Hi, welcome to this lesson in which we will look at certification.

What content is covered in this lesson?

We’ll talk about in the next few minutes:

  • the depth of value added of a company,
  • and the associated process control,
  • we look together at examples of standard, method and customer/authority certifications,
  • we briefly go into the topic of FMEA,
  • and ultimately talk about the goals of certifications.

But now to the content of this lesson:

Why are certifications useful?

In the last lesson, we learned about the importance of certifications. Superficially, they are simply necessary to get into the closer supplier selection for interesting orders. But is this really just a disdainful selection criterion? What is it really all about? That’s what we’re dealing with in this short lesson, which doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with project management. But the context provided here helps us understand the “why”.

An OEM, a manufacturer of end products, rarely has full vertical integration from the extraction of raw materials to the recycling of end products. In the rarest of cases, it has only permanent employees who are bound by instructions. This may be true of one or two companies in South Korea, China, India or Russia. But they are the absolute exception. Mass has many supplier interfaces and many external employees and service providers involved in the value creation process of an end product.

A company that has its processes under control with Six Sigma and Lean Management and wants to constantly improve and adapt its quality and efficiency only has access to the internal components of the value chain. Suppliers, service providers and external employees are not bound by instructions, but work together on a contractual basis. One way of obligating a supplier, a service provider or an external employee to comply with the company’s internal rules, in addition to individual contractual agreements, is to certify the external contractor.

What is the benefit of supplier certification?

If the certification is a generally recognized standard, such as DIN ISO 9001, then this does not involve any effort on the part of the OEM and the supplier can use it for a large number of customers with only a one-time effort. The supplier commits to defined courses of action and the customer can be sure that its corresponding internal minimum requirements are thereby met. What is much more interesting, however, is the fact that in the event of a failure directly attributable to non-compliance with the certification requirements, the customer can pass on any associated burdens to the supplier. In case of non-compliance, the supplier has breached its contract with the customer and has almost no legal possibility to defend itself against the customer’s recourse claim. Certification is carried out by recognized certification bodies such as TÜV.

Even more profound are certifications such as Six Sigma levels or the SPICE level derived from them for our field. These certifications not only define the basic organization of the company in order to avoid errors, but also specify the sequence of individual processes that are followed during the creation of the purchased services or products. In other words, each process requested by the customer is certified individually and must subsequently also be complied with. Here, too, certification is carried out by recognized and independent certification bodies.

And quite profound are the company-specific certifications, where the customer tells the supplier exactly what has to be done and checked. In some cases, the supplier must then even hand over the process and product inspection documentation for each individual part to the customer. In this case, the supplier forfeits a large part of his entrepreneurial freedom for the creation processes of the customer’s performance; he may neither adapt nor optimize the production processes without recertification. In the area of suppliers in the aerospace industry, not even milling programs may be optimized, milling tool types replaced by new better types or a better new milling machine type purchased. Every little thing can be fixed in such a company-specific certification, because the customer in turn has committed himself to a certification authority such as the FAA or EASA via a certification to comply with the status quo. The certification of the supplier is done directly by the customer and the certification of the final products is done by approval authorities. To protect the life and limb of users of safety-critical products.

What is FMEA?

And then there is the protection of an OEM against claims for damages by end customers. FMEA is no longer a classic certification, but a consistent consideration of risks for the manufacture and use of the end product. Risks are actively sought in FMEA, identified risks are documented and eliminated as best as possible in the development process. For remaining risks, the customer is informed in the best possible way and procedures are predefined both internally and vis-à-vis the customer and other parties in the event of damage. The aim here is to document that negligence, gross negligence or even wantonness and intent are to be excluded. This very high and costly effort for FMEA is made by all companies that manufacture products with a very high risk of damage. This mainly concerns the manufacturers of airplanes, cars, trains, large structures, medicines and similar products, where many people can be injured or killed and great material damage can also be caused. This is because these compensation payments are the highest in the world and can threaten the very existence of even the largest companies if negligence is proven. A recent example of this is Boeing, which has been accused of gross negligence by failing to comply with certification requirements.

In the event of a claim in court, the manufacturer provides the judge and the criminal investigation authorities with thousands of pages of FMEA documents, which are supposed to prove that the manufacturer really did consider every conceivable risk, excluded it as far as possible, and provided the best possible information about the residual risks.

What are the goals of certifications?

Among other things, certifications thus have two fundamental and predominantly financially motivated goals:

  1. ensuring the quality of our own products and services when working with suppliers, service providers and external employees, and
  2. protection against existentially threatening claims for damages by injured parties and their surviving dependents.

In addition to the protection of life and financial liability, the certification clearly pursues the shifting of own risks and responsibility to the supplier. So the certifications derided by many employees in the supply chain actually have a deeper meaning.

So that’s it for the project management and process management basics. At least for the part that is necessary for a better understanding of the following course series content.

Now let’s summarize what we have covered in this lesson:

  • we have talked about the different levels of value creation in companies and the associated process control,
  • we have looked at the characteristics, advantages and disadvantages of standard, method and customer/authority certifications,
  • we have highlighted what FMEA can contribute to risk minimization and what benefits FMEA offers a company,
  • and we have recognized the goals of certifications as a result.

In the lesson after next, we will look together at the methods we have discussed so far and choose the ones that are relevant for us to deepen in the follow-up courses. But before that there is a little surprise for you:

The following lesson contains the second and thus also the last practice test of this course, in which we revisit the learning content from the lessons since the first practice test. Again, you have more than enough time for this practice test, so there is no time pressure. You can repeat the test as many times as you like until you reach the required minimum goal of 80%. Exactly this intensive occupation with the learning content consolidates your newly acquired knowledge. I wish you a lot of fun with it, see you again in the lesson after next!

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