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Rapid Plant Assessment: Quick Rating of Operations Maturity

Rapid Plant Assessment (RPA) is a process for rating an operation’s leanness based on a quick plant tour. The process was first introduced by Dr. R. Eugene Goodson in 1998. Soon after the development of RPA, it was widely used for quickly gauging a plant’s performance from a lean and operational excellence perspective. The process has been used in a broad spectrum of industries, from aerospace and automotive to general manufacturing and food industries. The RPA process has been used for quickly evaluating a plant for various purposes such as merger and acquisition, supplier evaluation, overall operations checkup, and tracking the progress in lean transformation.

Why is RPA so attractive?

There are tremendous benefits in RPA and here we present a short list:

  • The findings offer insights about the plant’s strengths and weaknesses.

  • It identifies and prioritizes areas of improvement to allocate limited resources to realize the most benefits.

  • RPA is used as a benchmarking tool to measure the excellence trends internally within the company and externally with direct and indirect competition.

  • It provides consistent results even with varying levels of experience.

  • The assessment tour can be conducted in as little as a couple hours.

  • The process can be performed for internal operations and supplier evaluation.

What makes RPA different from auditing?

The main difference between RPA and compliance-based auditing is that RPA is gauging the strengths and weakness of the operations, while compliance-based auditing only looks for noncompliance.

RPA adopts the lean concept of Gemba walk. This way, RPA can capture more information than what the procedures and records have to offer.

How does it work?

The core of RPA includes two assessment tools: a rating sheet and a questionnaire. The rating sheet covers eleven categories, and the questionnaire includes 20 yes-or-no questions. These assessment tools are completed after a trained team tours the plant and observes various aspects of the operations.

The rating sheet:

The rating sheet is the first tool of RPA; the categories included are rated quantitatively and then weighted appropriately to establish an RPA score. The 11 categories are:

  1. Customer Satisfaction

  2. Safety, Environment Cleanliness, and Order

  3. Visual Management System

  4. Scheduling System

  5. Use of Space, Movement of Materials and Product Line Flow

  6. Levels of Inventory and Work in Process

  7. Teamwork and Motivation

  8. Condition and Maintenance of Equipment and Tools

  9. Management of Complexity and Variability

  10. Supply Chain Integration

  11. Commitment to Quality

The questionnaire:

The questionnaire is the second RPA assessment tool that is composed of 20 questions, requiring yes or no answer. Can the current state of the operation be viewed visually as the walk occurs, on status boards, or on a computer display? Are production lines scheduled off a single pacing process, with appropriate inventory levels at each stage? These are examples of yes or no questions within the questionnaire.

Both tools are designed to work together, where every category in the first tool (rating sheet) has multiple questions in the second tool (questionnaire) to correlate. This correlation between the two tools assists in maintaining consistency throughout both tools.


After the assessment is completed, the results are discussed and consolidated into a summary workbook. Through this step, the audit team brings examples to justify their ratings and the workbook is used to normalize the scores and provides a single view about the operation system health. This final step will be then basis for developing a roadmap and create a priority list of actions to improve the state of the operations.



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