HID in Plain Sight


If under a security-themed category “HID” popped up on the game board during an episode of “Jeopardy,” the answer clue would likely scarcely escape the mouth of host Alex Trebek before any contestant with even a casual familiarity with the industry would correctly respond, “What is access control?” Such is the brand recognition and marketplace dominance HID Global has built as the planet’s leading supplier of contactless access control credentials and readers. 

Formed in 1991 as Hughes Identification Devices, a subsidiary of Hughes Aircraft, HID was acquired by its current parent company, Sweden’s ASSA ABLOY AB, in 2000. HID is currently part of the Global Technologies Division within ASSA ABLOY, a $3.2 billion supplier of locking solutions that employs 30,000 people (650 with HID) around the globe. 

Headquartered in Irvine, Calif., HID Global is represented via regional offices serving more than 100 countries and runs 13 facilities handling manufacturing, processing and/or distribution throughout the world. The firm has a research and development center in Denver, while North Haven, Conn., and Zurich, Switzerland, are where its core manufacturing operations are located. With an initial product offering consisting of proximity cards and readers, HID promptly secured its legacy as a pioneer of radio frequency (RF) technology. The company would go on to greatly expand its product range and ship more than 250 million access credentials worldwide. However, for all its successes and storied history, HID found itself at a critical crossroads just a few years ago. 

For a short period of time at the end of 2003, the company’s North Haven (HID-CT) facility, which had long functioned as a traditional batch-and-queue manufacturer, was plagued by high inventories, poor on-time delivery, low customer satisfaction and long lead times. Consequently, in mid-2004, HID management acknowledged drastic changes were necessary to maintain, and especially in order to grow, its operations. 

As Jason Bohrer, HID Global general manager, Americas, explains, those changes included looking outward for fresh ideas and leadership. “After working through several different consultants and various manufacturing process improvement initiatives, we realized we needed a comprehensive effort that would rally all aspects of the organization,” says Bohrer. “We were impressed with the improvements made by companies like Toyota and their total commitment to being ‘lean’ in all aspects of their business. This led us to adopt our own lean process improvement in our Connecticut facility.” 

Paul Murphy, a specialist in Lean Manufacturing (see sidebar below) implementation and turnarounds was appointed HID-CT plant manager and director of the company’s manufacturing engineering worldwide. Other key personnel schooled in Lean practices were also brought in to institute a rapid culture change that would not only transform the physical facility, but also refocus workers on providing customers the highest quality product, on time, every time.

“We reshaped the organization, we reshaped the direction of the facility around Lean Manufacturing concepts, which helped support a better business model so our folks in the field could have more confidence in our ability to deliver our product with the level of quality they expect in the HID brand name,” says Murphy.

The implementation has not gone unnoticed. In November 2006, HID-CT was awarded the Connecticut Silver Shingo Prize, which is presented to recognize a company that has solved challenging manufacturing process problems, and in the process, is working toward transforming into a world-class organization. In June, HID received Connecticut’s Connect-Ability initiative for 2007 Top Employers award, which recognizes exemplary employers for leadership, accomplishment and diversity. 

To get a firsthand look at how the industry’s most prominent supplier of technologically advanced access control credentials is reinventing itself and uncover how the process translates into business advantages for security integrators, SSI recently took a private tour of the HID-CT plant and conducted the following exclusive interview with Denis Hébert, HID Global’s president and CEO since 2002.

‘Lean’ Implementation Identifies, Eliminates Inefficiencies
Why did HID Connecticut make the move to lean manufacturing?
Denis Hébert: You move in that direction because it’s the right thing to do. We had some issues in our plant relative to the scrap rates we were running and the quality of card manufacturing. These production issues resulted in delays of deliveries to our customers. Therefore, we had to optimize our production capabilities. So, Lean was a way of helping us identify inefficiencies and become much better at process control.

What other areas of HID has this approach been applied to and what have been the results?
Hébert: Ideally, it’s a process that applies to everything we do. We use Lean as a tool to identify inefficiencies in any of our processes. We’ve identified areas for Lean application with a goal of becoming a Lean enterprise. By holding Kaizen [continuous improvement] events in different areas, we’ve applied the Lean philosophy to our product development and accounting groups. That’s really what Lean is about: Become more efficient, reduce costs.

How do the Lean philosophy and its results ultimately benefit both resellers and users of your products and services?
Hébert: First of all, Lean has the benefit of eliminating inefficiencies from a production environment. It inherently means that quality will improve, so one benefits the other in that way. Resellers benefit by having better products to provide to their own customers. Fewer returns, quality control on the cards themselves, improved delivery time, fewer issues with product going from manufacturer to reseller to end user. 

Through Kanban [visible signage to help enable “pull” production] and other processes, Lean also helps us to be able to deliver in a more timely way. So there’s an additional benefit. For example, when an end user has a certain time schedule, our reseller is faced with that schedule. Time of delivery is important to the end user and, therefore, important to the reseller — we’re at the beginning of that chain. If we’re good at our deliveries, and we’ve got processes and tracking in place that enable us to meet our commitments, then everyone benefits up the chain.

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