By Avi Rose, Country Manager: South Africa at ARX
Mining holds a unique position in South Africa as one of the largest employment sectors and a major contributor to the local economy. It is also one of the more dangerous industries, and as such is heavily regulated. Processing paperwork for hundreds of thousands of employees, adhering to local and international regulatory compliance frameworks, and ensuring that all employees have the requisite insurance policies is an onerous task.
The efficiency of these processes is negatively impacted by the need to obtain wet-ink signatures, a highly manual endeavour that can dramatically extend turnaround times. The implementation of electronic signatures can therefore assist in improving efficiency, as well as ensure audit readiness for compliance purposes.
One of the biggest challenges within the mining sector is the typically remote nature of many locations. For companies that provide services to the mining industry, this shapes the processes that must be followed and can often have a negative impact on the length of time it takes to get things done. Insurance is one major example of this problem.
Within the high-risk mining sector, each and every one of the hundreds of thousands of employees must have a comprehensive insurance policy. However, these policies do not become active until the employee’s signature on the contract has been captured and processed. This process can take several days since insurance consultants or brokers must first travel to distant mining sites to obtain the necessary signatures. Then they need to travel back to their offices in order to activate the contracts by sending these documents back to head office, where the information is inserted into a digital format.
The insurance companies’ bottom line is significantly impacted as well since they cannot collect premiums until the policy is in effect. Lodging claims is subject to similar delays, which can impact the families of injured or fatally injured miners who must often wait weeks for compensation.
Insurance companies that are able to provide immediate coverage will not only benefit from immediate premiums, but also provide real advantages to their customers. Electronic signatures can solve this challenge by providing mines and their insurance companies the ability to significantly reduce processing time and increase their overall efficiency.
Using electronic signatures, employees can sign a digital form, even if they are offline, and it is immediately transferred to head office once the broker has connectivity. This cuts several stages out of the traditional manual process, shortening the average processing time frame from two weeks to just one or two days at most.
In regards to internal company forms, increasing regulations require an ever growing number of forms to be signed by employees in the mining sector. These include affirming their understanding of health and safety regulations, acknowledging substance abuse policies, signing off on their employment contracts, and more.
Although these administrative processes are essential, getting the signed documents from the often distant mines to the mine’s head office is an onerous task. Documents are either posted, which can cause unnecessary delays, or couriered, which can quickly become very expensive. Utilising electronic signatures once again simplifies and expedites these processes.
Internal processes such as Human Resources (HR), finance, compliance and reporting can all be made significantly more efficient using electronic signatures. This can also be applied to supply chain, logistics and transport, all areas where mining companies can reduce costs while improving security and compliance. Finally, as noted above, they can also be used for processes related to service providers such as insurance brokers and even customers.
Electronic signatures are legally binding and provide security that is equal to and often better than paper-based wet ink signatures. They confirm the signer’s identity and the document’s integrity, verifying that it hasn’t been tampered with after signing. They can also be integrated into existing document-related systems, where the documents are saved solely within the company’s IT domain, thus ensuring company-wide control over sensitive data.
Finally, electronic signatures also enable mining organisations to take the next step on the journey towards a paperless office, providing significant benefits in terms of time and cost. The bottom line is that electronic signatures improve document processing time and process efficiency while ensuring compliance, minimise risk, and reducing related costs.