How KLHT delivers on the Aadhaar card project... - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column

Security printing is an expanding area of print business, but it’s an easier said than done business. Yet, Hyderabad’s KL Hi-Tech Secure Print when selected to produce Aadhar Cards eight years ago, successfully printed close to 35-crore Aadhar cards.

How did the company achieve the feat?

Read on...

20 Sep 2020 | By Noel D'Cunha

Print may be all about the dissemination of information, but security printing where data quality and safety, is a different kind of business limb. There’s an exponential growth of computing devices like PCs, smartphones and internet-enabled likes (also found in print shopfloors), which increases the risk of digital malfeasance.

Companies rely on automation to ensure that their security protocols are as robust as possible so that they do not become prey for cybercrimes. Hyderabad-based KL Hi-Tech Secure Print (KLHT) is a company which has been on the ball since it dived in security printing business three decades ago.

KLHT’s operations began in 1986 - printing security forms and confidential documents for government treasuries, banks, election commissions, educational institutions, boards and universities - and have grown to a commanding market presence today, serving a host of customers across the entire gamut of the Indian and global industries.

KL Hi-Tech Secure Print plant in Hyderabad

“To become successful, protecting data and uptime were critical, but we also looked beyond. Within the plant, security is also about protecting employees as well as picking up the perfect equipment solution. Beyond the plant, there’s safeguarding the environment, and ensuring proper supplies on which the business depends,” said P Srinivas Rao, chairman and CEO of KLHT.

KLHT’s manufacturing facility is a highly secure complex which deploys state-of-the-art equipment to keep the facility secure. “We have adequate warehousing facilities for incoming and finished goods storage and a robust dual-checking system for incoming and outgoing material. Governed by global standards (ISO27001, ISO9001, ISO14001, IS18001) and also those prescribed by Visa and Mastercard, the facility is strictly monitored with 24X7 CCTV surveillance and perimeter fencing, monitoring and playback of all sensitive process areas,” says Rao.

Around the year 2012, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) entrusted KLHT with the task of producing Aadhar cards. Aadhar is a 12-digit unique number issued by the UIDAI to all the residents of India after necessary verification. KLHT took a few key steps which helped it identify and mitigate risks while producing 340+ million Aadhar cards to date.

The right print equipment
KLHT had been using Kodak’s digital printing solutions, hence, when the Aadhar project came along. 

Rao says, the print requirements were sporadic and attracted penalties if the deadlines were not met. “We were looking for an investment in digital space which can print a huge number of print jobs without compromising on the quality as well as enable us to upscale on the variable production requirements when needed.” 

Kodak recommended a specific kit, Kodak Nexpress SE3000, for its performance and capability to handle such large volume printing. “At the time it was the best in the industry for digital printing,” says Rao.

Kodak Nexpress

The SE3000’s 14x20.47-inch print size was apt in a sense, because it allowed KLHT to print a greater number of Aadhar cards and thus meet the production timelines. 

A year later, in January 2013, KLHT installed a second Kodak Nexpress, the 2100 Plus press. In between the company also invested in an automatic insertion lines for the Aadhar cards. The machine was imported from Italy. 

The print volumes per month at KLHT ranged from as low as 5-lakh impressions a month to as high as 1.5-million impressions a month printed on a single Kodak Nexpress. “Usually to cater to such high volume of prints, a fleet digital machines are required. We could meet our Aadhar print requirement with just two Nexpress digital presses,” explained Rao.

Recently KLHT has decommissioned the 2100 Plus and commissioned an SX3300 press citing a better speed to match the deliverables. At present, the company operates a SE3600 and an SX3300 to cater to Aadhar card printing requirements.

Bringing together machine and software
While traditionally views as a separate proprieties, KLHT saw the integration of machine and software as key to the process, as they shared the same goals. 

KLHT developed an in-house software application for data processing. The objective was to get the production up and running every day, and running more quickly. It also allowed for better insights into the card production and because it was developed in-house it provided room for constant improvement.

Custom insertion machine

The data processed by the in-house software worked in tandem with Kodak Nexpress digital front end software, which resulted in smooth implementing of the company’s variable printing capabilities, while ensuring workflow integration.

In short, it helped the company to emphasis on speed, accuracy and safety. “With the expertise we had in terms of secure printing, we were able to bring our previous experience and knowledge along with this software to streamline the entire process,” says Rao.

Data, a key component
The Aadhaar identity platform is one of the key pillars of the 'Digital India', wherein every resident of the country is provided with a unique identity. It was, therefore, necessary to ensure that citizen data remains unassailable.

KLHT’s ISO27001 certification helped the company manage the requirements laid out by UIDAI. “We were compliant with everything as per the standards of ISO27001 and UIDAI data security policy. Additionally, we took all the precautions & measures related to data security as per government SOPs,” explains Rao.

UIDAI also provided end-to-end support for the entire project without which, Rao says, his company would not have been able to complete three consecutive and successful projects with the fourth on-going currently. “Without UIDAI’s support, this entire endeavour would not have been possible.”

A layer of added security
While development in the internet has been a boon, it at times have also become a challenge for companies whose business hinges on data processing, and its safety. A tiny data storage device and mobile communication can send market-sensitive confidential information to the other side of the world, put up for sale or abused in a millisecond.

And so, with shop-floor data driving business like Aadhar, for KLHT, there was an increased emphasis on job roles and skillsets of its employers on the project duty. The company also had to take a hard look at the integrity of the staff on board. “All the personnel working in the organisation are taken on board only post-background verification, police verification. We also do document collection at the entry-points of the plant, to ensure there is no potential fraud.”

On its part, KLHT has strict security procedures which are adhered to as laid down in the quality management policies (QMS) and ISO27001. “We also, conduct periodical internal training sessions. Besides, our software application and production process do not allow duplication.,” informs Rao.

What’s next?
KLHT has now been awarded the contract to print the PVC Aadhar cards, which is currently underway. 

“Continuous development is required for any business to grow, we will be investing in new equipment and new projects to get well acquainted with the latest technology, trends and business opportunities,” says Rao.

P Srinivas Rao, chairman and CEO of KLHT

“Beyond that the sheer scale of a project – mapping 1.2bn population, the ability to analyse the compliance was a key achievement.” 

“I would say, our hard work has paid off. We started from scratch, and for KLHT, Aadhar was the first project of its kind where we had to solve problems at various levels. It was a great learning experience for the entire organisation,” Rao concludes.