Conducting Audits to Sustain Lean

Conducting Audits to Sustain Lean

In the last two articles have discussed the importance of sustaining and implementing a Lean Production System as well as documenting expectations to sustain these new systems. This article will focus on simple methods to conduct reviews audits to ensure our new Lean processes are sustained.

Cell level audits

The first line of audits need to be conducted on the shop floor at weekly intervals. Initially this may seem too frequent as improvements are easy to sustain while they are new. At TXM we find time and time again that if we don’t have a set times allocated for these audits they are not conducted and the Lean systems are not sustain. So having a weekly time-slot for cell members  and Cell leaders to conduct their own audit is extremely important. Cell audit only needs to take 10 to 15 minutes each week and the simpler and more visual the audit forms, the easier they are to complete. And it doesn’t need to be left to the end of the week, Tuesday may be the best day for your production to conduct these audits

A great way to conduct the audit is to have the cell leader be primarily responsible for the documentation and process. and the rotate the members of the team, so one person gets a turn each week to assist the cell leader with the audit. This helps with the team buying into the new processes as well as participating in finding the solutions to any problems or concerns that may arise.

Basic housekeeping should certainly be covered by this audit, along with keeping the visual control boards up to date and maintaining minimum inventory levels. This all needs to be set out in a simple one page audit with photographs of the key area is within the cell. Results need to be posted on the visual control boards and collated across the factory to assist the production managers. The cell leaders need to be supported with these audits by having their supervisors check that the audits been conducted sufficiently each week.

Actions arising from these audits must be clearly displayed on the production board and an action plan put against them to be completed in the week ahead, showing who is responsible, what task must be completed and when this will be completed by. These actions then also become part of the next weeks audit.

Production level audits

The audits required at the production or factory level need to encompass all of the cell audits, and tie together the housekeeping and inventory results, as well as monitoring the audits have been completed. These need to be treated at the same level of importance as the Delivery – Cost – Quality metrics.

Production level audit and reviews need to be conducted at least monthly. This allows any small variations to be picked up quickly and addressed before they become major problems. At this level we are not just looking for the audit results, but that the audits have been completed within the spirit of the lean manufacturing approach.

Actions arising from these production level audits must also be clearly displayed across the factory, clearly showing who is responsible for each action, what task needs to be completed and when this will be completed by.

Production managers need to have these new metrics built into their own performance measures. How each level of management supports the production teams is key to the success of these programs and needs to be built into any performance review system.


While conducting audits, holding reviews and keeping people accountable for their actions is not sexy part of implementing a Lean Enterprise system, is is certainly the part that will ensure that it is sustained.


Robert Chittenden

Author: Robert Chittenden

Robert Chittenden is a Senior Lean Consultant at TXM Lean Solutions