful consideration of sequencing? Does this mean there are problems with communication between the process engineer and the operators/assemblers? Are the qualifications for process engineer too low?

Response to #2:

Really, the same as above. This is why I like implementations. People start to think about what they're doing.

I agree that Internal Audits can spot 'conditions' such as these. However, any walk through by a thoughtful manager of his/her department could identify these issues.

My concern is the change in focus of internal auditing. They used to be primarily to validate processes and systems (Say what you do and do what you say). Now the scope is expanded to include 'consulting'. In addition, the scope is now to ensure that the systems '...conform to the Internatioal Standard...' I am not at all convinced that the majority of internal auditors have the background and 'education' to be interpreting the standards.

If there is one thing I hear from companies I have done internal audits for it's along the lines of "...the internal auditors have conflicting views of what meets the specification and we all end up in a pissing match..." Typically its over 'details'.

Hopefully IAs will not be relied upon to induce incremental changes such as these you cite. One thing I have noticed working out of the US - companies in the US are typically 'slow' like this. In other countries it seems there is more enthuseasism - or something. They are always looking for possibilities for incremental improvements.

One more note, whether through a walk through, an internal audit or any other critical 'looksie' at a process or operation, it is highly probably that at least 1 opportunity for incremental improvement will be observed. I bet I can walk through any line and come up with what is, in my opinion, an opportunity for improvement.

I have no particular problem citing opportunities for improvements during internal audits, but I do not see internal audits as important a tool in contrast to good communication, adequate process engineering and management responsibility (such as managers knowing their systems well enough and looking at them critically enought to identify such issues).

If internal audits become a primary tool for identifying these types of issues, I contend the company has much bigger, deeply rooted problems.

Comments? Next?

[This message has been edited by admin (edited 20 December 1999).]

Laura M

Hopefully IAs will not be relied upon to induce incremental changes such as these you cite.

Relied on, wouldn't expect that. Yes, managers can find these things on a walk through. Do they? Its like the spot on the rug get used to the way it is, so you don't notice it. Good IA's can notice lots of overlooked opportunities. In some ways, the "big bosses" found out the "little bosses" were not out there looking for these things. "Why do I need an auditor to find this stuff" was stated more than once. Management responsibility got pushed a little as a result.

In my experience IA's DO spend considerable time INITIALLY...arguing "the standard." My auditors did attend lead assessor. The problem was the rest of the company didn't, so they applied their own interpretation. Of course on a real sticky issue, we had our consultant available to lend support one way or another. IA's that have been in the position for a long time, and see the whole company can easily sight opportunities...where they may have seen something work in one department that can be applied to another.

Agreed that IA's are not a substitute for good communication & process engineering, but can do a heck of alot for consistancy. I guess I just had good experience with our internal auditors..not that there weren't any battles along the way.



Fully vaccinated are you?
Yes - you have some points as does barb. Maybe my frustration is that the evolution of internal auditing is making it more and more of a specialized function with increasing time and knowledge needs. This said, many companies do not recognize the increased time and training needs and end up with (technically) resource issues. People who 'volunteer' have their regular jobs and the next thing you know the audit schedule is shit. and - as I've pointed out - I see a lot of companies where hostilities arise from stuff auditees consider 'nit picking' by the internal auditors.

But then again the resource issue comes up a lot anyway, as I think about it. It's a significant issue to me even before I accept a client.

Laura M

I actually "trained" 20 internal auditors...I was supposed to figure out how to phase out of the full time ones (headcount). You're absolutely right, those with "real" jobs could never keep the schedule, and if they didn't do it often enough, they forgot how. Within the first year we bagged the other 18 auditors, and went with "full time". Other trainees ended up being involved with implementation in their depts, but NEVER had enough time for the audit schedule.


Fully vaccinated are you?
I've done a lot of internal auditor training... Scarry, isn't it!

At one large client I trained 40 auditors. Within 9 months almost 1/2 dropped out - too much 'real' work, etc. Lot's of excuses. I trained 20 more. That was when I started to seriously look at cost factors (make/buy is you will).

I will say that where there are resource issues in so far as internal auditors goes, there are typically resource problems in general.

barb butrym

Quite Involved in Discussions
I agree that the Opp for imp were lean at best...but these were are correct...a good manager would have been headsup on these......but a "harried" manager struggling to just 'ship it', with no heart felt buy in to the QA system isn't gonna do any more than lip service.....and how many strong managers are there anyway? Unfortunately, every company has a cross section of both. Root cause??? .....there are many, pick one....always ties back eventually to management and resources.

This was not an implementation project..I agree...implementation is fun......hopefully you can do things differently, and yes I also decide on resourses available and committment...if i want to bid a job or not.

That said...a good contract auditor for internal audits, has always been my preference....but I feel they do add value, and offer opportunities for imp. as well as meet the standard requirements.

As to auditor drop outs....absolutely. But once trained properly, they will never look at their own area in the same way again...they will look through an auditor's eyes, and that in itself is an opportunity for improvement !!!! I once did a company that wanted more than 1/2 its work force ( of 300+ souls) to go through the auditor training..hell that was lucrative....AND they wanted to contract me to do all the internal audits. Basically, anyone that was expected to have any leadership responsibilities now or in the near future was required to attend internal auditor training....and they put that in the training needs for promotion. I run at least 1 class a year there still...and I still do the internal audits. After the training they can accompany me...absolutely voluntary...or never do another audit. They think its an exercise in how to think.....

[This message has been edited by barb butrym (edited 21 December 1999).]
Internal/external Auditing, like inspection, adds nothing to the process (non-value added).
When we learn that it is commitment and not compliance, we can become self-auditing and self-inspected. Then we can say we add value to the product/process.
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