Choosing between in-house production and an outsourced service is similar to the classic “make-vs-buy” decision. Whether its due to staff availability, the complexities of setting up and running a professional ID card program, or unclear requirements, most companies consider outsourcing as an option.

One important consideration is the expected volume of card production over time. If you want to learn more about the production profiles which best fit the outsourcing model, click here.

Here are a number of factors to consider in evaluating whether outsourcing fits your business objectives.


1. No Capital Investment

  • An outsourcing service turns all costs into operating expenses, avoiding upfront investment
  • Capital is retained for other uses – no balance sheet impact

2. Variable cost basis

  • Charges are entirely variable; billing is made on a per-card basis
  • ID card production can be ramped up or down as business conditions change
  • Surge capacity can help meet the needs of a sudden high-volume production, such as in the case of a change in company brand or logo

3. Accountability

  • A well-structured outsourcing program can provide detailed costing and charge-back services to ensure budgets are correctly allocated.
  • Outsourcing can ensure that all field offices are conforming to corporate ID card program guidelines.
  • Outsourcing can provide HQ control of company-wide expenses associated with an ID Card program.

4. Flexibility

  • Outsourcing can provide a low-cost way to initiate a trial program, before deciding on a full-fledged roll-out.
  • If you anticipate changes in your ID card program over time, an outsourced service will be able to adapt more quickly. Typical changes to anticipate may include new card issuance for physical access or IT services, new procedures related to updated security or quality regulations, graphic design changes, etc.


  • Outsourcing can allow an ID program to be initiated in a matter of days, through the elimination of delays associated with equipment acquisition, installation/set-up, and training.
  • Same-day production by a dedicated service ensures extremely fast turnaround of all orders – no delays due to vacations, sick days, staff turnover, higher priorities, etc.
  • If however you absolutely must issue your ID cards immediately, on the spot, then outsourcing may not be right for you

Support and Assistance

  • Experienced Card Design Professionals are available as part of an outsourcing service package, helping work with you through questions such as security requirements, graphic design, technical integration with IT systems, etc.
  • Outsourcing gives you access to professionals with experience planning and implementing numerous company-wide programs, including roll-out considerations, industry best practices, user manuals and documentation, etc.
  • If you value the availability of professionals who have direct experience with hundreds of ID Card program roll-outs, you may benefit from the advantages of working with an outsourcing organization. While expertise may exist in firms selling hardware, once the sale is made they have little incentive to work with you during the life of the project.
  • Consider what assistance may be required in planning for future integration with various physical access control systems (PROX, RFID, smart cards, etc.) or time and attendance systems (barcode, magstripe, biometrics, etc.)In-house card printing requires substantial know-how. As America’s largest ID card company, HID, says on its website: “if your IT department employees have never used ID card printers in the past, they should participate in an intensive training to learn the ins and outs of an ID printer… ID card printers are obviously different in many ways than standard printers.”

Volume Considerations

In-house Or Outsource

  • Outsourcing is particularly advantageous if your organization expects to have a high level of fluctuation in the number of ID cards required per week or per month. For example, schools often outsource to meet the high volumes at the beginning of the academic year, and companies often outsource if they just have a one-time need to create a large number of cards in a short period of time.
  • Producing just a few cards a week or month on an ongoing basis may be more efficiently provided by an outside service
  • If requirements call for 1000+ cards at a single location, then in-house production may well be more cost-effective

A Full-Service Provider

  • Outsourcing services can be structured to offload the logistics of gathering data and distributing badges to final recipients
  • An outside service can provide call-center support for users, avoiding the need for a dedicated organization. For example, field offices may be given direct access to the outsourcing service to offload questions from HQ staff.
  • An organization with many field locations will need to train local people to take photographs, prepare data, submit information, and follow corporate procedures. A full-service provider can relieve HQ staff of this important responsibility.
  • By charging an outside service provider with full responsibility for ID card distribution, customer satisfaction and service levels is generally improved at both the field office and at the HQ levels

Still have Questions?

We have developed a complete financial model to help you “run the numbers”. If you’d like a copy of this excel spreadsheet, which allows you to enter your own data to compare in-house production vs. outsourcing, just send us an email request.