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Architectural Engineering & Construction

Approval and electronic signature

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  • January 14, 2018
Approval signature

Approval processes are a common issue in Electronic Document Management System (EDMS). Standardizing, referring and gathering documents are the first stages of document workflows. Effectively following the document’s lifecycle (changes identification, updates, versioning etc.) is the second part.

Some documents are more critical than others and need to be approved by many participants. Approval processes are not always the same but usually the chosen one is based on the safer one, even for simple documents. This may result in a complex workflow.

If a document is considered simple, it should be approved by the author and an accredited user. The single accredited user stands for all the document users. He or she is in charge of the approval. Each change or update should be approved by the same participants. It is crucial that names and not only job functions are enlisted as approver.

If a document is considered critical, it has to be created and approved by accredited participants from several teams before distribution. For documents with high impacts (maintenance documents in a nuclear power plant for instance), approval implies a dedicated approver role complementary to author and accredited user. The dedicated approver is in charge of the distribution approval.

Creation of a “static” document after approval for distribution

After approval, it is highly recommended to create a “static” version of the document. It is then safer to distribute the final “static” version of the approved document. Most of the time, the engineering department keeps the “changeable” version of a document.

PDF format was specially created for distribution, filing and printing. It is a worldwide format for document exchange. It also allows authors to keep document formatting (font, images etc.) whatever platform is used to open it (DTP, CAD, office etc.).

Automatic PDF generation after document approval seems to be an appropriate answer. This “static” version is attached to the approved document. Most of the time, the engineering department keeps the “changeable” document and users have the opportunity to access to the static or the changeable document on the platform.

Electronic signature integration in the approval process

The statutory scope of electronic signature is crucial. It identifies participants’ responsibilities and ensures quality and traceability of the approval process.

Each electronic signature is attached to a single user. Ideally, electronic signature is integrated in the approval process. It could also be useful to add the signature date on the document.

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