Electronic signature

What is an electronic signature?

Modern logistics based on an integrated IT system is particularly dependent on valid data and information. After all, a wide range of processes are interlinked and depend on reliable information being stored in the system and available for further handling. This applies in particular to receipts or invoices that are exchanged in this way. This is exactly where the electronic signature comes into play, as it is an asymmetric signature procedure that is intended to provide reliable information about who is behind certain data or information.

In plain language: the electronic signature is intended to replace a manual, traditional signature (= authentication) wherever documents of any kind can be processed electronically. In addition to logistics, this principle can be found in more and more sectors, e.g. healthcare, industry, banking and insurance. The legal basis is created by the eIDAS Regulation, which has been in force since July 1, 2016, both in legal and technological terms. The abbreviation stands for "electronic IDentication, Authenticationand trust Services", which is a successor to EU Directive 1999/93/EC, which has been in force since the 1990s and which in turn led to the Signature Act (SigG) and the Signature Ordinance (SigV).

What types of electronic signatures are there?

There are basically three quality levels with which an electronic signature can be differentiated in terms of the above principles. Depending on the intended use and necessity, it is then important to choose the right variant.

  • Simple electronic signature (EES)

The simplest and most basic variant of the electronic signature is the EES, which has little or no probative value in court. Traditionally, these would be scanned signatures that are transferred to a document as an image file. This is only suitable for internal company purposes, for example to approve invoices or similar.

  • Advanced electronic signature (FES)

The second stage of the electronic signature, the FES, is based on validation consisting of authenticating the signatory and ensuring the integrity of the document. It is considered to have much greater probative value in court, as it is possible to identify who exactly signed the document and whether and, if so, how the document was altered. In essence, this type of electronic signature is used when declarations of intent of any kind need to be legally compliant and, if necessary, signed later. are to be documented in such a way as to provide reliable evidence. These include informal transactions such as agreements between retailers and customers or certain correspondence where these attributes are important.

  • Qualified electronic signature (QES)

The third and highest level of electronic signature is the QES, which is legally considered to ensure that a legally standardized requirement for the written form can actually be met. However, it is only required for a very manageable proportion of all business transactions and also requires certain technical prerequisites from all parties involved - among other things, each person must be identified and verified, which requires either cloud-based solutions for qualified electronic signatures or classic concepts such as a smartcard system.

What are the advantages of an electronic signature?

  • Time saving: Electronic signatures make it possible to sign and transmit documents more quickly and easily.
  • Cost savings: printing, copying and sending paper documents is no longer necessary.
  • Mobility: Documents can be signed from anywhere and at any time, which increases flexibility and efficiency.
  • Security: Electronic signatures offer a higher level of security than handwritten signatures, as they are protected by encryption and digital certificates.
  • Verifiability: An electronic signature provides irrefutable proof that a particular document has been signed by the person concerned.
  • Environmentally friendly: Paper is no longer absolutely necessary, which helps to reduce paper waste and thus CO2 emissions.

What are the disadvantages of using an electronic signature?

Although the use of electronic signatures offers many advantages, there are also some disadvantages:

  • Technical requirements: It requires a stable internet connection, modern devices and separate software.
  • Security concerns: Although electronic signatures are generally more secure than handwritten signatures, there are concerns about the protection of sensitive data from hacker attacks.
  • Legal challenges: There is no uniform legal recognition of electronic signatures everywhere, which can lead to legal uncertainty.
  • Compatibility problems: Not all systems and devices are compatible, which can make integration more difficult.
  • Training period: A certain training period may be required, especially for users who are not familiar with digital technologies.


Logistik Lexikon Elektronische Signatur

Picture: TippaPatt / Shutterstock

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