Biotech giant Amgen
Biotech giant Amgen

Apr 1, 1997 12:00 PM

In 1994, Donald Bitner, manager of corporate security for biotechnology giant Amgen, faced the kind of decision that security managers dread.

The Amgen access control system, which had been installed in 1984, probably wasn't the best system to go forward with.

On the other hand, replacing the existing system meant a major expense - an expense that would only grow as time passed and Amgen grew. Replacing the system also promised a major headache: How could such a change not disrupt Amgen's work?

Such problems can paralyze a security manager. There are lots of older security technologies out there, Bitner says. Many security managers hesitate to make changes because change costs money and brings with it the possibility of disruption. With planning, however, you can make big changes and make them in a way that is transparent to staff.

What Bitner accomplished at Amgen proves his point. It took two years to plan and carry out the change, but today, Bitner has a state-of-the-art access control system, and the change was virtually transparent to Amgen employees.

>From analog to digital Amgen's original access control system worked well for a number of years. It was an analog proximity card system supplied by Westinghouse Security Electronics (WSE). When the system was installed in 1984, the company's 120-acre campus had fewer than 10 buildings. By 1994, the company was doing business in 16 buildings and had begun to develop a network of other sites across the country. The business outlook promised to add numerous buildings to the home campus by 1997. That held true. Today, Amgen operates 34 buildings on its campus and has five more under construction.

When Bitner arrived on the scene in 1992 as the company's first security manager, he wondered whether the analog proximity readers could adequately handle Amgen's needs as the company continued to grow.

For a while, Bitner used modifications to match system capabilities with company growth. For example, he eliminated host codes and converted to a distributed system, in which access decisions are made by access control units (ACUs) in individual buildings. Under this configuration, the host computer works as a large file server.

Ultimately though, the analog proximity system proved too slow for Amgen's growing needs. In our environment, it's important to keep everyone moving, Bitner says. Whether you're walking into a clean room or a laboratory or driving into a parking garage, we don't want people to have to stop, hold up their cards, and wait for access.

At the same time, we need to control access to our buildings. We need to protect against unauthorized people who could interfere with an experiment or steal information. We also have to protect our employees against the potential for crime that arises on any large campus.

The analog proximity card access system provided protection, but failed to keep people moving as fast as they wanted to. In a single day, Amgen's system handles about 31,500 access control transactions involving 6,000 employees, vendors and visitors to the campus.

An analog system requires that the card be placed close to the reader. Digital proximity card systems introduced in recent years can read cards at up to 36 inches. The reading distance depends on the reader. Larger readers, which cost more, can read proximity cards from greater distances.

With a digital system, it is possible to use different readers for different applications. A parking garage reader might allow 18 inches for the convenience of drivers. A factory system might read a forklift operator's card from a full 36 inches. At building entrances, a security manager might take advantage of the lower prices offered by lower powered readers.

Bitner wanted to provide Amgen employees with this kind of speed and convenience wherever they needed it. In addition, he wanted to develop a single card system for Amgen, a system that would, for example, allow employees from the Thousand Oaks campus to visit the research and development facility in Boulder, Colo., without taking time out to get a new card.

To achieve these goals, Bitner decided to convert to digital access control before the capital expense of retrofitting buildings became prohibitive. We started planning this change about two years ago, Bitner says. At that time, we had 28 buildings, and we knew we were going to go to nearly 40 by 1997. We knew that waiting would make it ever more expensive to upgrade, if not impossible. Planning the change

Throughout the decision-making process, Bitner consulted with McMillan Technology Inc. Once the decision was made, McMillan helped plan the conversion.

From the earliest stages of the project, Bitner's chief requirement was to ensure the change was transparent to employees. No one should - for any period of time - have to carry two cards and decide which to use.

That proved to be a tall order. On the first pass at the problem, McMillan came up with a conversion plan that would have required employees to carry two cards for about two weeks, while new readers were being installed.

Not bad, but unacceptable, said Bitner. The conversion has to be totally transparent. Kevin Wood, operations manager for the Colorado offices of McMillan Technology, finally figured out a way to satisfy Bitner's requirement. Wood developed a three-phase approach:

* Phase I would replace the existing access control panels with new digital panels that would work with both the existing analog card readers (and cards) as well as the soon-to-be-installed WSE digital readers. * During Phase II, McMillan would pre-wire the campus to accommodate the new digital readers. * Phase III would remove all the analog card readers and complete the conversion to the digital system.

The conversion Work on Phase I began in the middle of 1995. Wood and a team of five technicians went to Amgen's Thousand Oaks campus and replaced 83 ACUs over a weekend. They replaced existing WSE 808SX units with new WSE 818SC ACUs. The new ACUs required an upgrade to the host computer, a WSE 6300 Unix-based access control security management system.

Because the new ACUs could work with analog readers and cards as well as with the yet-to-be-installed digital equipment, Phase I remained transparent to employees.

Phase II turned out to be the most difficult. During Phase II, we rewired the network by pulling new wire from each of the readers to each of the ACUs, Wood says.

The old readers operated on coaxial cable running from the ACU to the reader and back to the ACU. The new readers used two-pair wire rather than coax and could be daisy-chained from the ACU to reader one, reader two, and so on up to eight readers. End-of-line resistors terminate the circuitry.

At first blush, this sounds simple: Just pull the new wire through the conduit and leave it there until it is time to change the readers. The existing system would continue to function until then.

But a stumbling block arose when the pre-wiring team realized that if they pulled all the wires to each of the reader locations, they would have to go back later to mount and wire the new readers. Wood wanted a more efficient way to handle Phase II.

The team came up with an innovative solution. They purchased custom-made plastic plates, scored across the middle and designed to accommodate the slightly different footprints of each of the two readers.

Next the pre-wiring team went to work, pulling the new wire through the conduit, testing for continuity and wiring the new readers. The new readers weren't operational at that time, but they were wired, Wood says.

The team attached the new and existing readers to the plastic plates. The single plate holding both readers fit onto the wall, with the old reader over the wiring slot.

When we did the cut-over, all we had to do was pull the old readers off the plates, disconnect them, break the plates at the scored lines and mount the new pre-wired readers over the existing hole, Wood says.

The idea eliminated the need for cosmetic touch-ups on the walls where the old readers had been mounted.

Turning the new system on Wood decided it would be best to first cut over to the new system in a building where few people worked on the weekend. We cut that building over first as a test, Wood says. We rented a host from Westinghouse for the week and installed the Amgen database on it. This let us bring the building on-line and make sure everything was going to work. We didn't want a lot of troubleshooting nightmares.

During the preliminary cut-over, the installation team tested 6,000 new access cards matched to the digital system to make sure the cards would work the first time when they were handed out.

With the success of the single-building test, Bitner and the McMillan team agreed to make the final cut-over during the four-day Thanksgiving weekend. That would allow the team four days to remove the 600 old readers and activate 600 new readers.

A transparent but not invisible change The old analog and new digital cards presented a challenge during the conversion as well.

First, Bitner needed to get the old analog cards back from employees to return to Westinghouse, with whom he had negotiated a rebate. Cards are expensive, Bitner says. The analog cards cost about $9 originally. So we negotiated a deal where Westinghouse took the cards back and gave us a rebate toward the cost of the new digital cards.

More importantly, Bitner needed to distribute new digital cards to each of the employees before the new system was turned on the Monday after Thanksgiving.

Bitner asked Amgen's marketing department for help in distributing new cards, collecting old ones, and telling employees about the new system.

Looking at the reader technology, the marketing folks came up with a campaign called Darth Reader, which informed employees about the new technology, the conversion schedule, swapping cards and when to begin using the new cards. The campaign consisted of signs that appeared next to the card readers, provided basic instructions and referred employees to full details on the company's home page Web site.

The campaign successfully distributed new cards to all employees. It also managed to get all the old cards back by announcing a drawing for travel certificates. Employees entered the drawing by turning in their old cards.

In the end, the conversion went off without a hitch. It's all planning, says Bitner. Security managers needn't fear disrupting their companies when making a major system conversion. It can be done. It takes planning and coordination, but it can be done. We had a high level of comfort right from the beginning of the project.

Amgen system integrates CCTV We've integrated our CCTV system into the access control network, says Donald Bitner, manager of corporate security for Amgen.

An example of how this integration functions involves after-hours coverage of lobby areas, conference rooms and other doors where there should be no activity after business hours. The doors are locked and alarmed by the access control system. If one of the doors opens after 5 p.m., a local camera will automatically pan to the door, and video will appear on an alarm monitor in the security center.

Cameras covering the stairwells of the buildings and parking structures - places where there are no door contacts - send video back through American Dynamics AD 4500 Digitect II motion detectors, which reside between Dedicated Micros Uniplex multiplexers and Burle Allegiant matrix switchers. There's a dry contact output on the switcher that will automatically pull up the camera that's been alarmed by the motion detector, says David Hollis, Amgen's security systems administrator.

The CCTV system collects video from 140 cameras, a total expected to grow to 230 by the end of 1997 as five new buildings open for business.

About 100 Burle auto-dome and pan/tilt color cameras are located in the parking structures around the site to monitor the parking levels and the stairwells. Approximately 40 indoor Elbex low-profile color mini-dome cameras cover building interiors. In the office buildings, we cover the loading docks and specific entrances that are available to staff 24 hours a day, Hollis says. Other entrances are shut down after hours.

Video travels from the cameras to the security center over a Fiber Options fiber-optic transmission system. To hold down the cost of fiber-optic cabling, Hollis placed Burle Allegiant switchers in two of the parking structures. The satellite switchers enable us to plug more cameras into the system, he says. But we primarily use these remote switchers to reduce the need for fiber-optic cabling. The switcher collects the camera video locally and allows you to send back as many outputs as you want over fiber.

When the video arrives in the security center, it feeds into a U shaped monitoring station. The station is a two-officer post. On the right side of the U are the controls for access control, alarm information, dispatch and the CCTV system. On the left are the controls for the Notifier fire and life safety system.

A software interface links the CCTV and access control systems, Hollis says. Any alarm transaction at a door will trigger a nearby camera and an alarm monitor.

Six 14-inch Burle color monitors sit atop the right side of the U-console. The two monitors on either end of the row follow camera tours set to run at specific times of the day. The two monitors in the middle remain available to switch on alarmed cameras.

Four additional 9-inch monitors sit above the radio dispatch unit. The security officers use these monitors at their discretion, Hollis says. For the most part, these monitors cover the lobbies.

Sanyo SRT 500s and 600s cover Amgen's VCR requirements. These are a new kind of time-lapse VCR, Hollis says. They use TC-160 tapes to record virtual real time from 16 multiplexed cameras. The multiplexer takes 16 analog video signals and digitizes them, allowing the VCR to record images from all 16 cameras.

The VCR/multiplexer system can play back individual cameras as needed. At the bow of the U-console is a TOA intercom system base station, which communicates with emergency intercom stations throughout the parking structures. If someone needs assistance, he or she can go to a call station and get hands-free, two-way communication with the security center by pressing a button, Hollis says.

When someone activates the system from the garage, a camera will automatically pan to the station and send video to one of the alarm monitors at the security center. The officer at the security center will know immediately what kind of assistance the individual needs

  • Hidden Cameras - Personal Space Air Purifier w/ 2,000ft. SECURE Encoder &
  • Fake Security Camera with transformer
  • SEI Investments designs a secure system in an open environment
  • BEYOND VCRs: Video storage and retrieval options in a digital age
  • Evaluation precedes improvements at High Point
  • Exploring utility/security synergies
  • Paving a highway for access control
  • Beyond guards at Kaiser Permanente in Colorado
  • Higher security for higher education
  • Security Camera Related Information