SIMSA Audit Software


SIMSA is an integrated Audit Management Platform based on the PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) framework of operational excellence. It cuts out the bureaucratic layers of reviewers & approvers, therefore quick to deploy and intuitive to use. Its simplicity and mobility feature is the key factor for the buy-in from the operational staff. It can be used for self-assessments and tracking of corrective actions.

Tag: Operational Excellence

Layered Process Audit

Guide to Layered Process Audits (LPA)

Introduction to Layered Process Audit

Layered process audits (LPAs) are the ones that are conducted across multiple levels of the organization to provide layers of protection against rework, product recalls, and compliance failures.  Going by the definition, two key factors distinguish the layered process audits from the other types of audits. These are:

  1.  Audits focus on how the processes are carried out and not just the outcome of the  process,
  2.  The same audits are conducted by different levels in an organization involving frontline staff, middle management & top management.

The purpose of the LPA is to ensure that the high-risk steps ( which can cause costly mistakes), comply with the laid down quality standards or procedures.  A Layered Process Audit places people at multiple levels of the organization “where the work is being done”. By doing so, the process gaps are proactively identified and plugged before they can cause significant harm to the business. In a nutshell, it is a preventive approach to quality management as against the corrective approach.

Benefits of Layered Process Audits

The key benefits of following LPA are:

  1.  Identifying Process Weakness: One of the primary benefits of LPAs lies in their capacity to uncover hidden process weaknesses. By subjecting each layer of the production process to scrutiny, businesses can pinpoint vulnerabilities and potential points of failure, allowing for proactive rectification.
  2.  Risk Mitigation: No process is 100% risk-free. Even conducting periodic audits based on sampling leaves a scope for residual risks. I am sure you would have heard or read about the automotive OEMs recalling vehicles due to quality issues. LPA, if implemented correctly, could significantly reduce the residual risks and thereby instances of recall & reworks.
  3.  Reduction in Cost of Poor Quality: It is a well-known fact that as the detection of poor quality moves up in the value chain, its cost increases. In other words, the poor quality detected early on is less expensive to rectify as compared to the one detected later. The LPA focuses on detecting poor quality early in the process before more value is added to it.
  4.  Cultivating the Culture of Improvement: The involvement of employees in assuring compliance & taking proactive steps fosters a culture of excellence. As a result, the employees at all levels are involved in process improvements & implementing preventive controls.
  5.  Increased Discipline: By involvement in the LPA, the frontline operators are more cautious and sensitive towards the quality standards. It makes them more disciplined in following the right steps and not taking shortcuts.
  6.  Increased Interaction between Plant Management & Line Operators: Since all the levels are following the same audit checks, it ensures better communication & constructive interactions.

Steps involved in implementing Layered Process Audits

Implementing Layered Process Audits (LPAs) requires a thoughtful and strategic approach. The effectiveness of Layered Process Audits hinges on meticulous planning. Optimal planning is achieved through a multidisciplinary approach, incorporating active management participation. Six crucial factors merit consideration in this planning process:

  1.  Identify the Processes for the LPA: A cross-functional team identifies existing key process steps to audit. These are selected based on risk to product quality including safety, criticality of process step, or product characteristic. Layered Process Audit items can also include past non-conformances, past customer returns, and past customer complaints
  2.  Assemble a Team of Auditors: Identify the stakeholders including the workers, supervisors, and manager accountable for a given process. Train them on the audit procedure using standardized procedures and tools. Assign them clear roles & responsibilities for the LPA program. These “auditors” do not need Quality Management System auditor training since they are not Quality Management System auditors.
  3. Develop a Checklist for each process and layer, based on key performance indicators and high-risk areas. In developing an Audit check sheet, remember that it should include specific, critical items that can be verified quickly. Therefore, the more focused the Audit check-sheet, the more effective. A Layered Process Audit should not be a laundry list of all requirements within a production cell or department.
  4. Determine Audit Cadence: Define the audit frequency and schedule for each layer. Ensure that audits are conducted at different times and by different people, as per the LPA plan. The closer the auditor is to the level of the area being audited, the more frequently that auditor will conduct the Audit. For example, a line supervisor may conduct the Audit daily, while the plant manager may conduct the Audit once per month. Customer specifics may require particular audit frequencies.
  5.  Select the Appropriate Technology:  Select & implement a tool e.g. SIMSA to manage the audit process. Ensure that the tool covers all the steps of the PDCA cycle and automates the manual tasks related to the audits. It should have features for auto-scheduling the audits based on the defined frequency, recoding and assigning the corrective actions, and auto-reminders for the followups.
  6.  Set up LPA Governance Process: It is the upper management team’s responsibility to assess and improve the effectiveness of the LPA process. Operations managers must ensure the following:
    • Layered Process Audits are conducted on time,
    • Layered Process Audits are conducted by the designated team members,
    • The results are recorded and reviewed regularly,
    • Resources are available and focused on corrective actions for the non-conformances identified.

What Layered Process Audits are NOT?

  1.  A quality audit owned by the Quality Department.
  2. Measurement of parts or part characteristics using instrumentation.
  3. A long “laundry list” of items that include items not contributing to customer satisfaction.
  4.  Allowed to be delegated to other persons.
  5.  Conducted as & when time permits.
  6.  Done in the office or away from the place of action.
  7.  Audits in which the corrective actions are taken with a time lag.
  8.  A method to police or penalize the employees.
  9.  A replacement for Quality Management System audits.

Critical Success Factors for the LPAs

  1.  Discipline: Management must instill discipline early in the process to ensure the timely completion of Audits. Consistency fosters discipline within the organization and serves as a demonstration of management’s commitment to Layered Process Audits.
  2.  Quick and Manageable: The audits should be short and should not take too long, as well as take away focus from the critical areas.
  3.  Recording Outcomes: The outcomes of every Layered Process Audit must be documented and preserved. While the primary aim of these audits is to guarantee ongoing adherence to the process, they also serve as a valuable tool for fostering continuous improvement. This is achieved by implementing corrective actions aligned with non-conformances identified during Layered Process Audits.
  4.  Continuous Improvement: Each non-conformance found should be considered as an opportunity for improvement. The improvements should be taken up on an immediate basis as any delay may cost the business and expose to various risks.

Audit Software


Layered Process Audits prove highly effective in upholding process enhancements and embedding critical process steps into the organizational fabric. This efficacy stems from the comprehensive participation across all organizational levels, spanning from operators to senior managers. The dynamic interaction between managers and operators during these audits becomes a valuable learning opportunity. Managers gain insights into manufacturing processes from operators, while operators glean essential knowledge about factors crucial for customer satisfaction from managers. Layered Process Audits facilitate this bidirectional communication.

Numerous organizations grapple with challenges related to 1) communication, 2) consistent adherence to standardized process steps, 3) sustaining and embedding corrective actions, and 4) disseminating customer satisfaction requirements throughout all organizational tiers. The implementation of Layered Process Audits, as outlined in this guideline, effectively addresses these multifaceted issues.

CAPA - Corrective & preventive Action

The Power of CAPA: Enhancing Operational Effectiveness


In the dynamic and complex landscape of business, operations require flexibility and adaptability to various situations. Without having a CAPA process in place, such situations can lead to risky behaviors. An example of this is seen in a food company’s response to an abrupt surge in customer demand. To address this unexpected upswing, the company temporarily adopted a strategy known as “quality release in transit.” However, what began as a one-time exception soon evolved into a habitual practice for addressing unforeseen spikes in demand. The company’s quality control systems were not tuned to meticulously track the quality status of every shipment dispatched. This oversight materialized into a genuine concern when a specific batch was flagged for quality review, but by that time, it had already been dispatched to customers.

The above instance shows how shortcuts become rules and exceptions become norms, if the appropriate actions are not taken on time. This is precisely why CAPA, or Corrective Actions and Preventive Actions, are essential to ensure that operations stay on the right course. It is a systematic approach aimed at identifying, addressing, and preventing issues within a business process. It involves a structured process of investigation, root cause analysis, corrective action, and preventive measures. The primary goal of CAPA is to enhance overall efficiency, minimize errors, and ensure continual improvement.

In the Food Company example mentioned earlier, had the exceptional release been flagged and addressed promptly with the application of CAPA, the incident could have been averted.

Importance and Benefits of Corrective & preventive Actions

The role of the corrective and preventive action subsystem is to gather, evaluate, and address data related to process, product and quality issues. This involves identifying and delving into problems, implementing suitable corrective and/or preventive measures, and ensuring that these issues do not resurface. Crucial steps include verifying or validating these actions, sharing the progress with accountable individuals, supplying pertinent details for management reviews, and maintaining thorough documentation. Effectively managing product and quality challenges, preventing their reoccurrence, and minimizing device failures heavily rely on these activities. Undoubtedly, the corrective and preventive action subsystem stands as one of the most pivotal components within a quality system.

Implementing CAPA effectively yields a plethora of benefits that contribute to the growth and success of an organization:

Improved Efficiency: CAPA fosters a culture of proactive problem-solving, leading to swift issue resolution and minimal disruption to operations.

Enhanced Compliance: Regulatory compliance is a paramount concern for many industries. CAPA ensures adherence to regulations by rectifying non-conformities promptly.

Reduced Risks: By identifying and addressing potential risks early on, CAPA mitigates the likelihood of errors, accidents, and costly setbacks.

Cost Savings: Addressing issues at their root cause prevents recurring problems, saving both time and resources.

Innovation: As you dissect and address the issues, organizations gain valuable insights that can fuel innovation and process optimization.

CAPA Process

The CAPA process should be well-structured & comprehensive, yet it has to be nimble enough for faster implementation. There is a school of thought that recommends 10-15 steps in CAPA process involving approvals at various stages. While it may be relevant for large scale initiatives but in majority of cases it should not require so many steps. People responsible for the operations have to be skilled & trained in CAPA to be able to take responsibility for its implementation without getting involved in too much paperwork & bureaucracy.

A typical CAPA Process should consist of following steps:

CAPA ProcessThe process involves application of various problem-solving techniques e.g. 5 Whys to define the problem accurately, data analysis and Ishikawa (fishbone) diagram for the root cause analysis, brainstorming etc.

However, in a majority of cases, the solution may be straight forward e.g., retraining people on certain violations. The idea is to have a right balance between thoroughness and agility. Also, CAPA should not require another department or set of people to carry out the process. What truly matters is the competence and training of the individuals overseeing operations. Equipping them with CAPA skills empowers them to shoulder the responsibility of its execution effectively.

Best Practices for Implementing CAPA

To harness the full potential of CAPA and reap its benefits, organizations should follow these best practices:

Clear Process Documentation: Document the entire CAPA process, including the steps from issue identification to root cause analysis, corrective actions, and preventive measures. This ensures consistency and transparency.

Cross-Functional Collaboration: Encourage collaboration among departments and teams to obtain diverse perspectives and insights into the issues at hand.

Root Cause Analysis: Devote adequate time to identifying the root causes of problems rather than just addressing the symptoms. Tools like Fishbone Diagrams and 5 Whys can aid in this process.

SMART Goals: Set Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART) goals for corrective and preventive actions. This helps in tracking progress and evaluating the effectiveness of the measures taken.

Regular Review and Analysis: Continuously monitor and analyze the effectiveness of implemented CAPA processes. Adjust them as needed based on outcomes and feedback.

Employee Training: Provide training to employees on CAPA procedures and methodologies. Empower them to contribute to problem-solving and suggest preventive measures.

Data-Driven Approach: Base decisions on data and evidence rather than assumptions. Collect relevant data to support root cause analysis and measure the impact of corrective actions.

Use Technology: Tracking of CAPA across various functional areas for timely & effective implementation can be a nightmare for the operational leaders. Use of IT tools like SIMSA, that not only help to identify the gaps but also enable the tracking of CAPA with the help of auto reminders to the people responsible for each CAPA.

Continuous Improvement Culture: Integrate CAPA into your organization’s culture. Encourage employees to report issues without fear of reprisal and reward innovation and proactive problem-solving.

Do’s and Don’ts of CAPA Implementation

To ensure a successful CAPA implementation, adhere to these do’s and avoid the corresponding don’ts:


Foster Accountability: Assign clear responsibilities for each step of the CAPA process to ensure ownership and accountability.

Communicate Effectively: Maintain transparent communication channels to keep stakeholders informed about the progress of CAPA initiatives.

Prioritize High-Impact Issues: Focus on issues that have the most significant impact on operations, customer satisfaction, and regulatory compliance.

Benchmark and Learn: Study successful CAPA implementations in similar industries to gain insights and adapt best practices to your organization.

Track CAPA: Put a solution in place to track the CAPA implementation against the agreed timelines. Automate the tracking process.

Celebrate Successes: Recognize and celebrate successful CAPA outcomes to motivate employees and reinforce the importance of the process.


Blame Individuals: Avoid pointing fingers at individuals for issues. Instead, concentrate on identifying systemic causes and implementing corrective measures.

Rush the Process: Rushing through the CAPA process can lead to incomplete root cause analysis and ineffective solutions.

Neglect Documentation: Inadequate documentation can hinder the tracking of progress, evaluation of results, and compliance with regulatory requirements.

Overlook Preventive Actions: Emphasize preventive actions as much as corrective actions to avoid recurring problems.

Fear Change: Be open to altering existing processes and approaches to align with the insights gained from CAPA implementation.

Operational Audit Software


Corrective Actions and Preventive Actions stand as a beacon of operational excellence, offering organizations a roadmap to continuous improvement, risk mitigation, and enhanced efficiency. By following the best practices outlined in this article and adhering to the do’s and don’ts, organizations can embrace CAPA as a transformative tool that fosters growth, innovation, and success in today’s dynamic business landscape. Harness the power of CAPA to unlock a future of streamlined operations, reduced risks, and satisfied customers.

Food Safety

Food Safety Audits: Ensuring Consumer Protection and Quality Standards

Understanding Food Safety Audits

Indulging in the culinary delights that nourish our bodies and ignite our taste buds is an inherent part of our human existence. However, as our reliance on processed food continues to soar, the critical issue of food safety has taken center stage, captivating the attention of not only discerning consumers but also vigilant governments worldwide.

Amidst a plethora of regulations and standards, it’s disheartening to witness occasional breaches that shake our trust— ranging from tainted beef to adulterated baby milk powder and even the dreaded presence of lead in our beloved noodles. The consequences are dire, with a staggering estimate of nearly one in ten individuals falling prey to foodborne illnesses, leading to an alarming half a million lives lost annually due to consuming contaminated food. Therefore food safety audits are immensely important for any food business.

Food safety audits serve as an essential tool for evaluating and monitoring adherence to food safety regulations, protocols, and industry best practices. When it comes to ensuring the highest standards of food safety, a comprehensive food safety audit acts as a powerful magnifying glass, meticulously examining every facet of your establishment’s operations involving food handling, production, storage, and overall hygiene practices employed by food establishments.

Conducting regular food safety audits is paramount for several reasons:

1. Consumer Protection: Food safety audits are instrumental in safeguarding public health by minimizing the risk of foodborne illnesses. By identifying potential hazards and implementing necessary preventive measures, audits contribute to maintaining the safety of consumers.

2. Compliance with Regulations: Food establishments are subject to various local, national, and international regulations. Regular audits ensure compliance with these regulations, mitigating legal risks and potential penalties.

3. Brand Reputation: Upholding high food safety standards enhances a business’s reputation and credibility. By prioritizing consumer safety, establishments can build trust and loyalty among their clientele, setting themselves apart from competitors.

Key Components of a Food Safety Audit

 1. Food Safety Management System: It is the foundation of food safety. A documented management system documents the commitment to food safety, policy, processes, procedures, practices, and responsibilities and creates an environment of ensuring safety in every decision & activity. It also has protocols for regulatory compliance, and resolution in case of violations or non-conformities. The food safety audit checks whether all aspects of the management system are in place and implemented in spirit.

 2. Food Production:  Food safety in the manufacturing industry plays a crucial role in safeguarding consumers from potential health hazards. By adhering to strict guidelines and regulations, manufacturers can ensure that food products are free from adulteration, harmful ingredients, and undeclared substances. The aspects of food safety in manufacturing include a sterilized environment, comprehensive quality checks, effective cleaning and sanitation practices, and prevention of contamination.

The proper functioning and periodic calibration of manufacturing and testing equipment are critical for ensuring food safety. Malfunctioning or inaccurate equipment can compromise the quality and safety of food products. Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) principles are invaluable tools for promoting food safety in manufacturing.

3. Food Storage & Handling: Proper storage and handling of food are crucial steps in maintaining its freshness, quality, and safety. Refrigeration at the appropriate temperature slows down bacterial growth, preserving the freshness and quality of perishable foods. It is important to regularly monitor and maintain the temperature of storage units to prevent bacterial proliferation.

Proper segregation of raw and cooked foods is vital to prevent cross-contamination. Raw meats, poultry, and seafood should be stored separately from ready-to-eat foods to avoid the transfer of harmful bacteria. Regular inspection and rotation of stock are essential to prevent the consumption of expired or spoiled foods. This includes checking for signs of pest infestations and promptly discarding any damaged or compromised food items. Proper hygiene practices, which include thorough handwashing before and after handling food, and wearing appropriate protective gear, such as gloves and hairnets, to prevent physical and microbial contamination.

4. Food Packaging: Food safety audit should verify that the packaging materials used are safe for food contact and comply with regulatory requirements. Check if the materials are free from toxins, contaminants, or substances that could migrate into the food. Review the accuracy and completeness of the labeling on the packaging. Ensure that all mandatory information is present, such as product name, ingredients, allergen warnings, nutritional information, expiration date, batch or lot number, and proper storage instructions. Check if the packaging components, such as films, liners, or containers, are traceable to their source. This enables effective recall management and helps identify potential issues or risks associated with the packaging materials.

5. Hygiene and Pest Control: Evaluate the personal hygiene practices of food handlers. This includes checking if employees follow proper handwashing procedures, wear appropriate protective clothing (such as gloves and hairnets), and maintain overall cleanliness and hygiene while handling food. Inspect the effectiveness of pest control measures. Check for evidence of pests or signs of infestation, and ensure that appropriate preventive measures, such as regular inspections, pest monitoring, and pest control treatments, are in place. Verify that any pest control products used are approved and stored safely.

6. Structural Integrity: Assess the physical condition of the facility, including walls, ceilings, floors, and doors. Look for any structural deficiencies that may allow pests to enter or create harborage areas, such as cracks, gaps, or broken seals. The openings in walls allow birds inside the facilities to be exposed to the risk of contamination. Using air curtains or PVC curtains at the doors, docks, and maintaining cleanliness in the external areas are important components of food safety audits.

7. Training & Awareness: Training and awareness are critical components of a food safety audit, as they play a crucial role in ensuring that employees have the knowledge and understanding to uphold food safety standards. Evaluate the effectiveness of training programs provided to employees. Assess the coverage of topics such as personal hygiene, cross-contamination prevention, cleaning and sanitation procedures, allergen control, temperature control, and foodborne illness prevention. Verify that training materials are up-to-date, comprehensive, and tailored to the specific needs of each employee role.

Nearly one in ten individuals falling prey to foodborne illnesses, leading to an alarming half a million lives lost annually due to consuming contaminated food.

Implementing Effective Food Safety Audits

To ensure the success of food safety audits, establishments should follow these best practices:

1. Establish Clear Protocols and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Developing comprehensive SOPs that encompass all food safety aspects is crucial. SOPs should cover areas such as receiving and storage of raw materials, proper cooking and cooling techniques, and thorough cleaning and sanitation procedures.

2. Provide Regular Employee Training

Regularly educate and train employees on food safety practices to foster a culture of awareness and responsibility. Training should include proper hand hygiene, allergen management, and techniques to prevent cross-contamination.

3. Implement Robust Monitoring and Documentation Systems

Establish a system to monitor and document critical control points, such as temperature logs, cleaning schedules, and equipment maintenance. This documentation serves as evidence of compliance during food safety audits.

4. Conduct Internal Audits

Internal audits serve as valuable self-assessment tools. By conducting regular internal audits, establishments can identify areas that require improvement and take proactive measures to address any issues before external audits occur. Download a sample comprehensive Foods Safety Audit Checklist 

5. Stay Abreast of Regulatory Changes

Food safety regulations are constantly evolving. It is essential for establishments to stay up to date with any changes in regulations and adjust their practices accordingly. Regularly reviewing and updating SOPs ensures compliance with the latest standards.

6. Engage with Professional Food Safety Consultants

Engaging the services of professional food safety consultants can provide valuable insights and expertise. These consultants can conduct thorough audits, identify potential risks, and offer recommendations for improvement based on industry best practices.

7. Embrace Technology

Leveraging technology can streamline food safety audits and enhance overall efficiency. Digital tools, such as temperature monitoring systems, automated checklists, and real-time reporting, can simplify the audit process and provide accurate data for analysis.

SIMSA Operational Audits

Benefits of Effective Food Safety Audits

Conducting food safety audits in a meticulous and consistent manner offers several benefits to food establishments:

  1. Risk Identification and Prevention: By identifying potential hazards and vulnerabilities through audits, establishments can implement proactive measures to minimize risks and prevent foodborne illnesses.
  2. Continuous Improvement: Regular audits provide valuable insights into an establishment’s food safety practices, allowing for continuous improvement and the implementation of corrective actions where necessary.
  3. Legal Compliance: Adhering to food safety regulations and protocols through audits ensures compliance, reducing the likelihood of legal issues and associated penalties.
  4. Enhanced Efficiency: Through audits, inefficiencies in food handling processes can be identified and rectified, leading to improved operational efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
  5. Consumer Confidence: Demonstrating a commitment to food safety through audits instills confidence in consumers, fostering loyalty and positive word-of-mouth promotion.


In conclusion, prioritizing food safety audits is crucial for maintaining consumer protection and upholding quality standards in the food service industry. By conducting regular and thorough audits, establishments can identify potential risks, implement preventive measures, and demonstrate a commitment to excellence. SIMSA, a PDCA-based audit software tool can not only help to standardize the food safety audits but also saves up to 70% time in managing audits and also ensure timely closure of the gaps.

5S in Warehouse

Streamlining Warehouse Operations with 5S: The Key to Efficiency and Effectiveness

Have you thought about implementing 5S for your warehouses?

Warehouses are integral and critical parts of any supply chain. From storage of inventory to packing, labeling, kitting, bundling, customer order fulfillment, product customization to service parts & warranty management, warehouses have slowly become the hubs of value-added services closer to markets & customers. With so many moving parts in warehouse operations and a high volume of goods & activities, things can easily become disorganized, leading to inefficiencies, mistakes, and delays. Also, it can make the warehouse prone to accidents leading to injuries and fatalities. This is where 5S comes in.

5S is used to create a clean, organized, and efficient workplace. The term 5S comes from five Japanese words: seiri (sort), seiton (set in order), seiso (shine), seiketsu (standardize), and shitsuke (sustain). The goal of 5S is to create a workplace where everything has a place and is easily accessible, making it easier for workers to do their jobs, improving safety, and reducing waste. 5S technique has been effectively applied in the manufacturing environment, which has yielded multiple benefits in waste reduction, quality improvement, and a safe & organized workplace. Unfortunately, people managing logistics and warehouse operations are not fully aware or trained to implement 5S, which reflects in inaccurate inventory,  wrong shipments, damages to products, injuries & fatalities to people working in these areas.

Let’s understand how 5S can help warehouses streamline operations. Let’s take a closer look at each of these steps:

 1. Sort: This step involves identifying and removing unnecessary items from the workspace. By getting rid of items that are no longer needed or used, it becomes easier to find and access the items that are needed to complete tasks. This can also help to free up valuable storage space and reduce clutter. Some examples of Sort in warehouses are:

  • Sorting and labeling inventory that is slow-moving, non-moving, rejected/held stocks and putting them at a place that prevents any mix-up. One it helps to reduce any chances of shipping rejected products, faster liquidation of slow/non-moving products releasing more space for other products, and increasing the picking speed & productivity.
  • A warehouse may have a lot of tools and equipment that workers use for various tasks. However, not all of these tools may be necessary or relevant for a particular task. Sorting through them regularly can help in identifying any tools that are not needed and removing them, creating more space and reducing clutter.
  • Sorting the packaging wastes, used plastic films & tapes, and damaged products and putting them in the identified bins, and yard can help to minimize fire hazards, accidents, and environment-friendly disposal.
  • Sorting through the paperwork regularly can help in identifying any outdated or unnecessary paperwork and removing it. This can free up space and make it easier for workers to access the relevant documents quickly.

2. Set in Order: After sorting, the next step is to organize the remaining items in a logical and efficient manner. This step involves identifying where each item should be stored and creating a designated place for each item. This makes it easier to locate items quickly and reduces the risk of loss or damage. Some examples of Set in Order in warehouses are:

  • Creating a place for everything: With a lot of items to store and organize in a warehouse, it can be challenging to find space for everything. However, creating a place for everything ensures that operators know where to find the items they need quickly. For instance, tools, equipment, and supplies can be organized by type and stored in specific locations in the warehouse. Similarly, having separated space for expensive goods, defective goods, scrap, and hazardous goods makes the workplace more productive & safe. Also, dedicated space for parking material handling equipment e.g. forklifts, attackers, and reach trucks with lock & key arrangement prevents accidental usage by untrained operators.
  • Labeling and color-coding: Labeling and color-coding items can make it easier for workers to locate them quickly. For example, labeling storage shelves and bins can help workers identify what items are stored where, and color-coding can be used to indicate the type of item or the level of urgency.
  • Implementing storage solutions: Storage solutions such as pallet racks, shelves, and bins can help maximize space in the warehouse and make it easier to find and access items. For example, pallet racks can be used to store bulky items, shelves for smaller items, and bins for fast-moving items.
  • Implementing lean principles: The set-in-order step can also involve implementing lean principles in the warehouse. This includes identifying the most frequently used items and ensuring that they are stored in the most accessible locations, eliminating unnecessary steps in the work process, and reducing the amount of time it takes to complete tasks.

3. Shine: This step involves regularly cleaning and maintaining the workspace to keep it in good condition. This includes cleaning floors, shelves, and equipment, as well as performing regular maintenance on machinery and tools. By keeping the workspace clean and well-maintained, the risk of accidents and injuries is reduced, and equipment is less likely to break down. it helps to ensure that the workspace is clean, safe, and free from hazards that can impact the health and safety of employees. Some examples of Shine in warehouses are:

  • Maintaining floors and surfaces: Warehouse floors and surfaces can get dirty quickly due to the high traffic in the area. Cleaning floors and surfaces regularly helps to prevent slips and falls that could result from slippery floors, and also helps in preventing dust build-up, which can be a fire hazard.
  • Cleaning equipment and tools: In a warehouse setting, there is often a lot of equipment and tools e.g. Material Handling, scanners, printers, and computer terminals, that are used daily. Regularly cleaning this equipment and tools can help prevent dirt and debris from accumulating, leading to potential safety hazards, and also help in prolonging the life of the equipment.
  • Removing clutter: Clutter in the warehouse can make it difficult for workers to move around safely and efficiently. Regularly removing clutter such as empty boxes, packing materials, and pallets can help to create a safer and more efficient workspace.
  • Inspections and Checking for damage and defects: Inspecting equipment, tools, and storage areas regularly can help identify any damage or defects that need to be repaired or replaced. This can help prevent accidents and ensure that the warehouse is operating efficiently.
  • Reviewing safety procedures: The Shine step can also involve reviewing safety procedures regularly to ensure that employees are aware of the proper safety protocols and are following them correctly. This helps to prevent accidents and injuries in the workplace.
  • Cleaning toilets: Toilets and other bathroom facilities should be cleaned regularly to maintain hygiene and prevent the spread of germs. Regular cleaning of toilets can also help prevent unpleasant odors, mold, and bacteria buildup.
  • Cleaning external areas: External areas such as loading docks, parking lots, and sidewalks should be regularly cleaned to maintain a clean and safe environment for employees and visitors. This can include sweeping or power washing to remove dirt and debris, removing litter, and ensuring that walkways are clear and safe to navigate.
  • Cleaning break rooms: Break rooms are a vital part of any warehouse facility, as they provide employees with a place to take breaks and recharge. Regular cleaning of break rooms can help maintain hygiene, prevent unpleasant odors, and create a welcoming environment for employees.

4. Standardize: Once the workspace has been sorted, organized, and cleaned, the next step is to standardize the processes and procedures used to maintain it. This involves creating standardized procedures for cleaning, organizing, and maintaining the workspace to ensure that everyone is following the same process. Standardization helps to ensure that the improvements made during the 5S audit are sustainable over the long term.  The Standardize step is essential in warehouse operations because it helps to maintain the gains made in the previous 3S steps, and ensures that the workspace continues to operate in an organized and efficient manner. Below are some examples of how the Standardize step can be useful for warehouse operations:

  • Standardized cleaning schedules: Creating a cleaning schedule that outlines specific tasks to be performed on a regular basis can help ensure that the workspace remains clean and organized. For example, a cleaning schedule might outline daily tasks such as sweeping and mopping floors, weekly tasks such as cleaning equipment, and monthly tasks such as deep cleaning.
  • Standardized labeling and storage: Standardizing labeling and storage procedures can help ensure that inventory is organized and easy to find. For example, items can be labeled with barcodes or RFID tags that can be scanned to track their location, and storage areas can be standardized to ensure that items are stored in a consistent and efficient manner.
  • Standardized visual management: It involves creating visual aids such as signs, floor markings, labels, kanban boards, shadow boards, and color coding to help workers quickly and easily understand the layout of the warehouse, the location of inventory, and the status of various tasks.
  • Standardized safety procedures: Creating standardized safety procedures can help ensure that all employees are aware of the proper safety protocols and are following them correctly. For example, safety procedures might outline how to handle hazardous materials, how to operate heavy machinery safely, and what to do in case of an emergency.
  • Standardized work instructions: Creating standardized work instructions can help ensure that employees are performing tasks correctly and efficiently. For example, work instructions might outline the steps involved in picking and packing orders, or how to operate specific pieces of equipment.
  • Standardized training programs: Creating standardized training programs can help ensure that all employees receive the same level of training and are aware of the company’s policies and procedures. This can help reduce the risk of accidents and injuries, and ensure that all employees are working in a consistent and efficient manner.

5. Sustain: The final step of the 5S audit is to sustain the improvements made. This involves regularly reviewing the workspace and processes to ensure that they are being followed and that any issues or challenges are addressed promptly. Sustaining the improvements made during the 5S audit requires ongoing effort and commitment, but it is critical to ensure that the benefits are realized over the long term. Below are some examples of how the Sustain step can be useful for warehouse operations:

  • Employee engagement: Employee engagement is critical to the long-term success of the 5S process. By involving employees in the 5S process, and encouraging them to take ownership of the improvements made, warehouse operators can ensure that the gains made through the 5S process are sustained over the long term.
  • Continuous improvement: Continuous improvement is an ongoing process that involves identifying areas for improvement and implementing changes over time. By regularly reviewing and improving upon the 5S process, warehouse operators can ensure that it remains effective and continues to deliver benefits.
  • Performance metrics: Performance metrics such as productivity, inventory accuracy, and safety incidents can be used to monitor the effectiveness of the 5S process over time. By regularly measuring and analyzing these metrics, warehouse operators can identify areas for improvement and ensure that the gains made through the 5S process are sustained over the long term.
  • Audits and inspections: Regular audits and inspections can be used to ensure that the 5S process is being followed correctly and that the gains made through the process are being sustained over the long term. By identifying areas for improvement and taking corrective action when necessary, warehouse operators can ensure that the 5S process remains effective and continues to deliver benefits.
  • Training and education: Regular training and education can be used to ensure that all employees are aware of the 5S process and understand their role in sustaining the gains made through the process. This can help create a culture of continuous improvement and ensure that the benefits of the 5S process are sustained over the long term.

So, now that we have discussed the five steps of a 5S  for warehouse operations, let’s take a closer look at the benefits of this approach.

  1. Improved Efficiency and Productivity: Implementing 5S in a warehouse operation can significantly improve efficiency and productivity. By organizing everything and removing unnecessary clutter, employees can quickly find what they need to complete their tasks, reducing the time it takes to complete them. This not only improves productivity but also reduces the risk of errors and mistakes.
  2. Increased Safety: A 5S  can also increase safety in a warehouse. By removing unnecessary clutter and organizing everything, the risk of accidents and injuries is reduced. Additionally, regular cleaning and maintenance ensure that equipment is functioning properly and that any potential hazards are identified and addressed.
  3. Cost Savings: Implementing a 5S can also result in cost savings for a warehouse operation. By reducing the time it takes to complete tasks, the number of errors and mistakes, and the risk of accidents and injuries, operational costs can be reduced. Additionally, by regularly evaluating equipment and supplies, any potential issues can be identified and addressed before they become more costly problems.
  4. Improved Employee Morale: A clean, organized, and efficient workspace can also improve employee morale. By implementing a 5S, employees are provided with a workspace that is easier to work in, which can improve their job satisfaction and overall morale. This, in turn, can lead to increased productivity and reduced turnover rates.

SIMSA Operational Audits


In conclusion, implementing a 5S initiative in a warehouse operation can significantly improve efficiency, productivity, safety, and morale, while also resulting in cost savings. By following the five steps of the 5S methodology – sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain – a warehouse operation can become a well-organized, efficient, and safe workspace for all employees. So, if you’re looking to improve your warehouse operations, consider implementing a 5S  today!

Operational Audits

Operational Audits: Tool for Continuous Improvement


Operational Audits: Tool for Continuous Improvement

Managing operations of any kind, be it manufacturing, logistics or services, is getting tougher by the day. Considering unpredictable scenarios, volatile environment and numerous micro and macro factors impacting the operations, it is unfair to assume that managers & people will have a razor-sharp focus on operational efficiency and effectiveness. When the pressure mounts, people tend to take short-cuts and make their own informal procedures which could be detrimental in the long run.

It reminds me of a case when we had a temporary problem with a regular transporter and had to allow non-contracted transporters to ensure timely delivery to the customers. It meant higher cost and a risk of working with unknown carriers. However, even after the regular transporter resumed normal services, the delivery staff continued to use non-contracted transporters on some pretext or the other. It was discovered when one of the vehicles of one such transporter went missing along with the products.

Need for the Operational Audits

The purpose of an operational audit is to improve the efficiency of day-to-day operations as well as identify risks due to non-compliance to the set procedures & policies. The audits provide a feedback loop to the operational managers based on the assessment of the effectiveness of the processes. These are not same as the internal audits, conducted by the audit department once or twice every year. The operational audits must be carried out as frequently as deemed important. For example, for a laboratory in the pharma manufacturing unit the, 5S audits may be required at a weekly frequency whereas the Contamination audits may be done once every month. For a warehouse operation, the cost efficiency audits may be done once a quarter while the stock audits may be required every month.

Operational Audits are different from Internal Audits

Operational audit programs are much more in-depth than normal internal audits. They do not look at how things are, they also look at how things could be. In one of the examples of the warehouse audit, the auditor discovered that the pickers are travelling to the same area of warehouse multiple times during the observation period. On further investigation, it was found that the orders are being picked individually for each customer order. However, the back & forth movement of the pickers for each order was not only inflating the need for more manpower but also slowing down the operation. The auditor recommended the change in the picking method to batch picking which led significant reduction in picking time & cost. From an internal audit perspective, there was no gap in the process but from the operational audit perspective, there was a significant opportunity for improvement. That is where the operational audits distinguish from the internal audits.

Another important aspect of the operational audit is that the auditors can be from the same team or the operational excellence experts from within the organization.

We already have Metrics in place to monitor and improve performance, then why Operational Audits?

Metrics and performance indicators are the outcomes and by the time the problems translate into visible outcomes, it is often too late. The operational audits are proactive in nature and used to isolate the problems right at its inception. Much before it is big enough to show up in the performance metrics.

A simple example from daily life is effect of your eating habits on the weight. Even though you measure weight on daily basis it may take many days or months before it starts reflecting on the weighing scale. On the other hand, if you audit what you eat and take corrective actions on daily basis, you can be assured about the positive impact on the body weight.

Operational Audit Software
Structuring the Operational Audit Program

A meaningful operational audit program needs to be well-structured and planned to deliver effective results. The steps involved are:

  1. Prepare an Audit Plan:

    • Depending on the nature of operations, one needs to start with defining the key outcomes of the processes that are part of the operations. As mentioned in the examples above, for a lab operation, it is the maintain the hygiene and prevention of contamination that is critical, whereas for customer service operations, it is the accuracy and timeliness, apart from the cost that is important.
    • Decide whether all the outcomes can be clubbed in a single audit or divided into 2-3 different types of audits. The idea is not to make audit program too complex yet manageable. For example, for a warehouse audit the safety and compliance could be clubbed into one audit whereas the cost, service, and quality into another. Considering the higher risk associated with safety and compliance, it can be conducted more frequently as compared to the other audit.
    • A sample audit plan may look like:


    Audit Areas

    Need for Audit


    Audit Responsibility



    To fulfil the corporate policy of zero tolerance to safety and compliance
    Warehouse Manager


    To achieve the set cost & quality objectives
    Regional Logistics Manager
    Hygiene / 5S
    To prevent the contamination of product
    Warehouse Supervisor
    Customer Service



    To reduce the number of errors and increase the customer satisfaction score
    Operational Excellence Manager
  2. Define Audit Criteria or Checklist:
    For each audit type, determine the reference or standard to be used for the assessment e.g. ISO standard or Risk & Control Matrix. If you don’t have one, it can be developed as below:

    • Map the key activities for each process involved. For example, in warehouse operation the key safety areas include the movement of vehicles in the yard, loading & unloading operations, use of material handling equipment and storage of products.
    • Now, assess the risk involved in each area and the controls that need to be in place to mitigate the risk. For example, the risk involved in the movement of vehicles in the yard is the accidents due to reckless or high-speed driving. The controls that need to be in place to mitigate the risk are putting a speed limit signboard, putting direction and markings for vehicular movement, installing convex mirrors at the sharp corners etc.
    • Include all the important control points as the audit checklist. For each checkpoint, add the related best practice document or pictures that act as a guidance for the auditor.


    Risk Involved

    Risk Level

    Control Measure

    Guideline Document

    Moving Vehicles in the Yard
    Put Speed Signages
    Mark Directions for Vehicle Movement
    Signage - Size and Placement Guideline
  3. Implement the Audit Program:
    • The implementation requires communication with all the stakeholders and getting their buy-in. The stakeholders’ alignment becomes easier if the audit objectives are aligned to the business or functional objectives, as shown in the step 1.
    • It must be communicated that the purpose of the audits is to drive continuous improvement and not to find faults with the auditee
    • Select a suitable tool e.g. SIMSA, to minimize the manual efforts in managing the audit program
    • Train the personnel responsible for conducting the audit on the process as well as using the tool
    • Make a calendar of audits for each site, in agreement with the auditors and the auditees

    Audit Title




    Warehouse Safety & Compliance Audit
    Site ABC
    From dd/mm/yyyy to dd/mm/yyyy
    John Smith
    Site XYZ
    From dd/mm/yyyy to dd/mm/yyyy
    Jane Doe
  4. Monitor the Audit Program:
    Any program not subjected to periodic monitoring and review is likely to fail and the audit program is no exception to it. The purpose of the audit program review is to ensure:

    • Whether the audits are happening as per the calendar?
    • Whether the reports are shared in a timely manner with all the stakeholders?
    • Whether there are corrective actions in place for all the observed gaps?
    • Whether the corrective actions are being closed in a timebound manner?

    Monitoring an audit program can become extremely cumbersome without a dedicated tool like, SIMSA, which can not only pull all the information on click of a button but also send automated reminders to people, should there be any backlogs. The visibility of the status of the audit programs instils the seriousness and accountability in the organization

  5. Improving and refreshing the Audit Program:
    In a dynamic environment, it would be naïve to assume that the risks, controls and audit criteria once decided can be used for ever. As the business priorities change or there is a change in the risk profile or the nature of controls, the audit program must be altered to accommodate these changes. Also, if certain deficiencies were found in the previous audit program, the same should be rectified. This approach aligns with the PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) framework of operational excellence.

Source: How to Conduct a Quality Internal Audit, Seetharam Kandarpa

SIMSA Operational Audits

It is obvious that operational audit is one of the important levers of continuous improvement. Unlike internal audits, the operational audits are proactive in nature because the focus is not what is not right but what could be done better. However, it has been seen that in most organizations the operational audits are missing or done in an adhoc manner. Therefore, it does not translate into any visible improvements. A well structured operational audit program supported by technology like SIMSA, can be an important tool in the hands of operational managers to drive the operational excellence.