Certs are here to stay because they help companies mitigate risk and operate efficiently. In fact, the use of certs will increase in the future. While certs have traditionally been used where the consequences of product failure are high, they are increasingly being used to improve operating efficiency, as described in our Digital Quality Certs-The Basics post. This is driving an increase in certs, as reported by the number of companies indicating that their commercial customers are starting to require certs, beyond their customers in the traditional industries of aerospace, defense, electronics, and medical.
Forty years ago, paper certs accompanying shipments made perfect sense. Today, the idea of converting numerical data into a digital image, printing it, signing it, shipping it via a diesel truck, so a customer can convert it back to a digital image only to discard, or file, the paper and abandon the valuable data is senseless, time consuming and expensive. Some companies exchange certs via email and portal, but adoption of these methods has been limited by their numerous disadvantages.
With cert use increasing, and knowing how much of a headache they create, we can be certain the future will look differently than today. But what will it look like?
Having spoken to thousands of professionals engaged in processing certs, we believe cert management will become an entirely digital process that is characterized by:
Cloud-based collaboration networks
Both Microsoft and Amazon have announced massive investments in supply chain networks using their cloud infrastructure. Companies like Four Kites and Project44 have grown dramatically because they can unlock data stored in legacy systems, enabling it to be combined with data from third parties, creating real-time global logistics networks where companies can monitor and execute their logistics strategies.
Digital Cert Management is on the same trajectory with SmartCert leading the way. These networks enable vendors and customers to exchange critical documents, collaborate, and communicate with each other. Specifically, they:
- Create a single source of truth for all parties, eliminating ambiguity about specifications, expectations, and metrics,
- Connect inter-company communications with the documents, avoiding having to search multiple locations when researching historical events,
- Provide secure and easily searchable data storage, and
- Enable execution of inter company processes like defective material reports and supplier corrective action requests, where the next steps are clear, expectations are defined, and responses are measured for supplier performance reporting.
Some industries have adopted standards for specific certs, but the format and contents of certs is largely set by the producer. In the first step, which is occurring now, industries will adopt standard cert templates which describe what and how information will be presented.
In the second step, companies will begin exchanging actual data. Customers will specify to vendors what information they require on their certs by linking critical dimensions and characteristics to their product documentation. Vendors will inspect the products and provide the customer with digitally signed certs validating those requirements accompanied by inspection data over a secure cloud platform. The customers’ QMS systems will analyze the data, pointing quality team members towards risky areas, sparing them from the mind-numbing work that computers do better anyways, and freeing them to do what they do best, solve problems and improve processes.
With the world teetering on the edge of the 4th industrial revolution, the future of certs is clearly going to be digital. Digital networks and structured, actionable data will characterize the future landscape with records being instantly generated, shared, analyzed, and stored. The days of inconsistent and incomplete data being archived in multiple formats and sent using different methods is soon to be over.
See how SmartCert is leading the transformation of cert management.
Everything you need to know about certs, digital cert management.
How digital quality certs are being used and transferred worldwide.
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