Routines to Self-Certify – Checklists and Employee Training

Self-CertifyWhat does this mean? …and why would anyone want it?

Certification, or Certifying, is a process that reviews the condition of something, or some things, or some set of action(s). Most often we see a tool being certified, that it is fit to do a job or that it is working correctly, or that is was put together correctly or that it puts things together correctly.

But we can also certify a process. For example, the process of making popcorn has several steps that must be done in the correct order, with correct amounts of popcorn and oil and time. If we are all taught the wrong process, and someone comes to inspect our work, it is the process that is at fault. If they were asked by the big boss to make certain that everything is OK at our cinema, they could say that they could certify that everything is OK except the process that we were taught for making popcorn.

So, we can certify the processes and tools that create, assemble and complete the creation of something. For example; We have all seen movies where the Sargent in the army is very strict about the process that the soldiers need to use to make their bed, or how they can put together a gun. If the Sargent has to report to her boss that the soldiers all know how to do these things perfectly, she is certifying those capabilities.  Another more formal example; The projectors in every cinema are certified that they comply with the standards set by the studio group, Digital Cinema Initiatives <>.

The tools or techniques that we use need to be examined in a particular way so that the users might know that they are safe to use, or that management can be certain they are still doing well what they were purchased to do, or so that customers can know that they will get a consistent product when they purchase – in our case, picture and audio well delivered in a comfortable and safe space.

At the studios, there are engineers who check the rooms every day, or even more if a different director comes in to work on their movie. On the exhibition side, there are some companies who will come in once a year to certify that the light and sound values are correct. But we know that problems can happen during the weeks or months in between. We want to catch them before the customers do.

SelfCertify TriangleIt can be very expensive and inefficient to have some professional come every week or every month to make sure these goals are met. So we learn to Self-Certify. Perhaps the professional comes once a year, or when things break…or if we are clever, the process of self-certifying will allow us to catch problems before things break.

And, for marketing purposes, it is quite cool to tell customers that we meet some standards. Usually every industry has some group that says “these are the standards to meet.” The standard can also be set by the boss, or the owner, or the quality control cheif who says – we want to be the best. Perhaps the boss says we don’t need to be the best, but we do want to supply decent products that are not expensive but will last a couple of years. For a lot of clients, that is all they need.

For example: For example, my company makes ceiling tiles. I have 3 kinds: Super ceiling tiles that will last for decades or Super Cheap ones that will last for 2 seasons and need replacing. We also make a version Not Super, but in between. Each type must go through a process to insure a particular degree of fire resistance, which is specified by a national fire standards organization.

Now here is where it gets clever.

When the company was small, I could rely upon my reputation and prices to make my sales. But I want to get an order from a company that requires that I certify my production quality. They want to know what I do to ensure that all the tiles they buy from us meet the fire standards and will last for the 10 years that I promise.

My team decides to make a list of rules that we and all of our suppliers must follow. They specify what equipment and parts to use, and how the people using the equipment will be trained and how often the equipment will be cleaned and tested. It will also check how the tiles are packaged and sent so they can be received properly.

Any person who is going to validate that the steps are being followed has to be trained to spot problems, and follow certain procedures, and fill out certain forms. If they complete the steps on the forms, and validate that the equipment is working right, and everyone is trained correctly, and the product is going to meet the standards, then they sign the form – and we are self-certified.

At this point the customer might be satisfied. Or they might ask that someone who is an expert come in every month or once a year, and check that these things are being done.

There is an organization named the ISO which has made standards of many things. One of them is the management technique of Quality Management. It is called ISO 9000/9001. It covers many of these steps, plus many more.

So what?: Some cinemas have auditoriums that are called Premium. If I go to that theater, I expect the sound to be correct in all speakers without rattles and buzzes and hums. I expect that the screen is clean and that the light levels are set correctly. I want to see deep into the shadows, and I want to hear bells ring clearly.

In the movie business, the Standards organisation is The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, which is called SMPTE (pronounced Sim Tee.) The same ISO mentioned above works with SMPTE and other groups to make standards that can apply around the world.

If I own a cinema, I may want to follow the SMPTE standards perfectly. But to be ISO 9001 certified I also have to make certain that my accounting system and trash system and everything in the cinema is up to a certain standard. Most groups are not prepared to put their whole company through these processes. Or they hire outside services for these things, or the home office takes care of this. It takes a lot of effort and an organization to do all this.

On the other hand, the processes of Self-Certifying the main equipment – the very complicated equipment that makes the pictures and sound that our customers see – to show them that this is checked regularly could have some benefit.

There is an important difference between Standards and Recommended Practices. Standards make certain that equipment and software works together. But the specification for things like the light level expected in a cinema theatre are detailed in a document called a Recommended Practice.

Here is an example of why we care about things like this: The recommended light level can be higher or lower than the specified amount by 10%.

Here is the important part: Some cinemas will take advantage of that 20% variation. Some cinemas will say, we want to stay within that 10% high and 10% low level . But some of the owners or bosses might say, “I want to check every day and be within 2%.”

This is an agreement between the cinema owner and the customer. If I am going to pay $25 for a ticket to a movie I might expect more than if I spend $7 for a movie.

OK; let’s take a break, then go into a little more detail about how we get to use these ideas.

Part Two: Routines to Self-Certify – Checklists and Employee Training