The Role of LPAs in VDA 6.3 Compliance

Suppliers hoping to work with German automakers like Volkswagen and BMW must comply with the VDA 6.3 process audit standard in order to win contracts from this market sector.

The good news for automotive suppliers:

Those companies that already conduct layered process audits (LPAs) may find the certification process easier because of how these unique audits align with the standard.

Here we look at what’s in the standard and how LPAs can make compliance easier, plus what process excellence expert Denis Devos at The Luminous Group has to say about how LPAs align with the standard.

  • Download a free case study to learn how a Fortune 500 automotive supplier reduced PPM by 73% with layered process audits

What Is VDA 6.3?

The Verband der Automobilindustrie (VDA) is an organization representing German car manufacturers that sets standards for suppliers to automakers in that country. An extension of ISO 9001:2015, the VDA 6.X standard is composed of three distinct parts:

  • VDA 6.1 – System audit: This part focuses on the overall performance of the quality management system as a whole.
  • VDA 6.3 – Process audit: This part looks at the production process itself to verify effectiveness at ensuring products meet quality standards.
  • VDA 6.5 – Product audit: This part verifies that products themselves are in conformance with specifications.

“VDA is a lot like IATF 16949,” says Devos, adding that the audit involves a set of checksheets where manufacturers are scored on a scale of maturity or effectiveness. The process audit standard spans a variety of topics from planning to personnel to corrective actions, quality requirements and the work environment. German OEMs—representing a large proportion of vehicles manufactured in Europe—award contracts to suppliers based in part on the results of VDA audits.

How VDA 6.3 Aligns with Layered Process Audits

Layered process audits (LPAs) are a system of verifying adherence to process standards, with short, quick audits that take place daily. Although there’s no specific VDA 6.3 requirement to conduct LPAs, doing so still makes a lot of sense for suppliers to the European market.

The reason? Like other management system standards such as ISO 9001, VDA emphasizes defect prevention, risk reduction and continuous improvement—all areas where LPAs make an impact.

LPAs align with VDA process audit requirements in multiple key areas by verifying that:

  • Corrective actions are in place and effective
  • Quality requirements are met with regards to the manufacturing process
  • Work stations meet standards for high quality work
  • Non-conforming products are effectively detected and separated
  • Products are stored properly
  • Quality results and trends are consistently analyzed and reported
  • Standardized processes are followed

Companies already doing LPAs will find compliance with these requirements simpler than those who don’t, since they already have a process in place to verify these and other critical-to-quality items.

“Conducting LPAs ensures you’re conducting audits more frequently, so you’re more likely to be ready during a VDA audit,” Devos says.

How a Layered Approach Supports VDA Compliance

One element that makes LPAs unique is that they involve auditors from different layers of management, including floor supervisors, plant managers and even employees from other departments. That means multiple sets of eyes on every process, effectively preventing people from brushing problems under the rug.

VDA 6.3 requires manufacturers conduct an internal audit annually, with external audits by registration bodies taking place once every three years.

Here’s the problem:

If you’re only checking once a year, that increases the chances of problems falling through the cracks. Compliance becomes a one-time event, rather than a way of life.

Rotating in questions from VDA 6.3 into daily rather than annual audits provides a more accurate picture of shop floor conditions, allowing leadership to address problems faster for fewer surprises when third-party auditors visit the plant.

“LPAs are a good way to make sure the right things are being done day to day,” says Devos.

From a larger standpoint, however LPAs make ongoing verification a daily habit—helping achieve the full value of implementing management standards like ISO 9001, IATF 16949 and VDA.

Integrating VDA 6.3 Compliance Into Mobile Quality Audits

Internal auditors using VDA checklists to verify compliance during annual audits will find many questions that provide insight into what OEMs are looking for.

The problem is that these checklists lack one key piece: documentation that each item is actually in compliance.

Take, for example, a question around whether corrective actions have been checked for implementation. Which do you think would hold more sway with an auditor, just saying that you’ve made a given correction, or being able to pull up the specific dates that the correction was double-checked?

In this sense, an automated platform like EASE provides a critical advantage in allowing suppliers to easily access audit findings and reports, also allowing manufacturers to:

  • Schedule and follow-up on audits
  • Eliminate versioning mistakes that are common with spreadsheets
  • Assign and track action items
  • Verify corrective actions
  • Get real-time insights into plant floor quality

While LPAs require dedicated time and resources, they streamline compliance with OEM, standard and regulatory requirements, resulting in fewer findings and customer complaints. In addition to ensuring your team is paying attention to critical details, LPAs are visible proof of a commitment to quality, which will pay dividends when it comes to customer satisfaction, profitability and long-term brand value.

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