How Heat Treaters Can Guarantee a Faster and Less Stressful Quality Audit – Part 1 of 2

By Tom Morrison posted 05-25-2023 12:15 PM


Let’s face it. Audits are never fun, especially if you’re using mostly manual or paper processes. They involve:

·       Tracking down every scrap of paper that you need to prove that you’ve done everything right;

·       Proving that heat treated parts meet the conformance standards that your customer demanded, or that regulations mandate;

·       Documenting the QA, QC, and testing process.

It can be time-consuming and painful for heat treaters that just want to check off a job as done and move on to the next one…and that’s if everything goes right. Requests for correcting nonconformities, getting concessions granted on the affected parts, documenting customer comments and/or complaints, documenting and dispositioning nonconformances, or findings from an external quality audit are common pain points. These lead to corrective and preventative actions (CAPA) and may require rework. That adds a delay to processing invoices and can push payments further downstream. Even when you’ve wrapped things up and provided a written Cert, customers may require further external audits to confirm that the corrective actions worked as required.

What if there was a way to cut audit times in half?

There is an easier way to accomplish an external quality audit: digital transformation.

By moving your production process and tracking to an integrated quality management system and manufacturing execution system (QMS + MES), you can reduce audit time by as much as 50%. That’s less downtime for your facility, fewer worker-hours tied up in tracking down paperwork, and more productive hours for your production line. Other benefits include:

·       A robust QMS + MES platform tracks everything in real-time.

·       It captures every data point at every stop in the production pathway.

·       Statistical process control helps uncover root causes more easily for faster correction.

·       It tracks maintenance, repair, and equipment qualifications.

·       It tracks staff training and operator qualifications on critically important job steps.


Balance the Disruption

A quality audit (whether done by an internal or external auditor) provides valuable information for moving production forward with less rework, but it can also be highly disruptive. You must balance the time required to conduct quality audits that are informative, thorough, and insightful with production’s need to get back to business as usual.

Thanks to new technologies and better production control systems with integrated quality management, that dream is now a reality.  Quality audits don’t have to shut down production or take forever. With the right tools and methods for streamlining your preparations and gathering data, you will definitely have faster quality audits guaranteed—with no more prep-stress.

Here are our top three ways for you to shorten your quality audit time without sacrificing accuracy or insights. You’ll have a streamlined system designed to deliver the value that you need to ensure compliance in a production workflow process that your team won’t dread.


1.      Centralize Your Data                    

When each department has its own system and method for reporting, gathering the proper documentation to make good business decisions can be tedious and is usually missing key information, which can add days or even weeks to your audit preparations and make it impossible to pull accurate reports at the last minute.

Instead of siloing your data, you should implement a strategy to bring a cohesive view of your data to the forefront, allowing you to gather reports quickly, whether you have weeks or mere hours to prepare. It’s your single source of truth.  Another key component in your strategy is to collect the right information (what you know the auditors are going to be looking for) at the time the work is being done.

I’m not talking about writing information down on a paper form that is hard for someone else to read, might get lost or destroyed in the plant, and is very difficult to find within reams of file cabinet paper when you need it.  Production and quality data needs to be collected in real time as the work is being done, with all data, system-generated forms, signoffs, quality checks, etc. automatically connected to each job/work order, so your staff and auditors will be able to easily see everything associated with heat treating a customer’s Parts.  Here are some other key points:

·       Use a standard communications hub across your entire operations. Funnel all communications into a real-time streamlined hub so each piece of the production pipeline, and any departments with the proper permissions, can see the full context of information with immediate updates, receive confirmation that important messages or instructions were received, and leave a digital paper trail for the chain of responsibility.

·       Manage work order processing through automation. Details from work orders are part of a trove of vital data. Centralizing your work orders and production Processes into one system ensures automation for recordkeeping, from quoting all the way through to shipping and invoicing.

·       Move reporting to a single system. When you pull reports from across multiple departments, information stored in one database system eliminates the need to spend time chasing down department leads to get relevant, updated, or corrected reports, gives you the confidence that you can act on the data you have in front of you because it is continually updated in real time across the organization.

·       Manage every part of your business and production from the initial quote to the invoice from one dashboard. Specifications management and adherence, nonconformances, CAPA’s, reporting, updates, pivots—everything a plant and/or production manager needs to verify and validate proper production is right there.


You’ll be able to pull the reports you need without massive wait times and to provide documentation on the fly if necessary. Segmenting different production departments obscures the data you need and creates issues when different departments can’t access the data that they need.

Instead, centralize your data, which makes everyone a data stakeholder and provides transparency when it counts—i.e., your quality and compliance audit reporting.


2.      Automate Your Reporting

If you’ve centralized your data but it is consistently incorrect or missing, your data hub is useless. Human error accounts for most missing, duplicate, or inaccurate information, and part of your audit is to review that information. Automation removes the human element and creates consistent and systemic reporting. You should automate:

·       Specifications management and version control. Understand what specifications go into a quality product and how those specifications are consistently reached. Updated Specs and any changes move automatically through the pipeline.

·       Job Scheduling. With centralized data, you can automate scheduling to reduce overlap and bottleneck areas, overbooking, and under-planning.

·       Process control. Automating process monitoring allows production systems to pivot continuously and bring those reports alongside.

·       Quality Assurance and Quality Control. If you’ve had bad memories of past findings in quality audits, which can be related to struggling with making sure jobs get done right the first time, an integrated quality management system that is tied directly to operators on the production floor, can bring clarity and focus to both, while holding people accountable for what they do, and collecting the necessary information and signoffs at the time the work is being done.

Automation makes processes happen faster and funnels all your relevant information into a single point of truth, ready to access for your next audit—even if it’s a last-minute auditor request.  There is no stress because all the relevant data is there, digitally connected to each heat treat job, as permanent records that can be printed out if needed, but do not need to be stored in file cabinets wasting space.

These reports help streamline the entire business management process by eliminating missing information and reducing human error, as well as incompatibilities between different departmental reporting systems relying on disjointed data that is not current.

Next week we will publish part 2 of this article.

Article provided by MTI Associate Member, Throughput Consulting – Bluestreak.  Throughput Consulting provides technology solutions for total shop management.  For more information on Bluestreak, visit

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