Strong combination

Access & Identity Management Handbook 2006 Access Control & Identity Management

The history

Macsteel, a formidable player in the steel industry, and the largest non-listed company in South Africa, has an ongoing interest in the best technology for security and workforce management solutions.

As Harry Coetzee, head of security at Macsteel, explains: "We regularly review developments in the security industry and will implement the latest technology, where possible."

One area where technology can play an important role is that of workforce management. Macsteel has an integrated access control (AC) and time and attendance (T&A) solution, installed by the Kronos Division of Bytes Technology Group (BTG).

Coetzee comments: "Macsteel had a paper-based T&A system which was messy and time-consuming for the administration personnel. The volume of communications with the payroll department meant that there was an unacceptable level of risk of error that could lead to excessive costs to the company. Macsteel set up a task team, headed up by the payroll director, to originally evaluate various solutions and now to drive the Kronos workforce management implementation.

"The proximity card-based system we were using for AC was expensive in terms of lost and damaged cards. We wanted a system that could cope with the sometimes challenging operational environments at Macsteel."

BTG, a division of the Altron group and a leading provider of turnkey solutions, has been Macsteel's technology partner since 2001, providing ongoing leading edge AC and T&A solutions.

Glen Buchner, business development consultant at BTG adds: "Bytes became a preferred supplier for Macsteel at that time, because our integrated web-based solution and our national footprint provided a good fit to the Macsteel requirement."

Macsteel comprises a number of divisions, some of which were independent steel businesses acquired by the group and which still operate fairly autonomously. "We ran an initial pilot project at Macsteel VRN in Roodekop, but then had to work hard to develop critical mass for our solution within the group. We are constantly providing Macsteel with the latest technology, which includes biometric fingerprint readers," says Buchner.

Requirements evolved out of this exercise

* All employees - white- and blue-collar - had to be able to use the same system. Unions' buy-in to the proposed solution was founded upon this principle.

* Supervisors had to be able to verify all T&A data at source.

* All data had to flow into a centralised server for ultimate integration to the payroll system.

* The system had to offer operational savings and improved payroll accuracy through automation of manual processes.

The solution

Bytes' proposed solution included the seamless flow of data into the Payroll Module of the Oracle ERP systems that Macsteel is in the process of implementing.

As far as biometric readers are concerned, BTG and Macsteel settled on the Sagem fingerprint readers to collect AC & T&A data, after testing a variety of products. Coetzee comments: "Compared to other readers, Sagem has the best combination of reliability and durability. Its pricing is also very competitive. Sagem readers are accurate and fast which is an important consideration for us - we do not want queues forming at shift changes."

As far as the T&A solution is concerned, Buchner says: "BTG is really excited about the Kronos partnership. Macsteel was one of the first companies to implement the web-based software.

"Bytes has installed a number of different biometric readers at Macsteel over the past five years. However, we have found the Sagem readers to be ideally-suited to this customer's environment and Sagem has become a very effective component of our integrated solution.

"Regarding AC functionality, we really like the robust Saflec solution, which enables us to install TCP/IP controllers on the client's LAN. This does away with lots of cabling and also limits potential lightning damage."

BTG has already implemented the integrated T&A and AC solution at most of the large Macsteel plants and at a number of smaller sites around the country. The solution is expected to be rolled out within the group over the next two years.

Training of system users is an important aspect of a successful implementation, as they need to be able to verify and approve data before sending it via the network to a central server for payroll processing.

Buchner adds: "The strength of any implementation rests on the competency of the user. Lack of training can easily lead to the circumventing of a solution by users and therefore compromising the return on investment for the customer. We regard training and post-implementation quality assessment as key elements in our implementation process."

"Macsteel is confident that BTG's solution is the right approach for our company. We will be installing the solution at all branches with over 20 staff over a period of time. We look forward to continuing our close relationship with Bytes," concludes Coetzee.

Fact file

BTG, Glen Buchner, +27 (0) 11 205 7000,

Ideco, Gary Jones, +27 (0) 11 745 5600,

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