NC State ID Card Office Eliminates Chronic Bottlenecks, Improving Credential Quality and Issuance Experience

Previously, the ID card issuance process at NC State was costly and inefficient. A new printer technology platform solved these problems.

NC State ID Card Office Eliminates Chronic Bottlenecks, Improving Credential Quality and Issuance Experience

Image courtesy HID Global and NC State.

One of the most frustrating challenges for university ID card offices is how to keep the printers running and reliable as they produce tens of thousands of identification credentials. Students, faculty, and staff depend on these cards to access on-campus buildings, labs, residence halls, gyms, libraries, and other restricted areas. They are even used to link debit accounts, access athletic events, meal plans and serve as a proof of student status for campus activities. Any issues that disrupt their delivery or quality can have an enormously adverse impact when so much of campus life revolves around them.

North Carolina (NC) State University faced particularly disruptive issues in its One Card operations after deploying three successive generations of hardware that did not provide the necessary reliability, performance or print quality. It needed a solution that could keep up with growing One Card demand while also significantly improving efficiency, reducing waste, and providing a much better secure issuance experience that didn’t require everyone to visit one central location to pick up their ID cards.

A Large Campus with Growing ID Card Needs

Founded in 1887, NC State has grown to more than 44,000 undergraduate and graduate students who are pursuing 300 different degree programs across nearly 70 departments. The number of faculty and staff members is approaching 10,000 and the university has become nationally recognized for public-private research programs at its 2,500-acre Centennial campus, where several corporate, government and non-profit partners collaborate with the university’s more than 70 research and academic units. Each of these individuals need a NC State Wolfpack One Card to navigate the campus and access resources. Their ID cards also are a top priority for ensuring campus security and safety.

The more student enrollment has grown each year, the more NC State has needed to solve the problems of chronic printing delays and poor card quality.

ID card, One Card, NC State, ID cards

The HID FARGO HDP6600 desktop-based retransfer printer uses 600 dpi resin printing to produce high-definition ID cards with brilliant color, sharp images, small text, complex characters, and crisply defined barcodes in less than a minute. Image courtesy HID Global.

“Every day, we faced major issues, including jammed printers,” said Chris Dunham, director of One Card Operations at NC State. “We were experiencing delays in issuing cards to new students, and almost 10% card loss every week. Plus, even though we were using high-definition cameras, our printers could not print at the same quality as the images we were capturing.”

As NC State searched for a solution to its printing issues, it simultaneously began exploring ways to simplify operations and expedite both local and remote Wolfpack One Card issuance. Card office administrators evaluated whether to adopt a cloud-based ID card issuance model that would create a seamless experience for both the issuer and the recipient. Today’s solutions contain everything required for securely using a campus One Card accessed via a laptop, tablet, mobile phone, or any other internet-connected device. The university believed that this type of solution could provide a distributed issuance process in a centralized way, allowing administrators to create a new card, issue a replacement card, and manage print queues from any location to any print location.

NC State Works With Vendors to Bring Vision to Reality

Working with identification solution provider ColorID, NC State started by selecting the HID FARGO Connect cloud-based card issuance platform. Designed to streamline One Card operations, the solution integrates all secure card issuance elements into a single, centralized system that supports the university’s ID card issuance programs while increasing control and security.

HID FARGO Connect’s cloud solution enables remote ID card provisioning, issuance, and printing for a more convenient and real-time solution that also improves the end-to-end experience. It doesn’t require any software to install, which means NC State will be able to scale up its One Card office at any time when it needs to add carding stations either on or off campus.

“The biggest problem this new secure issuance solution had to eliminate for NC State was having to closely monitor batch-printing processes for printer jams and misprints,” said Mark Degan, director of corporate marketing at ColorID.

Even with close monitoring, the university still wasted thousands of dual-tech ID cards each year as its equipment failed to reliably print each student’s high-resolution photo image onto its dual-tech cards, which also feature a fully embedded stamp and seal.

To solve this problem, ColorID recommended the HID FARGO HDP6600 desktop-based retransfer printer, an eco-friendly and energy-efficient unit whose patent-pending iON technology delivers the fastest print speeds in its class. The HDP6600 uses 600 dpi resin printing to produce high-definition ID cards with brilliant color, sharp images, small text, complex characters, and crisply defined barcodes in less than a minute. It also minimizes costs by supporting high-yield, full-color ribbon and laminate consumables.

New Wolfpack One Card Makes the Grade

After many years of wrestling with reliability issues and high levels of ID card waste, NC State now has a secure issuance solution that has streamlined operations while cutting multiple layers of costs and delivering superior card quality. The reliability gains have been substantial based on their in-house analytics, and the card office knows that it can now easily scale to accommodate volume demands and future technologies, without worrying about waste and inefficiency.

HID FARGO Connect also proved the merits of remote issuance. During the pandemic, this secure issuance solution provided the flexibility for NC State to print contactless smart cards wherever they wanted, while ensuring that all IDs and cards remained secure and were inaccessible to unauthorized individuals. Another layer of protection that continues to be valuable is that print jobs received at a remote location after normal operating hours will remain locked down until an authorized employee has authenticated to the console and allowed them to print.

NC State has also benefitted from an improved user experience. Like most Gen Z students, those at NC State are digital natives with lifelong access to technology. They care about speed, convenience, and accessibility. NC State’s cloud-based secure credential program has helped it meet these expectations and provide a competitive student experience.

From a cost perspective, the new secure issuance system has delivered 99% cost savings while reducing card waste from 10% in 2019 to an almost negligible 0.16% in 2021. Wolfpack One Card Services has now produced more than 40,000 cards and plans to implement printers in satellite locations, including the research center. The inherent scalability, distributed issuance capabilities and centralized management of their cloud-based solution will give NC State more options moving forward, while reducing wait times during busy periods such as new student orientation or the start of each new semester.


Kratika Sangal is director of marketing communications and channel marketing, secure issuance at HID Global.

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