Forensic Science Laboratory Improves Staff Management & Communication
- A Savance EIOBoard Client Case Study
"It was becoming more and more of a challenge to find people and track people down. That was really the impetus."
Quality Assurance Manager
Johnson County Sheriff's Office Criminalistics Laboratory (JIMS) is a full-service forensic science laboratory in Marion, Kansas. JIMS serves surrounding counties plus other state agencies: Kansas Bureau of Investigation and Kansas State Fire Marshall. In 2010, JIMS received international accreditation by the ASCLD/LAB International program for forensic science. These new accreditation standards – and the population growth in the surrounding area – resulted in a 68 percent growth in employment at JIMS over a period of two years, from 25 to 42 full-time employees by the end of 2012.
A forensic lab is a collaborative workplace, requiring case analysts to work as a team to complete the necessary tasks to process forensic evidence. In this environment, JIMS analysts and administrative staff members must be able to communicate their in or out of office status and location to one another. For many years, a simple magnetic board and dots served this function adequately. However, this system became ineffective after the department's growth spurt. In April 2012, the laboratory relocated to a new facility, complete with nine distinct laboratory spaces. With employees spread out across the new 62,500 square-foot facility, the magnetic board was no longer a productive tool.
Quality Assurance Manager Chris Krug discerned the need for a more efficient system where analysts and staff could more conveniently sign in and out at multiple locations. "It was becoming more and more of a challenge to find people and track people down. That was really the impetus," he said. Krug knew they needed better employee status board that would grow with the needs of JIMS. He explains: "In this age of technology, we wanted a more elegant and integrated technology."
An Internet search resulted in JIMS connecting with Savance, a software and network provider that specializes in automating business functions. Savance's EIOBoard electronic in/out board line of products seemed like the right option to solve JIMS's challenges.
After a year of meeting with JIMS, Savance recommended four different layout designs for each of area: the back entrance, the front entrance, front reception room, and each of the lab doors. Note that the illustration provided to the right is a rendition and not the actual layout of the facility.
Back Entrance: The back entrance to the facility is the primary employee entrance point. To secure this door, Savance recommended a simple card reader device with a touch screen kiosk.
After adding a prox card reader, all that an employee has to do is swipe their access card to enter the building, and their status and location are updated company-wide in real-time. Our prox card reader is compatible with an almost unlimited number of physical access proximity cards.
The configurable touch screen kiosk allows the people entering a more interactive experience. Users are able access more features like viewing other people's statuses, reading and sending notes, viewing calendars, timesheets, and more. All it requires is an ethernet connection and a power source.
Front Entrance: The front entrance also required that people identify themselves, however, this entry point also had to accommodate non-employees. Savance recommended a larger 42" touch-screen kiosk and a prox card reader.
The 42" touch screen kiosk allows guests entering the building to quickly check and enter the information that was customized for JIMS, including name, phone number, and reason for visiting. The receptionist or host will automatically be notified, with an email, a computer popup message, or on their mobile phone, that a guest is waiting in the lobby. he prox card reader will help registered employee or guests to quickly check-in. The card reader can be easily fastened to the wall.
Reception Area: In the front reception area, where visitors are received, Savance recommended a 46-inch LED display, so that guests can quickly see the status of everyone in the building. As all EIOBoard solutions, the large screen Electronic Whiteboard display is customizable. It also supports mixed content, which is useful for company announcements and other information.
Lab Doors: Because JIMS now had nine lab doors, a separate log-in point was required for each door. Savance recommended a wall-mount PC with a USB to serial cable and an Ethernet connection. This small PC could process the prox card reader (We now offer a newer version of this hardware, using a single door integration module that can run up to 2 prox cards).
As with many new systems, the most significant hurdle was employee buy-in. Analysts and staff members now had a new procedure that required them to modify their work habits. While some employees completely shut down their computers, others simply locked the screen saver, and some closed out the applications but left their computer running. Savance helped configure the EIOBoard Outlook Add-In to use presence sensing, which automatically logs a user on or off when some type of variable or environmental changes, like closing down the application or computer. This was a user-friendly method that required only simple changes in employees' daily routines.
Another challenge was that some employees suspected a "big brother" aspect of EIOBoard. Would supervisors use the daily logged information to assess employee work habits? To lessen discomfort, Savance showed them how the digital in/out board software could automatically purge history on a regular basis.
There was also initially a problem using the mobile version, because of the customized security features of the system. Savance easily helped create a work around, and now the majority of users are using the mobile version of the software on a daily basis.
Finally, JIMS requested a method to quickly print a list of people currently in the office so that everyone could be accounted for during an emergency or drill. Savance showed them how to use the print grid feature to accomplish this. Since then, EIOBoard has developed a specific emergency management solution that operates offline. This solution, Emergency Mustering, allows up-to-date whereabouts and employee data to be accessed in the case of an emergency directly from a tablet or PC, even when you're not connected to the network.
After only six months of using the EIOBoard electronic in out board solutions, EIOBoard had became an integral part of the JIMS daily routine. In fact, the team found additional functionality with the EIOBoard software that has helped increase communication and productivity. For example, the private instant messaging feature allows JIMS employees to quickly notify one another when forensic evidence is ready for pickup. In addition, many found the future status feature in the Outlook add-in to be especially helpful when planning for future meetings and vacations. Employees could schedule future times when they know they would be out of the office, and the electronic employee status board would automatically log them out. "Probably 95 percent of our staff uses the EIOBoard Outlook Interface", Krug said.
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