Proximity Cards Help Manufacturer Save Up To $110,000
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Hutchinson Technology, Inc. (HTI) of Hutchinson, MN may manufacture small suspension assemblies for computer drives, but it's no small operation. Suspension assemblies are the precise metal springs that hold recording heads at microscopic distances in computer drives.
The company produces approximately 70% of the world's suspension assemblies. It has four U.S. locations as well as China, Singapore and the Netherlands. Together, HTI's four manufacturing facilities take up a combined 1.8 million square feet. HTI employs over 8,000 people in offices and manufacturing facilities worldwide.
The company used a card-access system using Wiegand card technology to control security in all of its U.S.-based facilities, but wanted to update its security system. VideoTronix, (Burnsville, MN) a security and image systems integrator, installed a security management system including card access control, intrusion detection, CCTV monitoring and control and photo imaging. The goal was to create a security management system that would be flexible, reliable and easy to expand as the company grows. Transition from the old system to the new system needed to be seamless and user-friendly.
Determining The Need
When Ron McKinnon, Hutchinson's corporate manager of security, began working for the company in 1997, the existing security management system and its proprietary photo imaging system were both proving to be unreliable. "Modems were the primary method of communication among our sites," says McKinnon. "Software and communication failures and the resulting loss in employee productivity were key problems."
Hutchinson used Wiegand access cards, which can be swiped or inserted in a reader. These cards were prone to breakage and costly to replace for 9,200 card-access holders. McKinnon estimates the proprietary Wiegand cards were costing the company $110,000 annually in material cost alone to replace broken cards and issue new ones. In addition, the existing system did not support bar-code technology needed for certain applications. HTI decided to adopt proximity cards, a technology that allows information to be read from a card by passing the card within a specific distance of a reader.
Choosing A New System From Past Experience
McKinnon was familiar with Andover Controls Corp.'s Infinity security system from an installation by VideoTronix for his previous employer. Components of the Infinity system program included workstations, network panels, card-access panels and software. It can control everything from HVAC and lighting to security, smoke management and process-control needs. McKinnon put together a cost-benefit analysis, which predicted a one-year ROI, and proposed an Andover security system to the executive staff. Key focus points were: Infinity's software reliability; an open architecture allowing for software customization; support for multiple card formats; and bar coding. It allowed a 90% reduction in material costs with a changeover to proximity cards.
The System Is Used At All U.S. Sites
HTI now uses Infinity at all U.S. sites. Access control for 280 doors, including perimeter, office and classified areas is accomplished using six Eclipse network controllers and 37 ACX access controllers over a wide area Ethernet TCP/ICP network. SX 8000 front-end workstations at the Hutchinson and Plymouth, MN; Sioux Falls, SD and Eau Claire, WI sites share information over T1 lines. Currently, HTI also relies on a stand-alone CCTV system at each site, but McKinnon says that a company-wide Kalatel camera system that will integrate with Infinity is planned.
"There was no downtime during the installation," says McKinnon. "Employees were issued new cards at the beginning of the installation," he explained. "They carried both cards through the installation. Readers were changed on eight doors at a time. The transition went smoothly."
Infinity's flexibility has provided HTI opportunities to customize the system to meet each department's unique needs. "Infinity's user-friendly interface and single database allows security staff to easily add security to doors and control access distribution with a click of the mouse," he explains. "Because Infinity bridges onto the company's mainframe TokenRing network, my IT department can download information to Infinity and vice versa."
Infinity can also produce custom reports quickly for the human resources department. The software can assist staff in investigating excessive employee tardiness, or breaks, or to determine unauthorized access to restricted areas.
Cards Serve Multiple Uses
In addition, Infinity's ability to support multiple card technologies allows designated employees to use a bar code imprinted on proximity cards for access to inventory in company tooling cribs. It works in a similar manner to a library card. The bar code on employees' badges is scanned when they take and return tools from inventory. "With Infinity's flexibility," says McKinnon, "the system is what the user makes of it."
An EPISUITE® system, designed by G & A Imaging, provides HTI's security staff with an integrated card access/photo ID badging system. The software is fully compatible with Infinity's SX 8000 front-end software. "With the previous photo imaging system," McKinnon explains, "it took us three to four minutes just to print each badge. If we added the time wasted in system malfunctions, we would have spent an entire day issuing badges to 50 new employees. With EPISUITE, we now print a badge in 18 seconds with no problem."