Keeping the food supply safe was not an issue for Furman Foods back in 1921, when John W. Furman canned 360 glass jars of tomatoes with his wife, Emma, and their six children. Just as food processing practices have evolved over time, so too has the nation’s approach to securing food processing facilities. Today, Furman Foods uses ID cards as the first step of a greater plan to enhance its plant security.

Furman Foods is a family-owned business. By 1969, the company had sold a million cases of tomatoes and was complementing its tomato crop with beans, peppers and other vegetables sold under the Furmano’s name. The company’s roots are planted firmly in the soil of the Susquehanna River Valley of Pennsylvania. Despite this remote location, Frank Furman, Vice President of Quality, is ready to take the facility to the next level of security and quality. “The need is here,” he said. “Everything is coming together at once. Not only does security make good business sense, but it also is something we need to do for our customers.”

Food safety and security

While the company has focused on food safety for many years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Bioterrorism Act of 2002 made security a top concern for food producers such as Furman’s. Title III of the act specifically addresses protecting the safety and security of food and drug supplies. In addition, because Furman Foods provides food for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food programs, it is subject to USDA security measures.

Security isn’t new to the company. It began incorporating additional security measures shortly after September 2001. The well heads for the water supply are locked and checked daily, for example, and a third-party security service is on duty during off-hours. Delivery truck doors now must be sealed, the company’s computer systems have new access controls in them, and locks now adorn all bulk storage areas, such as those for corn sweeteners and vinegar, some of the most vulnerable areas in the company.

An important part of the security system at Furman’s is a new ID card program

Time and attendance tracking

An important part of the security system at Furman’s is a new ID card program. “We needed to replace our time clocks,” said Mark Slear, Systems Administrator, “so we took advantage of the opportunity to introduce employee ID cards to track time and attendance.”

I wanted some kind of control so that people who don’t work here don’t get in,” Furman said, “Despite the fact that we are located in a rural area, we still were seeing people here who shouldn’t be here. We had to figure out some way to limit access.” In the past, the company had pre-printed, pre-numbered, bar coded cards for hourly employee access. Employees were assigned a number, but that was it.

HID Fargo Printer/Encoder

Slear and Furman selected the Fargo DTC550 Direct-to-Card Printer/Encoder with lamination capabilities from ID Wholesaler (www.idwholesaler.com), a Fargo Value-Added Retailer and the largest online reseller of photo ID products. “I looked around quite a bit,” said Slear, “and all of my research kept coming back to Fargo.”

Furman’s warehouse employees require a stronger card to withstand the everyday wear and tear associated with their active jobs"

“We determined that Furman Foods needed a higher level of security than a basic photo ID card could offer,” said Shane Stark, Account Manager, ID Wholesaler. “The FDA keeps tight regulations on who has access to food processing areas. Along with using bar codes and magnetic encoding for security measures, Furman’s warehouse employees require a stronger card to withstand the everyday wear and tear associated with their active jobs. This led us to lamination and a Mylar card, which offers greater durability.”

Slear was also interested in the printer’s speed. “When we ramp up during the summer, we produce a year’s worth of product in three months,” he said. “We have to print a lot of ID cards quickly to accommodate our seasonal workers.”

Security access cards

Furman’s bought the Fargo printer in October, took employee pictures in November and began issuing new ID cards in January. The ID cards contain a full photo, and the program includes all employees, even the extra 300 that are hired during the July-to-October busy season. While tracking time and attendance with the ID cards was the company’s first concern, Slear and Furman were thinking ahead when they chose an ID card printer, knowing that security needs would be enhanced down the road. “We added a magnetic stripe and photo in preparation for future security,” said Slear. “We haven’t defined yet what else we might do, but much of it will be driven by FDA and USDA directives.”

We liked the fact that the DTC550 printer can print on proximity cards if we decide to upgrade our ID cards someday,” said Slear. Furman agreed. “Eventually, we will go to smart cards, especially for the room where our ingredients are mixed,” he said. “We need to limit this area to those who are designated to be there. They will have to swipe an ID card for access. We chose a printer that will allow us to upgrade the cards, knowing that sooner or later we’ll have to go further with security.”

Our product and industry knowledge enable us to assess our customers’ needs and present options that meet their requirements"

Comprehensive identification solutions

Everything has been going well,” Slear said. “The person printing the cards picked up on it quickly.” Slear gives high marks to ID Wholesaler for their customer service. “Every time I talk to Shane, I get the answers I need,” he said. “He also checks in from time to time, just to see how things are going.”

“Our product and industry knowledge enable us to assess our customers’ needs and present options that meet their requirements and their budgets,” said Jennifer Clancy, Marketing Manager, ID Wholesaler. Currently there are three variations to the Furman’s ID cards: yellow background for employees, green background for visitors and blue background for vendors. “Certain vendors are allowed on site without an escort,” said Furman. “For instance, because we are a kosher facility, once a month a rabbi comes in to check our operations. He has his own vendor ID card and is pre-approved, so he can move throughout our facility unescorted.”

Facility security

One of our big concerns is having someone follow a carded employee into the plant

Furman Foods prides itself on its strong values, its quality products, its sustainability and its food security. Yet Furman isn’t satisfied. “We are still not where we should be,” he said.

We have come a long way, but we have a long way to go. If I could wave a magic wand, we would have one entrance, where everybody has to enter and exit. This entrance would be secured by a card reader, so individuals would have to swipe an ID card to get in. One of our big concerns is having someone follow a carded employee into the plant. Restricted areas should require special access cards, and I’d like a fence around the entire facility, with a guard shack where everyone checks in and out,” he further added. Right now, there are multiple entrances for traffic. The facility is very spread out, and the road in front is a public road.

Photo ID access card

Yet, all agree that the ID cards are an important step on Furman Foods’ journey toward enhanced security. “A safe workplace is fundamental,” said Clancy. “Photo ID cards provide at-a-glance validation that the card wearer is authorised to be on the premises. This is especially important for food manufacturers.”

I tell our employees security is only going to get tighter,” Furman said. “More safeguards will be put in place. We are in the food business. If we don’t have safe foods, we don’t have jobs.”

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