CashCode: The Lean and Mean Bill Validator Machine

Occasionally a sleeping giant wakes. You have seen it before but may not have realized its scope or the potential that exists. CashCode may be just that.

Crane Co. purchased CashCode in early 2006, which lead to the formation of Crane Payment Solutions division, of which CashCode is now a brand. Crane itself is a vast corporation established in 1855 with five business divisions, namely: Aerospace & Electronics, Engineered Materials, Merchandising Systems, Fluid Handling, and Controls and trades on the NYSE as CR.

Crane Co. produces everything from critical aircraft systems and components for control of landing systems to nanotechnology used in Superfund site remediation and had produced coolant hardware for the Apollo space missions.

Crane Merchandising Systems has two divisions: Payment Solutions and Vending Solutions. Payment Solutions focuses on the interior peripherals of machines not only for gaming, but for vending, retail and parking/transportation, and Vending Solutions focuses on vending machines and currently manufactures the majority of all new machines in North America. The CashCode brand of banknote validators, recyclers and cash management solutions falls under Payment Solutions.

CashCode itself was formed in 1991 with the heavy philosophy of innovation through technology. Although they are still relatively new to the playing field, they are ISO-certified and hold more than 60 patents and trademarks and can boast about many “firsts” in the industry. The company produces high-technology products with mission-critical applications. Sim Bielak, vice president of sales and business development, states: “We use technology to innovate within the industry. We do not want to produce another ‘box’ that does the same thing, only cheaper.” CashCode and Crane Payment Solutions is also a long-standing member of GSA and more recently, AGEM.

I recently had the opportunity to visit CashCode just north of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Their office and manufacturing facility covers 64,000 square feet where over 300 staff and production workers manufacture between 10,000 and 12,000 banknote validator and recycling units per month.

Lean Manufacturing
Since taking on its parent name of Crane Payment Solutions, the CashCode facility has aggressively taken on the lean manufacturing process. The CashCode facility is now the leader among the Crane segments in regard to lean manufacturing.

Lean manufacturing is a philosophy that considers the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful, and therefore a target for elimination. The value, in this case, is work or service for which the customer is willing to pay. Lean manufacturing goals are the creation of product with reduced work, minimal inventory and short lead times while maintaining high quality.

The facility runs under several concepts, such as lean manufacturing, Kaizen review and Kanban. I was struck by the large size, brightly lit facility, air conditioned environment and the numerous groupings of replicable assembly and testing work areas. It gave the impression of a high-tech streamlined process creating high volumes of quality products.

The production floor is divided into many areas called cells. Each U-shaped cell can have up to eight or as few as one person working at one time. Target production goals as well as status information is posted on a metric board outside of each cell.

Kanban
Kanban is a Japanese word meaning a signboard or a signal to trigger action.

At CashCode, each workstation within the cells is equipped with a variety of raw materials and tools. Crane uses the Kanban system throughout the facility for replenishing supplies. In this case, raw materials, ranging from nuts and bolts to gears and complete electronic sub-assemblies, are delivered in Kanban containers. These containers contain a prescribed amount of material. When one is emptied, the worker starts using the supplies in the second. This system keeps production on target as the cell workers do not have to leave their posts to replenish items.

The ergonomic workstations are designed to minimize fatigue, provide a safe work environment, reduce injuries from repetitive motion and provide a constant reference to ensure that the quality of the work is maintained.

At various locations, boards show the overall status and metrics of the complete production, not just individual cells. CashCode has broken the metrics into four key performance indicators: safety, quality, delivery and cost. First and foremost is the safety and well-being of its employees. Second to that is the quality of the products delivered to the customer. Delivery objectives are measured next, then, finally, overall costs.

A Kaizen review is another segment of lean manufacturing. This Japanese term means “change for the better,” and is at the heart of the company’s philosophy. “This allows us to return more value to the shareholder. We increase production, decrease inventory and reduce problems on the floor. The end result is a higher-quality product that is made more efficiently,” Bielak explains.

Quality, From the Door to the Floor
High quality is a standard requirement that all customers expect. And CashCode clearly has the infrastructure to provide high quality products. The quality of the product relies heavily upon the quality of the sub-assemblies and individual components. An extensive quality assurance lab is used to ensure that the products moving into inventory and onto the floor meet every requirement. Test equipment is used to analyze every aspect of the goods to ensure that they are suitable for the CashCode brand and Crane’s customers. New suppliers will deliver a small quantity of goods which have to pass testing before being accepted. Then, and only then, can larger quantities be sent.

All CashCode products are RoHS-compliant and conform to all required regulatory and safety requirements, including UL and CSA. RoHS, or Restriction of Hazardous Substances, is an environmental regulation set forth by the European Parliament that drove a worldwide movement. The directive took effect on July 1, 2006, and restricts the use of six hazardous materials, including lead and mercury, in the manufacture of various types of electronic and electrical equipment.

Completed bill validators are sent to the “oven” where they are subjected to baking at 60 degrees Celsius. They can also be placed in an environmental chamber that offers a wide range of temperatures, from sub-zero to oven-temperature, and in varying degrees of humidity. This stringent testing ensures that the bill validators will function well outside of typical operating conditions.

While high quality manufacturing is clearly important, customization of the products and the process to accurately customize products is also a part of CashCode’s process. “At the completion of the ‘Vanilla’ build, the units are customized for the customers and the areas in which they will be delivered,” explains Orlin Saratchinov, site leader. “They are configured and tested with the currency they will be subjected to.”

Once the units are tested, they are either sent back for analysis and rework if they fail, or packaged and sent for delivery to the customer.

Products
I had a demonstration of various products, services and systems offered by CashCode. Their flagship product, CashCode one™, is a universal bill validator with several innovative and unique features.

CashCode one™ replaces the previous workhorse, the MFL. Engineers spoke with the customers to determine what they wanted to see in a new generation of bill validator. Some common requests were a universal validator that would work in all industries with all currencies and all voltages, a means of scanning TITO tickets and vouchers in all four orientations and increased security. Customers clearly want the ability to have a base universal validator with multiple options or extensions that can be easily upgradable.

CashCode one™ incorporates four elements to provide rapid yet accurate validation. The optical sensors are both transmissive and reflective to provide a full-range of optical functionality. Inductive magnetic sensors allow recognition of magnetic ink signatures used as security features in currency. An ultraviolet sensor, a new addition to the one™, identifies UV security features common in most currency today. And finally, a dielectric sensor will analyze the composition of the paper itself in order to ensure validity. CashCode one™ also incorporates a cross-channel security sensor to detect post-note devices, such as strings or tape.

In less than 2.7 seconds, the CashCode one™ completes the entire transaction cycle—including document insertion, validation and note stacking. The one™ performs many tasks. The first is an automated centering mechanism that centers the bill and properly orients it. Despite several attempts at inserting currency crooked or off-center, the unit consistently centered it with perfect alignment for the sensors. Due to the wide variance in worldwide currency, TITO tickets can actually miss the scanner on some competitors’ validators, resulting in player difficulty in using cashout tickets. CashCode’s one™ solution eliminates this customer frustration. The design even allows player cards to be inserted and returned back to the player without causing a jam, should the players attempt to insert their card into the bill validator by mistake. While not likely a frequent occurrence, this highlights CashCode’s attention to detail and ability to make a robust product suitable for the gaming floor.

Apart from continuing in the history of reliable products, CashCode one™ expands functionality for customer’s requirements today and in the future. “Most bill validators on the market today have a one-to-one relationship with the slot machine,” explains Nishit Shah, product manager. “They talk to the host, but that’s it. Our design has a second communication port which opens up the functionality of our product.”

The second-port functionality was developed in conjunction with Nanoptix, a Canadian-based manufacturer of high-quality, robust and feature-rich ticket printers used in the gaming industry and several other markets. “We have developed the oneCheck™ system, a combination of CashCode’s one™ bill validator and Nanoptix’s PayCheck™ ticket printer.”

The second channel can also be used for future network functionality. For open-networked gaming and server-based gaming, the validator can speak to the network and receive updated firmware revisions.

Validator Reporting Through oneCheck™
The oneCheck™ system adds significant functionality—much needed and common-sense functionality—to the bill validator. A small button located on the bottom of the CashCode one™ unit allows a technician to access information quickly and easily. The button, located in front of the locked drop box to eliminate security issues, is activated by pressing the latch release on the bill validator head. This button allows three reports to be generated at the machine, and in a matter of seconds.

The first report, generated by pressing the button twice, prints a ticket showing the last five bills inserted. When a patron claims that he or she did not get credit for a ticket, voucher or currency inserted into the validator, an acceptance history can be instantly generated.

The second report, for diagnostic and compliance verification, shows a detailed summary when the button is pressed four times. This capability is highly undervalued—especially if you have to audit your machines. The ability to gain audit information with the push of a button without exposing cash or waiting for multiple security resources is critical in streamlining operations.

The final report provides much more detailed information, yet conforms to regulatory requirements that demand increased security for the currency. It prints a large series of barcodes that include information identifying the validator, total currency in the drop-box and a break-down of the types of vouchers, tickets and bills accepted. This information, however, could prove dangerous. If human-readable, it would allow people to identify dropboxes that contain large amounts of cash to be targeted. By encoding the information, it prevents this problem from arising.

The report also streamlines the entire drop process. The drop team generates this report and then, if it is inserted into the validator within 10 seconds, the unit is taken out of service. The cash box can then be removed and replaced with an empty one. The validator is then enabled, allowing revenue operations. This removes the necessity of matching drop boxes with specific machines, allowing any drop box to be installed with any bill validator unit. The printed report contains all of the information relating to the bill validator, the slot machine and the location of the unit. When taken to the back room, the drop box is opened and the ticket scanned, the system knows how much currency there is and where it originated.

oneTrack™ System
This leads us to CashCode’s web-based tracking system. Using this process, the entire drop procedure is quick, efficient, safe and secure. The system can be programmed for incoming drop boxes and identifies what is due. If drop boxes do not show up, they are quickly identified and the team can be sent to retrieve the missing boxes.

The system aids in the auditing and verification of funds received, easily identifies the electronic gaming machines and validators, making the entire process more steamlined and reduces potential hassles. As the drop continues through the day, the system will track the progress, indicating the overall status and level of completion. This also allows for more rapid investigation should a discrepancy occur. A detailed listing of the machine shows totals as well as component information, such as individual bill counts for varying currency denominations. If multiple drops are made from one machine during a day, each drop will show up on screen.

Finally, the system allows for statistics and an overview of the validators. The current software version, acceptance rate, number of rejections, etc., can be displayed in an instant.

Each user can be assigned different levels of security, from management, to the cage team, to a slot technician who can access bill validator statistics, information and parameters, but will not see financial information. Machines can be grouped and sorted in varying means allowing easy access to the complete database with minimal effort.

High Capacity Cashbox Alternative
Through continuous innovation, CashCode has developed an additional 2,500-note high capacity cashbox. As cash redemption machines and retail kiosks continue to grow within casinos and retail markets, high volume cashboxes are required to minimize operational costs and to reduce number of pickups.

Service Where It Counts
CashCode, historically, has created test equipment for the customers to allow diagnostics and testing of the validators. These generally involved an array of hardware located in the back room that could diagnose and analyze the hardware. They have released a new generation of software utilities that greatly improves efficiency and diagnostic ability. Connecting to a laptop computer via the one™’s front-mounted USB port, a complete diagnostic analysis can be performed. From setup and configuration of the unit, flash update of the firmware and technical tasks, to detailed troubleshooting, the utility is invaluable. The utility connects to the validator and communicates with it. Should there be a problem, an on-screen display shows pictures of the validator components, highlighting problem areas. If there is a jam, for example, the technician will be shown the affected sensors and where they are located within the machine. If no problem is located, the utility will drill down, indicating steps to take and which sub-components would need to be replaced. The technician can make notations on the diagnostic report and then print the details and photos, save it as a PDF or e-mail it. It generates reports to be used as repair tickets and audit of actions taken on the device.

Easy to Learn
In keeping with the evolution of the diagnostic utility, CashCode’s documentation and learning resources have also progressed. They made a significant investment into the tools to help integrate and support the product, including online learning. Using a secure login, any OEM, end user or slot technician can use the system. Available 24 hours a day, it provides a full range of features to assist the customers and maximize their return on investment. Varying modules explain each step with complete details, photographs and video. Such topics include unpacking the device, configuration, installation and troubleshooting. Complete parts and part number references are available online. Since it is based upon a central, online system, it is always current and can be updated and revised by CashCode at any time, ensuring that your documentation always matches your exact product.

“All of our tools and features of or products, systems and solutions have been put into place for operational efficiency,” Bielak says. “We consult with our customers and add the value they require. We provide mission-critical solutions that drive the industry—several industries in fact—while coming back to the total cost of ownership.”

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