Conquering A Feeding Frenzy
Pensacola Christian College gets students to meals quickly by employing custom-made turnstiles
- By Tracie Thomas
- January 01, 2017
Pensacola christian college (pcc), in northwest florida, is located just off the warm emerald waters of florida’s gulf coast. pcc became a reality in 1974 when 100 students arrived at the college’s one building.
THE CRUSH AT MEALTIMES
There are three dining options, but most of
PCC’s 4900 students eat in one of two dining
facilities—the Four Winds or the Varsity. The
two dining halls serve about 10,000 meals a
day, two-thirds of which are served at the
Four Winds facility. Meals are served three
times a day, seven days a week. Anyone who
has been to a university, or visited one at meal
time, knows it can be a real feeding frenzy.
Students are busy, they’re hungry, and they
want to get in and out. For PCC, the challenge
was managing students into the dining halls
in such a way as to qualify them (they have
proper ID) and count them, to better manage
meal projections and food costs.
Pensacola Christian College had turnstiles
installed in both dining halls that were 20
years old, and as Amy Glenn, the college’s
chief communication officer, put it, “we had
exhausted the life out of those units.”
PCC was also having real problems getting
replacement parts, so it was high time for a
new entrance solution.
DESIGNING BETTER ENTRANCES
For a number of months, PCC staff researched
various companies offering turnstile entrances
and found the visual appearance of each of
the products to be quite similar.
“We needed someone to work with us to customize
our entrances,” said Glenn. “What
brought us to Boon Edam was their willingness
to sit down with us and modify their
products to fit our needs.”
The College wanted recessed scanners in each
cabinet and a durable, plexiglass covering for
protection. Cost was also a factor.
“The fact that the turnstiles are made in
America cut our shipping costs, and that
made a big difference for us,” said Glenn. “It’s
been night and day right from the beginning,
compared to our old entrances. Plus, we know
we can get parts quickly, and mechanically
the turnstiles have performed super well.”
The request for cabinet customization was
presented to Boon Edam’s engineering team
for feasibility, assessment and design. Details
such as the dimensions of the card reader
were used to ensure enough space was available
inside the cabinet and to develop special
brackets to hold the device in place. A custom
cutout was designed for the cabinet’s top and
for the placement of the plexiglass. Drawings
of these customizations were approved by
PCC, and then the extra materials were
ordered and made as specified in the factory.
At Four Winds, the turnstiles were installed
in January 2016. There are eight turnstiles at
two separate entrances, but four units alone
can handle 1,000 students in 15 minutes or
less at popular times. “We don’t want our students
waiting in lines,” said Glenn. “We could
have designed a huge lobby, but our entrance
size with this kind of high throughput is
QUALIFYING WHO GETS TO EAT
A tap scanner is used by the students to gain
entrance with his/her PCC Smart Card. The
system identifies that the card itself has not
expired, that the student is eligible to attend
the meal, and that he has not scanned for the
same meal at another venue on campus.
Students have up to three dining options
included without extra cost, but may only
attend a particular meal once. If the student
has forgotten her card, there is a keyboard
and monitor connected to one of the turnstiles
at each location for the student to use
his campus login to gain access and open the turnstile. An attendant on duty oversees the entrance and assists students
and guests as needed.
At the 1600-capacity Four Winds, all eight turnstiles are used for
entering, lobby attendants monitor the exit, so no turnstiles are needed.
At the 900-capacity Varsity, four entrance turnstiles were installed
in August of this year. Similar to the Four Winds, attendants monitor
the exit and no turnstiles are installed there.
For purchased guest tickets and other special events, some turnstiles
are reserved for campus guests who are identified manually by the
attendant on duty, and these guests do not use the tap scanner to gain
entrance, but they’re still added to the meal counts by the turnstile.
Those same PCC Smart Cards are also used for access to residence
hall rooms, recreational facilities, campus gates and sporting events.
Other accounts tied to the card are for library use, printing and oncampus
debit purchases at the Campus Store, Palms Grille, Common
Grounds Café, laundry, vending and more.
“We live and die by our counts each day. The counts are vital in our
estimating process for meal needs. We save money by reducing food
waste, while ensuring we meet demand and keep our students well fed
and happy,” said Glenn.
FAST BUT SAFE ENTRANCES
“We use the turnstiles not just for eligibility but also to count the
number of meals eaten,” explained Glenn. “Our request for these specialized
turnstiles was to modify the design so students can scan in as they begin entering, then a light comes on to show the student is cleared to continue to enter. With our high throughput in such a short
time span, this little feature reduces possible damage to the turnstile
and, more importantly, possible injury to our students.”
Many universities that use tripod turnstiles learn the hard way during
their first set of “economy” turnstiles, that adding a user feedback signal
to indicate when the turnstile is unlocked is important. Without a signal,
such as a light turning green, hurried students may not hear the “click”
of the turnstile unlocking, and will attempt to walk forward too early.
The result is that they bang against the arm causing unnecessary wear
and tear, more service calls, and unnecessary parts replacement.
Another challenge that Pensacola addressed was fine tuning the
amount of time the turnstiles remained unlocked, which can be adjusted
at the site. If a turnstile is set to relock too quickly, distracted students
may be slow to enter the turnstile after their authorization and
bang against a relocked arm. Aside from the wear and tear this presents,
they would have to badge in again to gain entry (inflating the
meal count) or request assistance from the attendant and slow down
the line. Users like PCC will spend a few days observing line behaviors
to adjust the settings to an optimal interval of time.
PROPER MEAL COUNTS ARE CRITICAL
Meal counts from each turnstile are entered into food management
software to create ratios based on weekly, daily, and annual counts, and
to calculate a per person quantity of every line item served from each
menu. Variations in food predictions can still occur based upon weather,
change in student schedules, and menu changes that add popular or
unpopular items into the menu rotation. However, having a turnstile
count for every meal provides the best opportunity for PCC to avoid
waste while providing a wide variety of satisfying menu options.
“We live and die by our counts each day. As a large food service
operation, the counts are vital in our estimating process for meal
needs. Accurate counts save us money by reducing food waste, while
still ensuring we meet demand and keep our students well fed and
happy,” said Glenn.
How are the 12 turnstile entrances functioning for PCC? “Our
team has been quite pleased, I’ve heard no complaints at all, and our
students are consistently able to get to their meals with little or no
waiting,” said Glenn.
This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of CSLS.