Businesses benefit from the ISO standard for long-term archiving because it helps them to store digital documents in compliance with legal requirements. PDF/A-3 has further increased adoption rates within the financial sector, as this new part of the standard can also be used to keep source documents organised.
The aeroplane manufacturer Airbus was a pioneer in the use of PDF/A. Aeroplane blueprints must be preserved for at least 99 years. Back in 2002, one of the manufacturer’s working groups recognised that PDF was in some respects well-suited to long-term archiving, but also that it contained a number of problematic functions. The team therefore first developed a “minimal PDF” which was used for digital archiving until PDF/A became available.
The construction industry has recognised the advantages of features like PDF/A-3’s “container” functionality. Mechanical engineering companies, for example, can preserve original 3D models in any format as part of the PDF/A-3 file.
NIRMA (the Nuclear Information and Records Management Association) also recommends PDF/A when working with nuclear technology in the United States. The US-based energy provider Southern Co. has been using PDF/A for years to ensure that all digital documents relating to nuclear installations will remain readable into the future.
Banking and insurance
PDF/A helps the German health insurance provider Techniker Krankenkasse with a bonus programme for its customers. It begins with the company scanning existing bonus booklets in colour. This file is used to create a PDF/A with compressed images and searchable text, which can then be archived and sent onwards.
Helaba, the state bank of Hesse and Thuringia, uses PDF/A to handle incoming post and to archive emails. It also stores digital credit documents in PDF/A format.
The banking and insurance sector often requires credit and insurance files to be retained for 50 or more years.
As a rule, documents such as doctors’ notes, statements, lab reports, and X-ray and tomographic images must be retained for 30 years or more.
The medical centre at Greifswald University Hospital, for example, uses PDF/A to archive its patient records – including digital signatures and timestamps. Due to requirements of legal certainty, digital signatures play a critical role in medical statements.
PDF/A is used in doctors’ practices as well as in clinics. The Lake Constance Radiation Oncology Centre uses PDF/A to process and archive digital patient records.
The standardised document and data format ZUGFeRD was created to make it easier to exchange digital invoices. It is the result of a joint initiative between BITKOM (Bundesverband Informationswirtschaft, Telekommunikation und neue Medien e.V.) and FeRD (Forum elektronische Rechnung Deutschland). The ZUGFeRD exchange format also uses PDF/A-3. It embeds invoice data in XML format to allow the recipient of an invoice to process it automatically.