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Expert Insights: Setting Up and Managing ID Badge Printing

Expert Insights: Setting Up and Managing ID Badge Printing

Managing an efficient and cost-effective ID badge program involves many moving pieces. Whether you’re launching a new program or looking to streamline your existing system, the right approach can make a difference.

In this blog post, we talk with ID Shop vice president Travis Brewington to offer insights into setting up a badge program, managing inventory, and finding the right vendor to meet your ID badge program needs.

On Starting a Badge Program: The Basic Setup

Launching a badge program starts with understanding your basic setup needs.

“Companies starting up their own badge program need to consider what type of machine they want to have in-house,” Brewington says. “They need to consider if they want to print one-sided or two-sided and if that printing device needs to have RFID and encoding capability.”

After selecting the right printer, Brewington notes the following next steps in the setup process:

Communication and Connectivity

  • Choose the preferred method for machine connectivity within the business network (Ethernet, Wi-Fi, or USB).
  • Plan for the location and accessibility of the printing station.

Selecting the Right ID Card Supplies

  • Determine the ink ribbons needed for the chosen printer.
  • Choose the correct card stock: plain PVC or composite PET for durability.

Card Technology and Security Features

  • Decide on the embedded technology: low-frequency RFID (proximity cards), high-frequency contactless smart cards or ultra-high-frequency (UHF) RFID.
  • Consider additional features like magnetic strips, signature panels or holograms.

Badge Wearing and Accessories

On Inventory Management and Ordering

“After they've selected a machine, they need to consider the amount of prints they need to run within the launch time and the ongoing business year,” Brewington says.

To help with this, Brewington recommends focusing on seasonality and working with your vendor to get the right ID card printing supplies when needed. It’s always a good idea to plan ahead and check in with your ID badge vendor about two weeks before an anticipated need, like an event or hiring bump, but Brewington acknowledges that’s not always possible.

“We can still generally supply anything they need from a generic product standpoint within two to three business days through our distribution network,” he says.

On Handling Bulk Orders

For those ordering in bulk for a large company or health system, Brewington recommends thinking in 12-month increments. “I would consider an annual order to be a good timeline to follow for a bulk supply. This is going to give you the maximum value through any discounts you might get through volume purchasing without overbuying to the point where your products might be out of date by the time you need to use them.”

This is particularly important for ID card printer ink, which has a shelf life. Work with your vendor to set up a shipment and invoice schedule to get products on a regular cycle as you need them.

“This gives you just-in-time supplies, and it also gives you a kind of uniformity of accounting responsibilities.”

On Finding the Right Vendor for Your ID Badge Supply Needs

The right vendor can be the difference between a smooth badge program and one that causes headaches and delays. To start, Brewington notes, you need to ensure that your ID badge vendor has deep inventory and product knowledge; also, make sure they have a good stock of inventory on hand to fulfill orders quickly and efficiently.

ID Shop maintains about 30,000 square feet of warehouse space in the Southeastern U.S. and is well-stocked with plain cards and accessories. This allows them to ship quickly — often on the same day.

When selecting a vendor, ask the following questions to ensure they meet your unique badging needs:

  • Do you have a deep understanding of the inventory, especially regarding parts and compatibility with different machines? Vendors should have a solid understanding of all the products they stock and how they work together.
  • Do you have stock on hand to fulfill orders quickly and efficiently? Having stock on hand ensures that most orders can be placed quickly.
  • What’s the average turnaround time for non-customized items? How about for customization? Understanding the vendor's capability to handle both standard and customized orders promptly is important.
  • How do you handle training and support issues? Knowing if the vendor provides direct assistance or refers you to the manufacturer is important.
  • How long have you been working in the industry? A vendor working in the same industry for many years will likely have the experience and knowledge to handle diverse needs effectively.
  • Can you provide references? Don’t just opt for the cheapest option. Make sure to research and choose a vendor with a good reputation in your industry.
  • Are you willing to recommend other solutions vendors if you can’t do what we need? A trustworthy vendor can honestly assess what they can and cannot do, even if it means recommending a competitor for certain specialized needs.
  • Are you able to handle unique or complex requirements specific to our organization? You want a flexible vendor to customize products to fit your needs.

“When it comes down to the brass tacks, you have to align with a partner that you're comfortable with,” Brewington says. “You have to align with a partner that is proven with years of performance and referenceable customers. Make sure you do your research and familiarize yourself with the vendor or partner that you work with, and it won't bite you in the end.”

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