by Ursula Kampmann
January 5, 2012 – 7 business locations, nearly 390 employees, customers throughout Austria and the neighboring countries; Geldservice Austria (GSA) is a leading company in innovative cash logistics. You certainly will know what cash logistics is. No, you do not? Well, come with us and follow us on our a tour through the GSA master center in Vienna.
That is the GSA building. Photo: GSA.
The GSA building is not far away from the National bank. Not anybody is permitted to enter. Only with a notice of a visit the doorman will let you in. I have got one. And so I can pass the two security air locks. Of course, immediately after this I get picked up. Because without the fitting electronic pass I could never get through just one of the many doors.
This long corridor not only conducts to the GSA, but Austria’s banknote printing works is located further down. Photo: UK.
Mr Christian Drusany will guide us through the company for over an hour. He is the Production Director banknotes / coins. We are just going to find out, what this means.
Security checks at all doors. Photo: UK.
Whoever thought this could be the highest security level was wrong. Now we are going to the high security wing. No chance for unauthorized persons to enter. Each single employee has his own electronic identification badge; but this card opens the doors only when combined with a scan of the proprietor’s hand.
The GSA’s high security garage – with an open door. Photo: UK.
Our first destination is the cash acceptance. Here security transports deliver cash bags from Vienna, Lower Austria and the Burgenland. The other parts of the country and customers from neighboring countries are supplied by the other six GSA centers in Linz, Graz, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Klagenfurt and Bregenz.
A very special “cash bag”, solidly packaged and bar code labeled. Photo: UK.
Very special cash bags are collected from GSA’s customers. Banks, but also retailers, collaborate with the logistic company that belongs at 90 % to the Austrian National Bank.
Each kind of customer has its own bag color at the GSA. Photo: UK.
A new product are the multi-boxes in shopping centers. Without undertaking the high-risk way to the next bank with the day’s takings, the GSA customers deposit safely their cash money in these boxes. GSA carriers empty the small strongboxes every night and deliver the money to the GSA center.
The security air lock at the money disposal opens only after the garage door has closed. Photo: UK.
GSA garages are provided with a sophisticated security system. Only when the external garage door has closed, the internal door with bullet-proof glass gives access to the security air lock. Here the transport’s escort deposits its valuable cargo, then advancing backward into the garage. After this a GSA employee enters from the other side of the security air lock, scans all the bag bar codes, affirms that everything has arrived faultless and takes the money into the building. Only now the external garage door opens and the empty carrier can leave.
The money from the bags is distributed into cardboxes with cover sheets, ready for counting. Photo: UK.
Not automatic units but humans open each bag. The coins are counted by small automatic devices, they are checked if the counted sum corresponds to the sum indicated on the bag, and then the sum is credited to the account; the banknotes, on the other hand, are distributed into cardboxes. The cover sheet informs about whose account will be credited with the sum after the checking process.
The core of “Banknotes Production” – an enormous banknote counter. Photo: UK.
The enormous banknote counter measures nearly 19 meters in the length and performs much more than only counting. It grades the banknotes, ties them into batches, checks their authenticity, removes those not fitting any more for circulation because of their low state of conservation and even shreds them immediately – naturally only after having counted them.
All this happens at an incredible speed. 20 banknotes per second are running through the machine. That makes 72,000 per hour!!!
They even opened the machine for us. This is a glance into the internal part where the banknotes are tied into batches. Photo: UK.
The money counted is credited to the customer’s account instantaneously. Normally this happens the same day a “cash bag” has arrived at the GSA. Only those banknotes whose authenticity is dubious are temporarily not credited. They are sent for inspection to the Austrian National Bank. The bank decides whether the money is forged or not. That logistic process gives a much improved overview of how much “funny money” is in circulation in Austria. Don’t bother yourself. Even the National Bank sustains that the quota is completely insignificant.
However, if “funny money” has been foisted on a bank or a shop, the claimant has to bear the loss. No wonder you see small banknote counters at the checkout with whom the cashier controls the banknotes’ authenticity.
The packs of banknotes are shrink-wrapped in standardized parcels of money. Photo: UK.
Just besides the banknote counter a sealing machine is placed that shrink-wraps the packs into standardized parcels of money. Mr Drusany tells us that the GSA employees have no erotic feelings about dealing with so much money. To him the banknotes are no more than printed paper. It is only precision that counts. A 5 euro banknote is of the same importance as a 500 euro banknote.
A storage rack with parcels of money. Senseless to reflect on how many millions are gathered here. Photo: UK.
The sums stored in the racks are simply to high to imagine them in a concrete sense.
One million, in the background the author. Photo: Christian Drusany.
I am holding in my hands one million in banknotes. And you may believe me, there’s no special feeling.
A trolley full of small change. Photo: UK.
On the lower floor the coins are sorted, checked, counted and wrapped in.
Machine for coin sorting. Photo: UK.
Of course all this is a fully automated process.
Taking the coins into the correct box is a rush job. Photo: UK.
37 tons of coins are handled here every day.
A second machine wraps the coins. Photo: UK.
All coins are wrapped according to the ECB standard and shrink-wrapped into packs ready for distribution.
Then the money parcels are stored in a big strongbox. And of this we have no photo. Because here the security level is so high that humans do not reach to this point. The cash storage of the Austrian National Bank is deposited below ground in a high security area where only robots work. Via computer humans give orders how many money parcels are to be taken out of the strongbox. Certainly even that is performed only at a very high security level. No single person can give this order. Everything has to be counter-confirmed. All the rest is done fully automatically by machines.
The “small” strongbox. Photo: UK.
What happens if these machines are out of order? Don’t worry. No reason to be afraid of cash scantiness. Because there is another strong box where cash money is stored, sufficient for supplying the GSA customers for 2-3 days. GSA not only collects all the money in, it redistributes coins and banknotes to banks and ATMs on order.
The cash money is transported in boxes called fondly in the jargon “shoe boxes”. One of these boxes can contain up to 5 million euro.
By the way, being in the cash supply you have to take account of the national preferences of banknotes. In Germany the 50 and 20 euro banknotes are the first choice, while the Austrians prefer 100 and 10 euro banknotes. You have to know that if you want to fill the ATM’s fittingly!
It was a very instructive stay at the GSA. Thanks to Mr Dietmar Spranz for the procurement of the visiting permission and to Mr Christian Drusany, who enthused me with his interesting guidance for the details of cash logistics.