Tube and Pipe keeps growing

October 2005 Access Control & Identity Management

Project scope

To control the access and monitor time and attendance of 600 users at Macsteel Tube and Pipe, using one enrolment station, 17 biometric readers at the main factory and two at remote sites, and eight turnstiles.

The history

This company has experienced tremendous growth and at each stage Timewatch Systems was able to expand the original card-based access and time management system to meet the new demands. Eventually a Keymaster controller and software was added using the existing readers, to provide improved control. Recently, more and more problems were occurring with communication links, many of which were lengthened with factory expansion. RS485 lines were very long and communications became unstable. The electrical noise from the large machinery and welding was probably causing most problems. At the same time the readers were ageing and the card technology in use was becoming obsolete.

The company had a few requirements that were only partly being met:

1. The access control was to be as secure as possible.

2. The clocking data had to be reliable and loopholes had to be eliminated.

3. The time workers spent in change rooms had to be monitored.

If changes were made, they wanted to avoid having to learn new systems and to recapture all employee data.

The solution

The communications network needed to be upgraded. All card readers were replaced with Sagem fingerprint readers linked via LAN to the controlling PC.

The Keymaster access control system was retained, adding door controllers where necessary. The existing Clockwatch time and attendance programme was known and worked well so that was also retained.

A new program (CWEXPORT) was used to combine data from the Keymaster database and Sagem data from remote readers. Readers were added at two remote sites.

Obstacles and concerns

Concern was expressed regarding the dirty environment and that the rough work damages workers' fingerprints. Speed of access was thought to be slow compared to card-based systems. Employee resistance was considered.

Tenders, specs and implementation

The proposal was made by the suppliers of the existing system, due to the problems of the ageing and over-extended system. The number of upgrades over the years resulted in a situation that was becoming less and less reliable. They also pointed out that other companies in the group were successfully introducing fingerprint readers and the technology we had was becoming obsolete. For us it would reduce the cost and effort needed in issuing and replacing cards, and give us the controls that were lacking in the card-based system. Due to our experience of many years of good service, and that the proposals were cost effective and our needs were well understood, the upgrade project was awarded to them.

The results

A dramatic improvement has been made in the stability of the core access control system. The use of fingerprints has simplified the whole management process and has resulted in a genuinely secure system with few loopholes. There were a few people with problematic prints, but after recapturing the images with assistance from the suppliers, all employees are successfully registering at a surprisingly fast pace. (One employee whose prints have deteriorated is being investigated.)

The other big impact has been in time saved with corrections. Somehow with the card-based system there were often missing clockings which meant much extra work investigating and correcting each omission. This problem has been virtually eliminated. Vanessa Sanders adds, "The remote readers that were added are a huge advantage, as we can now control their clockings from HR and ensure consistency."

Fact file

Key service providers, products and solutions:

System integrator and product suppliers: Timewatch Systems, Dani Taback, 011 640 1850, danit@timewatch.co.za

Biometric products: Ideco Technologies, Gary Jones, 011 840 7800, info@ideco.co.za

Software: Clockwatch Distribution, June Jawitz, 011 485 2912, info@clockwatch.co.za

Macsteel Tube and Pipe, Vanessa Sanders, 011 897 2100


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