What to Look for in an Automated Key Control System
In just one week, an Ellisville, Missouri, dealership had nearly a dozen cars stolen from their lot, worth a total of more than $300,000.1 That same week, the Lodi Unified School District in Lodi, California, reported two campus keys missing, costing the district an estimated $20,000 to $25,000 in re-keying costs.2
Unfortunately, stories such as these are not uncommon. Many companies face costly losses of keys and assets before they begin to rethink their methods of asset management.
Before you think, “That could never happen to me,” ask yourself the following question: Would you give clients and employees unauthorized access to your entire facility, assets and files? Your answer may be “no,” but if you don’t properly secure facility keys, you are effectively granting anyone who has the ability to gain access to your keys free reign over your facility.
In order to protect your business’s property, confidential information and the lives of employees, tenants and others, it is vital that you select a proper method of storing keys. Fortunately, there are plenty of key control systems on the market that will accomplish this goal.
“But where do I start?” you may ask. The decision-making process can be overwhelming, which is why we have compiled the following guidelines.
Selecting a Key Control System
When selecting a key control system, there are two main things to bear in mind. The first thing, of course, is the system itself. A key control system is an investment, and you’ll want to make sure it meets all your key control needs. The second thing is the company selling the system. A partnership with the company you are purchasing the system from is of utmost importance, because when you have questions about your investment, you need to be able to trust the company to provide you with the assistance you need. The following questions are designed to help you evaluate each of these two areas, so that you receive the best value for your dollar.
Key Quality and Software
- How many keys do you need to store?
- If expansion is a possibility, does the system come with expansion options (e.g., additional drawers, panels, capacity, etc.)?
- Does the company have a history of expanding the capabilities of the software? As businesses grow and technology advances, your system software should keep pace with these developments. Avoid purchasing a system with software that will be outdated within a few years.
- Does the company offer industry-specific software? One-size-fits-all software is not ideal, because every industry has different needs. For example, an automotive dealership may need to track vehicles on the lot; an apartment complex may need to track packages sent to residents; and a government facility may need to track everything from vehicles to work orders. It is important that system software cater to your needs no matter the industry
- For maximum security, a system should offer more than one method of user login (e.g., a fingerprint reader, fob, employee badge or password) that can be used in conjunction with one another. What security options does the system offer?
- Does the system come equipped with audible alarms and/or email notifications that are triggered when the system has been compromised?
Ease of Use
- Key control systems should be secure, but if accessing the system entails a cumbersome, complicated process, it will frustrate employees and discourage them from following protocol. Does the system include any features that make it more convenient to use without violating security measures (e.g., a fingerprint reader for user login or lighted key tags for easy location of keys)?
- If you have an existing facility management system, does the key control system have the capability to interface with the existing facility management system?
- What reports does the system offer? Reports detailing information such as key inventory, keys currently checked out and the names of the employees using keys provide management personnel with an easily viewable summary of company activity.
- If the system does not offer reports that include the data most useful to you, does it provide the option to create custom reports?
- How are reports created/accessed? Does the system allow you to automatically generate and email reports? Can you access the system remotely via the Internet?
- Does the system allow you to manage employees in addition to keys?
- Does it provide the capability to be set up with different levels of access for each employee?
- Can you define specific time periods during which employees may log on to the system?
- How long has the company been in business?
- How many systems have they installed?
- Can the company provide references?
- Is the system sold by a third party or by a direct sales force?
- Will the company make a visit to your business to evaluate your facility and determine what key control system would best suit your needs?
- Do they offer tours of their facilities?
- Is the system manufactured in-house or by a third-party vendor?
- Does the company install and provide training on the software and hardware, or are you required to do it yourself?
- Does the company provide in-house financing, support, training, etc? If not, what services do they outsource to third-party vendors? What vendors do they work with?
- What training services, if any, does the company provide?
- Does the company conduct remote training or do they provide in-person training at your facility?
Remember, the purchase of a key control system is one of the best investments a company can make – especially considering that those little metal keys could potentially cost a business thousands upon thousands of dollars in lost assets and re-keying costs. Don’t leave your company vulnerable.