The ultimate solution for secure cash processing Graham Jackson, Volumatic’s European Sales Manager, discusses how the ‘CounterCache intelligent’ can help retailers process cash more efficiently.
Crime is increasing and the need to protect cash is probably more important now than it ever was. With worries about the security of credit and debit cards, and consumers wanting to maintain tight control over their finances, even more people are turning to cash to purchase retail goods. Cash is now used for 60% of all transactions, up from 54% last year (source: British Retail Consortium 2008). In an ideal world, once cash has been handed over from the customer to the retailer, 100% of this money should find its way quickly and directly into the retailer’s bank account. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Volumatic’s ‘CounterCache intelligent’ (CCi) is a unique cash validation and storage device that can help protect and secure cash at all stages of its journey from the consumer to cashier, to back office, to cash-intransit company, and finally to the cash centre and bank.
Cash remains the cheapest method of payment for a retailer to accept with the total cost of processing cash typically estimated at 2 pence per transaction compared to 34 pence per transaction for credit card payments. There are numerous elements that make up this charge including the cost of forgeries, process time such as skims, banking reconciliations, till snatches, internal theft, cash-in-transit and banking charges. Unlike any other product available today the CCi moves the validation, data recording and secure storage of notes to the front line – the interaction between the cashier and the customer – allowing cash to be processed more quickly, less expensively and more securely.
The Volumatic CCi system is an intelligent cash deposit box that can be securely installed under the checkout counter at the point of sale. The banknotes are held in a tamper-evident pouch that can be used to store the cash as it journeys through the retail system.
It is generally accepted that fraud and theft of cash and goods represents between one and eight per cent of the retailers’ total revenues. The theft and fraud is termed shrinkage and can made up from a number of sources, mostly concerned with theft by criminals either from outside or from within the business. The recently published 2008 Global Retail Fraud Barometer reported that the worldwide cost of fraud now exceeds $100billion and as the economic gloom worsens this figure is only likely to increase. It is imperative that retailers look very closely at all options for reducing their susceptibility to fraud, without impacting their operational efficiency.
Forgeries – automatic validation at the till point
The first problem that retailers can face is that of forged notes that are not spotted by the cashier. Forgers tend to work in gangs in specific areas and a large number offorgeries may be presented in a relatively short space of time in the same area. Any mechanism that can detect forged notes will dissuade criminals very quickly from attempting to pass forged notes in the same outlet again. The CounterCache intelligent unit scans and validates all banknotes that are inserted. In tests, the CCi has correctly detected all current known forgeries. The CCi checks the banknotes at 40 different points and uses a variety of detection methods including magnetic strip, ultra-violet and infra-red. Retailers will all have their own policy on how to deal with potential forgeries but the CCi will help stop the problem of forged notes getting into the till and also help dissuade the offenders from trying to offload such notes in the same store in future.
Till snatches – secure storage at the till point eliminates opportunity
The next issue faced by retail outlets is till snatches. The worst part of this crime is that the cashiers can very often get hurt in the process. These are often opportunistic crimes so the best way to solve this problem is to minimize the amount of cash in the till drawer at any one time. If the cashier can insert large denomination notes into the CCi then only the minimum amount required for change and cash back purposes will be left in the till, reducing the probability of attempted till snatches. This also has the knock-on effect of protecting the staff and making them less nervous of a possible assault. The CCi unit is generally fixed underneath the checkout, out of sight to customers and out of temptation’s way. The unit is bolted securely to the checkout counter and can only be opened by a secure key. The CCi is easy to use and transaction neutral. The old saying says that opportunity makes the thief; CCi eliminates the opportunity.
Removing the need for skims – saving time and increasing till efficiency
To reduce the amount of cash in a till at any one time (in the absence of a CCi unit), most retailers perform skims throughout the day. In some environments as little as £200 at a time may be skimmed. A skim is just the removal of a significant proportion of the banknotes in a till. Each skim requires either at least one member of staff to physically go to each till and pick up the cash and then transport it to the back office (cash office), or the use of expensive, inflexible and inefficient pneumatic tube systems. This uses up a significant amount of time and also exposes the staff member to risk as exposing cash for these skims is an obvious time to attempt to steal the money. The CCi unit can hold in excess of 400 notes or about £6000. By storing the banknotes in the CCi unit, there is no longer a requirement for skims, thus freeing up time and reducing risk of assault on staff. This also increases the till availability. The cash in the CCi is removed safely after trading hours when the store is secure.
The TruPouch – improving process efficiency and cash protection from till to bank
Another way to reduce the amount of shrinkage is to minimize the number of times the cash is actually touched and counted during its journey through the system. The CCi solves this problem by use of a pouch to hold the banknotes. Once the notes have been accepted by the CCi they are automatically stacked in an opaque plastic pouch called the TruPouch™ (patented by Volumatic). When the pouch is removed from the CCi, the amount of cash is known and recorded by the CCi and, if used, a host computer. The pouch is sealed and tamper-evident, meaning that it is obvious if anyone has attempted to open it. There is no need to open and recount the cash until it reaches its final destination. This can clearly save a significant amount of time and drastically reduce the probability of cash going missing either through theft or simple misreporting. When the pouch is removed from the CCi unit, the amount contained and the time and date (and cashier name) can be written on the side of the pouch. This can be reconciled with a printout of the pouch data. Copies of the printout (which includes the number of each note denomination, time entered and total) can be attached to the pouch and also given to the local cash office.
Rather than recount the money in the back office, the pouches can be sent directly to the bank. Alternatively, the retailer may use the services of a cash-in-transit (CIT) company to pick up the cash and transfer it to a cash centre. The TruPouch is fully compatible with either system. The cash-in-transit companies transfer the pouches into bags when they pick up from retailers.
These bags often have exploding ink or dye deterrent systems to stain the banknotes in the event of theft. It is important that the TruPouch product works with these systems and Volumatic took advice from various industry players during its design.
Made of an opaque, grey plastic with holes across its surface, TruPouch™ is recyclable and certified for use with the ink and dye system. The storage pouches are also small and light and much easier to handle than the traditional heavier and bulkier cassettes or money wallets.
Clearly, it is also important to be aware that criminals may attempt to remove the tamper-evident pouches from the cash deposit box at the checkout. Any cash deposit box solution must be able to detect when an unusual event has occurred that i.e. a sequence of events that does not conform to the normal cash process. The CCi will report actions such as door open, carrier removal, and power loss to the back office, who can then act accordingly.
The important issues for cash centres are the number of money packs they have to process, the quality of note presentation, the number of forgeries, data reporting, trust level of the amounts deposited, and the overall efficiency of the process. The Volumatic TruPouch transportable containers are light and easy to process since all the enclosed notes have already been scanned and validated by the CCi unit. The pouches can hold over 400 notes and all notes are neatly presented. The amount of cash and number of each denomination within the pouch is already known and 100% accurate. The CCi system therefore provides a compelling solution for cash centres.
Real time data – eliminating the cash ‘black hole’
Information gathering or data mining has been an important function for many companies for many years now. Whilst retailers have had real time reporting from both EPOS systems and card payment terminals, the physical cash taken by a retailer has remained an information black hole, until hours or in some case days after the transaction has taken place. Company head offices would like to be able to see the status of cash taken at tills in their various stores all over the world as it happens. This enables them to quickly identify and react to problems or changes in circumstances as they occur. The CCi unit allows for the tracking and monitoring of cash as it is inserted. Volumatic has a software package called “CCi View”, which runs on a retailer’s back office system. CCi View enables the company to configure and monitor all CCi units that are connected. The back office will then know the exact up-to-the-minute status and history of all units in their store. In addition, this software could allow a company’s head office in another country to monitor all CCi units, wherever they may be, over a secure link via the internet.
CCi technology – proven, reliable and secure
The CCi unit scans and validates bank notes as they are inserted. The CCi uses the well-known certified JCM note validator head unit. The CCi consists of three physical parts: the CCi validator head; the CCi stacker; and the CCi pouch carrier. These three modules are integrated into a solid metal frame, which is also fitted with a CCi communications card. The CCi can operate as a standalone machine and can accept bank notes without intervention from a host computer. It contains sufficient memory to hold the contents of the last 50 pouches equivalent to about eight thousand CCi events. In order to extract and process this information an external computer is required. This can be a Bluetooth connected PDA or a PC connected either by Ethernet, USB or serial link.
The CCi validator head is the upper module, which the bank notes are fed into by the user, one at a time. It performs the checking and validation of the notes and automatically accepts or rejects them. If accepted they are automatically passed to the CCi stacker. The CCi validator head can only be removed by using the main door key. The CCi stacker is the module that takes the banknotes one at a time from the validator head and pushes them into the pouch (TruPouch) that is fitted into the CCi Pouch Carrier. It is removable by the use of a separate lock and key.
The CCi Pouch Carrier is fitted below the CCi Stacker and holds the pouch into which the banknotes are stacked. It is only removable by using the main door key and a plastic pouch keyplate. Whenever a new pouch is inserted into the CCi, the software allocates it a new pouch identification number. The CCi Comms Card is fitted internally within the CCi and provides an Ethernet communication port plus one of Bluetooth, or USB, or RS232 ports (depending upon the chosen configuration) to the outside world. The CCi Host is the computer which is used to configure, control and extract data from the CCi. It may be in the form of a mobile PDA, a Point of Sale device, a back office PC or server. In order to communicate with one or more CCis, the host must have software on it that supports the CCi Communication Protocol and it must have one of the appropriate communication ports – Bluetooth, USB, RS232 or Ethernet.
In order to retrieve the cash a secure octagonal radial key needs to be used to open the front door of the CCi unit. The cash can still not be removed until a plastic keyplate is inserted. The keyplate locks into the plastic TruPouch and also enables the carrier unit (containing the pouch) to be removed from the CCi. The TruPouch can now be removed from the carrier. However, since the keyplate is now locked in place, the pouch is tamper-evident. This means that it is obvious if anybody has attempted to open it and remove the cash as the plastic pouch needs to be torn or cut open. This is specifically for thwarting in-store theft by employees. A new pouch can now be placed in the carrier and reinserted in the CCi unit and the door relocked. The CCi has the ability to inform the user when the pouch is becoming full and needs to be changed. The back office system or PDA can monitor the CCi units in the store and provide a complete event log of how much cash has been inserted and at what time. It will also inform you when the CCi door has been opened, the carrier removed, carrier re-inserted, and the door closed again. It also informs you if communication has been lost between the head and the stacker unit, which would occur in the event of a power loss. These events could be innocent or part of an attempted theft. In a power loss situation (when the pouches contain cash) the pouches are reported as “suspect” (once the power is restored) by the software indicating that they should be checked. The CCi provides immediate user feedback through a simple “traffic light” style LED display. A continuous sequence of walking green LEDs indicates that the CCi is working correctly and ready to receive notes. Other combinations of static or flashing amber and red LEDs indicate a change in status, for example: the pouch is becoming full; the pouch is full; the pouch is suspect; or the door is open.
Servicing and maintenance
The CCI unit is designed to be very easy to maintain and service. An octagonal radial key is used to open the front door. A keyplate is then used to remove the pouch carrier. The validator unit can then be removed by pressing a button at the front of the unit. This just leaves the stacker unit. With the validator removed a lock is exposed on the top of the stacker unit and a separate key is then used to remove the stacker unit. All remaining hardware including the communications card is then accessible to a service engineer. This all means that each separate component can easily be replaced if required.
Implementation – fast and hassle free
The use of the wireless PDA as a host enables the CCi solution to be trialed very easily at customers’ premises. It is an out-of-the-box solution that can be up and running with fifteen minutes. The CCi solution has already been implemented at a number of retail outlets in the UK. The CCi continues to stimulate significant interest in the retail sector and Volumatic is working on configurations with a wide variety of food outlets and supermarkets. Volumatic has 30 years of experience helping customers, having installed over half a million of its standard mechanical CounterCache cash deposit boxes at supermarkets, pubs, restaurants and all other types of retail outlets throughout Europe. The CCi unit is particularly suited to any organization that accepts cash, cares about the safety and security of its staff and wants to improve the efficiency and security of its cash handling processes. In some retail environments the CCi units have provided a positive return on investment within six months of being deployed.