Amid COVID-19, Automation Benefits Card Manufacturers

Automation improvements in card manufacturing technology and equipment have made factories more productive than ever, increasing throughput, reducing waste and expanding the flexibility of the production floor. The smartification of manufacturing will continue to improve factory production and increase the need for tech-savvy workers.

And it is paying dividends in the era of COVID-19.

Businesses across the world are navigating the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on operations. Although located in Las Vegas, Nevada, a region that has been severely impacted by the coronavirus outbreak, Arroweye is seeing an uptick in business. “We’ve been busier than ever,” said Peter M. Krauss, president and CEO of the Las Vegas-based company. “Companies are reacting to the demand for secure cards and they are fast-tracking their orders. Our smart factory upgrades have set us up to quickly take on that business. We are able to on-board, implement and execute new programs in as little as five or six days—that’s factory smartification.”

Over the past the year, Arroweye has invested more than $4 million in new equipment and technology, joining the Industry 4.0 revolution. “Arroweye has always been hyper-focused on using technology to operate efficiently,” Krauss said. “Our goal is to do more with less and that is only possible with genuine manufacturing productivity efficiencies that improve our throughput and our capacity. Throughout the past year, we’ve seen major efficiency gains, which has tremendously helped our business.”

By developing the right software to work with the proper hardware, processes can be streamlined and operations can become more automated. “That means more jobs can be outputted, creating a more scalable business,” Krauss said. “We are fortunate because we have internal software development resources and can respond to changes in the marketplace quickly by developing new programs in-house.”

For card manufacturers, the smartification of factories is critical. “If you don’t do it, you risk becoming irrelevant,” Krauss said. “Companies that can turn products quickly are the ones that will benefit, especially in the next six to 12 months as we navigate recovery from the coronavirus.”

As card manufacturers upgrade equipment and technology, Krauss advises examining the enhancements to see if they did streamline operations. “Manufacturers must take a step back and reassess the workflow,” he said. “When companies have a lot of volume and business is coming in, that hides inefficiencies. Too many manufacturers chase technology and overlook an important question: Did the upgrades improve efficiencies, or did they add three more steps to the process?”

At Arroweye, Krauss said a lot of time is spent “taking a step back”—reassessing the workflow and making changes to improve throughput, capacity and efficiencies. “Every minute and every hour that we can finetune our processes—that’s what helps us downstream,” he said.

This strategy has paid off. During the company’s peak season in the fall of 2019, Arroweye produced twice as much product with half of the labor expense. “That’s the very definition of production efficiency,” Krauss said. “Our service level agreements are same day to 72 hours to turn actual credit cards.”

For Arroweye, improving production efficiencies isn’t about downsizing the team, but instead focusing on scaling the business and placing employees in new roles, so they can learn a different aspect of the company, contributing to Arroweye’s capacity and growth. “Some companies chase efficiencies in an effort to downsize their headcount, but we haven’t taken that approach,” he said.

Although Arroweye doesn’t require production workers to have a college degree, they must be tech-savvy. Especially in the secure card space, where employees are held to a much higher standard and must understand and adhere to compliance regulations.

For the card manufacturing industry, Industry 4.0 is forcing companies to focus on operational efficiencies and challenging transaction card professionals to think: What’s next? What will Industry 5.0 and 6.0 look like?

Want More Industry Insider Insights or a Glimpse into Global Card Trends?
For three decades, ICMA has represented the interests of the card manufacturing industry—which includes manufacturers, personalizers, issuers and suppliers—as its leading global association.

ICMA offers regular educational opportunities, including the web-based Card Industry Training & Education program, which provides information on key areas of the industry, as well as tutorials and webinars from industry experts. ICMA also provides reports on the card market and on personalization and fulfillment statistics to keep members informed of emerging trends and changing forecasts.

Throughout the year, ICMA members have the opportunity to share insights and knowledge by giving presentations at ICMA events, webcasts and tutorials. The organization hosts three conferences each year. The main event is the annual Card Manufacturing & Personalization EXPO and the other two conferences are CardTREX North America and CardTREX Europe.

To learn more about the benefits of ICMA membership, click here.