To reduce the overhead of full-scale manufacturing facilities, a popular practice among design companies and large-scale brand name organisations is to outsource all, or a portion, of their manufacturing operations to specialised contract manufacturers. Using this approach, organisations reduce or eliminate the expenses of specialised engineering labour, equipment maintenance, inventory carrying costs, and product testing facilities while increasing efficiencies such as speed of project delivery and volume of throughput.

Based in Cornwall, Ontario, Canadian electronics contract manufacturer, SigmaPoint Technologies, Inc., provides full turnkey, end-to-end assembly services for highly-complex electronic products, and specialises in the Radio Frequency (RF) industry. Customers simply submit their project specifications and design and SigmaPoint sells the customer the components and assembles the finished products.

The company relies heavily on a unique high-tech approach using SigmaTrack (a proprietary full-scale Intranet application suite). The state-of-the-art paperless system is used to drive production, quality, supply chain, engineering, sales and reporting. The suite resides on an Adobe ColdFusion MX-enabled web server that further handles all web-based communication. This company-wide network allows employees to communicate interdepartmentally, as well as with customers and suppliers.

Improving efficiency and automating job cost tracking

SigmaPoint wanted to improve efficiency and automate job cost tracking to more effectively allocate resources for future projects down to the job level"

While SigmaPoint provides high-quality engineering manufacturing services, the company had been unable to quantify whether their employee resources were optimally allocated. SigmaPoint employee time and attendance records had been handled manually, with employees turning in manually-recorded, paper timesheets on a bi-weekly basis. This manual system did not allow SigmaPoint to automate timesheet collection via SigmaTrack or keep accurate records on employee time spent on each manufacturing project, and on which tasks. The company needed a system to facilitate data analysis and summarization for estimating future jobs.

According to Adam Lauzon, Applications Developer, SigmaPoint, “SigmaPoint wanted to improve efficiency and automate job cost tracking to more effectively allocate resources for future projects down to the job level, and more importantly, to determine more accurate project quotes.

Cost-effective solution to use with existing ID cards

Working with Ron Fiedler, Sales Manager of HID Connect Partner, RF IDeas, Inc., Adam specified a simple, cost-effective solution able to piggyback on their existing employee ID card and support future high-frequency RFID technology applications growth—without requiring custom RFID interfacing software programming. To meet this need, SigmaPoint selected RF IDeas’ AIR ID Log-on solution, coupled with HID iCLASS Contactless Smart Adhesive Tags. 

For improved efficiency and automation, SigmaPoint’s applications developer designed new applications enabled by RF IDeas’ AIR ID Log-on solution with iCLASS tags. They include:

  • A new SigmaTrack Time and Attendance module to automate accurate recording; and
  • Accu-Quote, the new SigmaTrack module responsible for seamless capture of work order labour.

SigmaPoint has a contactless smart card with industry-standard encryption technology, reducing the risk of compromised data and duplicate tags

To use the new system, the SigmaPoint administrator applies a coin-sized, disk-shaped, self-adhesive HID iCLASS transponder to each employee’s plastic photo ID, laminating it within the card. Instantly, SigmaPoint has a contactless smart card with industry-standard encryption technology, reducing the risk of compromised data and duplicate tags.

Enhanced security with 125 kHz proximity technology

Additionally, the durable iCLASS tag’s passive, no-battery design allows for an estimated minimum of 100,000 reads. Because they are strong, flexible and resistant to cracking and breaking, SigmaPoint’s investment in iCLASS Adhesive Tags is a solid one. Securely separated application areas in the iCLASS Tags are each protected by 64-bit diversified read/write keys adding enhanced security that would not have been possible with standard 125 kHz proximity technology. 

Next, using RF IDeas’ AIR ID Writer and AIR ID Card Manager software, the administrator enters each user’s unique SigmaTrack UserID into a secure application area of the iCLASS Tag, automatically encrypting the employee ID data. Using this new system, it is no longer necessary for employees to remember, or even be aware of, their own ID numbers, providing a more secure defence for corporate assets and information. The plug-and-play AIR ID Playback readers simply connect to the employee entrance terminals via USB ‘keyboard wedges’.

Automatically tracking over-time, holidays

The system also provides SigmaPoint with the capability to automatically track overtime, double-time, holidays and vacation time

For capturing work order labour, the Accu-Quote module of SigmaTrack makes the time spent on each element of each project trackable, from the minute the employee logs into the work centre on the production floor. The system also provides SigmaPoint with the capability to automatically track overtime, double-time, holidays and vacation time. All this valuable data is stored in a central database that can be used for sophisticated management reporting.

Plus, the timesheet data can be exported to SigmaPoint’s human resources software package. Together, the two systems enable SigmaPoint to determine the most efficient manner to allocate its resources, and correct potential slowdown areas critical to a project’s success.

Monitoring employees’ productivity

SigmaPoint is now able to automate tracking employee time and attendance records and monitor productivity/time allocation to individual manufacturing projects, streamlining operations. In addition, SigmaPoint upgraded to the benefits of 13.56 MHz iCLASS contactless smart credentials without having to re-badge all its employees, and may consider scalable future applications. SigmaPoint did not have to migrate a database to the new system because it was backwards compatible with the legacy employee ID database.

Based on the success of the initial deployment, SigmaPoint soon plans to roll out similar solutions in two of their other facilities, a warehouse and RF testing centre.

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