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Overcoming 5 Common Challenges in Issuing Student IDs

Strategies to improve security and flexibility
University Business, December 2016

Institutions of all sizes are facing increased scrutiny of their student ID systems in light of recent security concerns. At the same time, budgets are tight for many colleges and universities, creating a number of common challenges when it comes to the business processes involved with issuing student IDs and maintaining an ID system.

This web seminar outlined some best practices for overcoming the five most common challenges that institutions confront when issuing student IDs. An administrator from George Mason University shared how GMU has recently upgraded its Mason ID card to a more secure and flexible student ID system that meets the growing demands of its campus, while also providing improved security and privacy protections for students and staff.

Product Marketing Manager
HID Global

There are five common challenges when it comes to issuing student IDs:

  1. Long wait times
  2. Errors caused by both humans and technology
  3. Productivity drains
  4. Overall costs
  5. Energy consumption and waste

Long wait lines are not only a customer service nightmare, they can also result in higher labor costs. Several factors contribute to long wait times, the biggest being spikes in usage. Registration is the most notorious, but you may also have sporting events or other special events that require issuing a lot of ID cards at once. Another contributor is waiting to take photos and gather information at the same time you’re trying to issue the cards. A lack of workstations can also contribute to long wait times, as can slow or outdated equipment.

Traditional card systems can take a long time to print, and some lamination systems can take anywhere from two to five minutes to heat up, resulting in substantial down time, both at the beginning of the day or after a break, or even after several minutes of inactivity. Some equipment may require separate steps as well—one to print, another to encode the card, and yet maybe even a third to laminate the card, which can also slow the process down.

What can you do to overcome those issues? Many schools are asking students to submit photos online prior to registration to save time, and to enter their personal information via tablets or other device while waiting in line to get their badges. Another time-saver is to pre-print static portions of the card, such as your school logo and background. You can purchase your cards pre-printed, so then all you have to do on registration day is print the dynamic personal information, photos, name, student ID numbers, etc., and that can shave minutes off of the process for each card. You’re speeding up the process and you’re ensuring that every card looks exactly the same.

Having more workstations also helps reduce long lines. Today’s newer technologies let you issue cards from multiple sites, both locally and remotely, using a common database over an Ethernet or Wi-Fi network. That mobility also makes it easy to issue cards in any building for special events.

To speed up the production process, you can use new card technology that can do everything—print, encode and laminate—all in a single pass. You may want to look for technology that starts fast as well. There are devices that are combination printers, encoders and laminators that are ready to print in seconds, even after a long pause. Opportunities like that can save your card program a significant amount of time every year.

Senior Manager of IT
George Mason University

We preprint as much as possible. Students will upload photos to our system the day before the orientation, which allows us to control the print in our office. It makes things a lot easier. We also have a photo ID cart, which we use all over campus for the orientations, and it uses the Mason wireless network. We connect back to our database and we’re printing photo IDs within a few minutes.

Mans: Another common challenge to a successful card program is errors, which can obviously cause delay and rack up costs on your end. Errors can stem from several factors. Probably the most prevalent is rushed and overworked employees who make manual entry errors. Another contributing factor is inconsistent color and lamination, which is common with older systems, creating a lot of throwaways and a lot of extra production time. If you’re using legacy systems that require separate passes to print, code and laminate, each of those extra steps introduces more opportunities for something to go wrong.

To eliminate unnecessary steps, try using new inlined systems that allow you to do everything in a single pass. These types of systems are especially important if you’re moving to a one-card solution or a multifunction card that needs multiple encoding technologies. You want to look for a system that can encode magstrips, contact chips and contactless chip cards, and do everything in one pass.

Anthes: Inline encoding is important to us. It’s just a matter of the student finding the correct record and clicking print. We pre-populate as much of the data as we can. This eliminates any data entry we have to do from a student standpoint. It’s all a backend process.

Mans: When it comes to the challenge of lost productivity, one contributing factor is unreliable equipment that jams, misprints or warps your cards. Now you have to shut down the equipment and try and fix it. What can you do to minimize technology disruptions? Use reliable technology from reputable, innovative manufacturers of issuance solutions.

When it comes to costs, lesser expensive PVC cards actually can end up costing you more money in the long run because they aren’t as durable and require more frequent reprints and replacements. Another factor is using full panel color ribbons that may not be necessary based on your card design.

To address these issues, consider using more durable card stock, as well as a half panel ribbon for the cyan, magenta and yellow panels, and a full panel ribbon only for black. Another cost-saving measure is laminating cards to improve their durability; some systems even offer built-in dual sided lamination.

What contributes to a card program’s energy consumption and waste? Manually entered errors can lead to throwaway cards, but they also mean more waste. If you have an older traditional system, it’s very likely that it’s energy inefficient. Some laminating systems consume energy even when they’re not laminating cards.

To reduce your energy consumption and waste, consider using pre-programmed cards, and look for products that are Green Circle certified as being energy efficient.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, visit 

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