Sunday, March 2, 2014

Why did they put THAT hardware in?????

I wrote a previous blog about,  "Grade 1 vs. Grade 2, What's the Difference?"  In that blog I showed the very basics of difference according to ANSI standards.  There are many levels of quality in a lock, even though all in that catagory meet the cycle testing to make a certain grade.  Just because a lock can pass with 800,000 cycles to meet a grade does not make it comparable to a lock that can pass at 4,000,000+.  Yes, they both pass, but one is definately a higher quality, and likely more expensive, piece of hardware.

At my previous job, I would ask for a particular lock or closer, or panic and (within budgeting) get what I asked for.  However, if we had a project that was decided by an architect firm or contractor, it felt a little like a lottery as to what was installed.  This is precicely why you need a spec, and it needs to be followed.

I have seen several specs from architects (and you should know they farm this part out quite often) which are written with a specific manufacturer in mind.  A lot of state and federal requirements specify that 3 equal locks be presented for bid.  However, some in the industry can supply 3 brands that meet the requirements, but are made by the same manufacturer.  This does not make them equal.  

Even though you ask for a grade 1 lock, there are different levels of quality and price in that grade.  To compare equally, you need to compare the premium line vs. premium, and a commercial grade vs. commercial.  The same is true for closers, and panic hardware.

I have attached a chart to this blog which will help explain some of what I am saying.

As you can see, for an equal comparison of locks on a premium level, you need to use Sargent/Corbin Ruswin vs. Stanley Best vs. Schlage.  Each of these companies has several grades in these brands, but in this way you are comparing manufacturers, not brand names.  This will help in doing specs more fairly and letting the end user get what they want, or match their existing system.

As the institutional locksmith, or owner, you need to ask your architect or contractor to make sure you are getting the quality you are asking for, or hardware that matches what you are currently using at the very least.  With the budgeting of projects these days, the lowest bidder will get the bid, and for the wrong reasons, security concerns with cheap hardware are rarely noticed until after it's installed.  

Ask for someone to write the specs with what you want, even if it crosses several manufacturers.  But even better, call the Consultant for the manufacturer.  

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Institutional Locksmithing: When you ALMOST get the hardware correct......

Institutional Locksmithing: When you ALMOST get the hardware correct......: I haven't posted in a while.....been kinda busy.  I wanted to bring something to attention that resulted from a lack of oversight.   I ...

When you ALMOST get the hardware correct......

I haven't posted in a while.....been kinda busy.  I wanted to bring something to attention that resulted from a lack of oversight.  I will try to put in order the events which led to our little, not problem, but what could have been better.

We have on our campus a new building, very nicely done, designed for our students as a new gathering place.  Large TV's, gaming stations, restaurants, study areas, and offices for Alumni and Student association.  Also a very nice conference area.  The building was a design-build.  The architect had in mind to build a showpiece, one that could be put up for awards.  Everything in the building is high end, down to the one of a kind custom furniture.  I am personally not very keen on the design-build concept as an end user, but that is what led to our situation.

We have on our campus an A2 system for locks using a SFIC (small format interchangeable core, see other blogs).  For that, I was asked what kind of hardware I preferred in the building.  I presented what I would like to see installed, and gave them a book with all the different locks listed.  I use a lot of different brands of locks on campus, from Grade 1 Mortise, to low-end imports.  Each has it's own uses.  For this building, we were being presented with a steel and glass building, this made for a lot of store-front, curtain wall systems.  I asked that all doors be installed with a geared continuous hinge.  The architect looked a little shocked at my request, then thanked me for asking for that to be done.  I have a preference for clutching levers when I install new hardware, so I asked for Stanley Best 9K's  ( ) as my grade 1 choice, or Yale BAU5300LN's ( )  for my grade 2 choice.  All panics were to be Stanley Precision  (  ) for which I have a particular affinity (see other blogs).  For the closers', I asked for LCN's 4041's and 1461's (  )  throughout except for the automatic door openers, which again, we would use Stanley Low Impact  (  ).  For the storefront doors to the offices,  we were told they would be glass doors, so I asked for Adams Rite hardware to be installed  ( ).

So you are probably asking, why is there an issue?  Well, here is what happened.  

We supplied what we would like to have installed on the doors, I was sent a list of the hardware model to be installed, and found nothing objectionable.  One problem.  I wasn't told what kind of door they would be installed on.  All I knew was Aluminum storefront with glass, or FRP doors on the mechanical rooms ( the mechanical doors had flush bolts and cylindrical locks).  The few wood doors wouldn't be an issue.  When told aluminum storefront, you assume narrow-stile, 3-0 x 7-0.  What they installed was medium stile interior, and wide stile exterior.  Interior was 3-0 x 8-0, and exterior 3-6 x 8-0.  That can make quite a difference on your hardware.  One catch, the hardware was ordered before the door designs were finalized.  Again, a design-build type problem.  Me being the locksmith for the contracted company at the campus, not the contractor, I didn't see what they were finally putting in till they were already in.  There were several layers of people above me making decisions about the building, and I don't think any of them were looking at the hardware.  After all was said and done, even the builder was asking me about hardware issues on some of the other buildings they were working on.  I have come to learn that hardware is confusing, even to people who deal with it for a living.

 Both of these are correct.  The Best Access 9K electrified lock at bottom, and the correct Precision FL2800 in the upper picture.  Note that the head on the Precision is the wider type.

Let me show you what is ALMOST correct.

Inside and outside views of the same set of doors.  These are 4-0 x 8-0 Special-Lite FRP doors ( we love this type of door ), with concealed vertical rods.  I was asked if I could install a rim-cylinder on the bar to open it from the outside, but there wasn't room to do that. All I could do was add pulls and make the bar be cylinder dogged.  Note the style of bar used.  This one is designed for narrow style doors, not flush doors.  The bars were added at the factory where the doors were built.  No way to change them without adding a mullion.

Notice how close to the edge of the door the rim cylinder is, and the head on the bar on the inside.  Again, right product, wrong model.

The one that irritates me the most is this one.  The framing has an unusually wide jamb on the frame, (at least to me), and they used the narrower model of the Adams Rite lock which crowds the jamb with the mortise, making it harder to unlock, and it looks aesthetically wrong to me.

There is nothing wrong with any of the hardware used as far as not functioning, they all work, and work pretty well, just not quite correct.  What needs to be done for any future project that we do which is design-build is be more involved in what is being ordered to be installed in the building.  I am not the only department having an issue.  Our plumber was not happy at all to see cast-iron going in under the slab instead of PVC, and the electrical was a little undersized for what they have asked to add since it was built.  We have finishes that are unique to this building on campus which now requires us to store more tile types and paint colors.

Anytime you are involved in this type of project, try and make it a point to be active in the decisions for your discipline.  And if you are the one ordering the parts and making the choices, PLEASE  keep the end users in the loop before ordering.  A little conversation can go a long way to avoiding migraines.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Institutional Locksmithing: Storm Damage....Now what?

Institutional Locksmithing: Storm Damage....Now what?: Friday the 13th .....usually one of my better days when it comes around.  However, this past Friday the 13th, we had a "weather event".  We...

Storm Damage....Now what?

Friday the 13th.....usually one of my better days when it comes around.  However, this past Friday the 13th, we had a "weather event".  We had a micro-burst by the facility I work at.  I had gone home at my usual 5:00 and had just set down to supper when I heard a rumble of thunder.  I told my wife that is sounded like it was going to rain.  Ten minutes later, my boss called and said we had some windows broken on our arena and could I come in, "and bring your camera".  As I was arriving, the street leading to the facility was blocked with power poles that had been snapped about 3' above the ground, I had to take the back way in.

When I arrived, I saw the satelite uplink building having the roof covered, fences down, trees split in half, and then I saw the broken windows.....WOW.  The wind had blown out some windows on the mezzanine level, and pushed an office wall across the hall, blown out one of the exit doors on the Entry ring level, and had damaged a curtain wall on the opposite side of the building.  I didn't learn till later that I had 8 sets of aluminum double doors damaged on the main ground level entry.

Here is the video from a security camera outside the building.....

This is what happened in the lobby where my doors were damaged.....

The guy in the bottom video was looking for something to catch water...(even with the doors flying open like they were)

The doors are only 3 years old.  They are Kawneer medium style with Dor-O-Matic panics (no I didn't spec them, I have a different preferance) with LCN 4041 closers. The curtain wall is original to 1972.  My understanding is that they were latched when the weather event started.  Usually, they are dogged down.

I took right at 400 pics of damage, including a Pepsi machine that was blown down the stairs to the Mezzanine.  The event was only about 15 minutes in duration.  The airport 2 miles away recored 68 mph winds, but we think it was around 80 here.

This is what the exit door on the upper level looked like afterward....Only a year old on the doors, but the framing is from the original build in 1972.

We have had the insurance adjusters here this past week, and they are sendng a sructural engineeer to make sure everything is above board.  Now, we get the parts and do the repairs....

Part of the job as an Instutional Locksmith.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Institutional Locksmithing: Hardware Finish and the Cleaning Crew

Institutional Locksmithing: Hardware Finish and the Cleaning Crew: As the installer of hardware, I'm not sure that the situation I am going to talk about is totally in my scope, but I will take part of the b...

Hardware Finish and the Cleaning Crew

As the installer of hardware, I'm not sure that the situation I am going to talk about is totally in my scope, but I will take part of the blame.

When an architect or designer decides on a hardware finish, there is usually a reason behind it.  Where I work, most of the hardware, when I started, is 606.  We are now switching most of it to 626, and 613.  If you don't know what I am talking about, here is link to the BHMA/ANSI  chart:

What we fail sometimes to think about is that others we work with don't know what we know.

Finishes have warranties on your hardware.  Some have limited warranties, some have lifetime, and some, like 613 are called "living finishes".  Below is a chart from one of the larger manufacturers.

You will notice on the bottom some care guidelines.  Here are some of those guidelines:

On some charts is suggests that you use graphite to re-lube the lock.   Unless you understand that a VERY SMALL amount of graphite needs to be BLOWN into the lock, don't use it.  Instead, use a lube with PTFE in it.  My favorite is Tri-Lube.  It bonds to the metal and puts a Teflon coating on the finish.

So let me explain why I am writing this article.  About a week ago, our cleaning crew was told to sanitize the panic hardware on the entry doors to one of the buildings.  They cleaned the oil-rubbed bronze hardware with ECOLAB--Lemoneze, followed by a disinfectant.  Here are pictures of what it should look like, and what it did when they got done.


What I have found out is that the warranty will not cover the finish that was removed.  It may not be able to be refinished......... I had 8 bars cleaned off.  I will take some of the responsibility because I did not make sure the cleaning crew knew how to clean the hardware.  I am hoping the natural patina will return with a little help, but as you can see, it is already starting to corrode.  

So the moral of the story is, make sure everyone knows what is expected on finish and color, and they know how to clean it.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Institutional Locksmithing: WHY YOU NEED A SPEC BOOK..

Institutional Locksmithing: WHY YOU NEED A SPEC BOOK..: At our facility, we are building a new building for the first time in almost 15 years.  This will be a new multi-use building for students a...


At our facility, we are building a new building for the first time in almost 15 years.  This will be a new multi-use building for students and staff and alumni.  When dealing with the designers, it has become abundantly clear that a SPEC BOOK is vitally needed.

Having worked with spec books and other building specs required for bidding in some of my other positions, I was prepared for this.  Some of my fellow co-workers in charge of some of the other building disciplines were not so lucky.  Our plumbing, CCTV/Alarm, and some others had to go through the plans with the architect to explain what they wanted in each location so it could go out to bid.  Admittedly each situation is different for them, and requires specific types of fixtures or systems.  I had my requirements in a book with pictures and expectations ready.  I was in there for 20 minutes, not the 2+ hours the others had to spend.

We have several contractors doing work on our facility, and a written spec is vital for bidding.  

For us, I have written a spec with the following guidelines.

First and foremost is that all hardware must work with our existing key system.  We have a patented SFIC (small format interchangeable core) see other blogs)) and all hardware must work with that type of core.  We have had in the past a designer have a local hardware supplier spec a job and they would spec something they sell, and it would not work with what we already had in place.  I have learned that you have to keep track of projects so they don't install something you have to replace later.  

I have a specific type of Grade 1 lock that I specify (Stanley Best 9K), a particular type of Grady 2 for some applications, like offices and non-classroom areas (Stanley Best 7K).  A particular type of Grade 2 I like for classrooms and dorm rooms (Yale 5300LN), and a certain type of deadbolt for particular applications (Stanley Best T-Series).  

I am very particular on the type of panic hardware I use (Precision) and closers (LCN) .  I would also recommend that you try to move to continuous hinges in your projects.  You will discover that a lot of your door issues will go away.  I recommend Select Continuous Geared Hinges.

The binder I handed to the architect on our new project was almost 600 pages (mostly copies of the catalogs that showed the products) and he actually said thank you.  The actual spec sheet is only 6 pages, and covers as many types of hardware as I use, from door type to door stop to sweep and seal.

Many of  your suppliers will help you write your spec book, and I would recommend that you take them up on it.  Of course, they will spec their hardware, but I would expect you to work with your favorite hardware supplier anyway.  They will, if asked, put what YOU want in your book, and I have taken advantage of that.

Since we can hand a spec to anyone doing work at our facility, they have no cause to install something we don't want and have to pay to replace.  It saves both time and money for both parties.

Not everyone will think this is important, but until you have someone install hardware that doesn't work with your system, and you have to replace it at your cost, I can only recommend that you look at having this done, or write one yourself.    

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Institutional Locksmithing: Key Control Software

Institutional Locksmithing: Key Control Software: Over the years I have been asked by several about a way to keep up with keys being issued and a way help with inventory etc.  The first time...

Key Control Software

Over the years I have been asked by several about a way to keep up with keys being issued and a way help with inventory etc.  The first time I did a complete facility re key, after looking at several systems we looked at key control software's.  There wasn't a lot out there 15 years ago that met our needs, but times have changed.

We looked at several software programs for key control, but after we decided on Best Access Systems, we looked at their Keystone 600 software.  I have to say right now that I am biased to this software, but for good reason.

Some of the software's we looked were no more than an excel  spreadsheet, while others were more elaborate.  Some even had the ability to make a bar-code for each key.  All in all, there are some good programs out there designed for a Human Resources department, or a large business to keep track of who has what key.  But this does not help the Institutional Locksmith.

What I needed was much more.  I needed a way to know what key opened what door, who had a key for that door, and how many there were issued, along with how to make a new one from code.  The Keystone 600 fit that criteria and more.  

The first version of the software I used was a stand alone version to control the master key system.  The latest one I am currently using is a networked version.  Attached is a link to the PDF for the system:  (I highly recommend you download the demo version of the software to explore)

What this allows me to control is actually more that I need.  

(copied from Stanley Web page)


The Best Access System Keystone® 600N5 key and core control software offers all of the same security, convenience, and functionality found in the original Keystone® 600 program, but with the added ability to operate in a network configuration. Keystone® 600N5 will assist you with the tedious task of managing your key and core records in today’s environment, in which multiple people in different locations may need to access the data simultaneously. Designed to operate over modern network environments, such as Windows® NT, XP or Windows® 2000. Keystone® 600N5 includes special help screens that can be accessed whenever you need assistance.
Complex commands and detailed menu trees are eliminated by the function key index at the bottom of each screen. Select the information tab desired and the appropriate screen is called up.Instructions and help screens are immediately available.

  • Password restricted logins enable administration to restrict individuals access for designated cards

  • Designed to support multiple facilities
  • Display people, keys and departments with access to a building
  • Lists departmental access, designating the people, keys and keyrings that have access to that department
  • Displays buildings with doors, cores and locks in the building

  • List all keys and items currently due back (or due back by any day designated)
  • Lists keys that have been issued and keyholders
  • On-screen display of BEST masterkey code records entered
  • Records issuance of keys, keyrings, cores and locks to people
  • Maintains historical records on all keys, keyrings, cores and locks
  • Shows all “keyrings”, keyring holders, and what buildings, cores and doors the keyring accesses
  • Maintains “key cabinet” records displaying the keys, keyrings and locks located on a “hook”
  • Tracks “out-of-service” keys, keyrings and other items that are lost, stolen or destroyed
  • Displays cores, departments, doors, buildings keys can access

  • Lists all cores and their location, buildings and doors
  • Cross-references employees, keys and departments

  • Displays people, keys, keyrings, cores, locks on one record
  • Maintains list of deleted employees (and doors) with the ability to display and reactivate them
  • Searches for and identifies people by name, ID, department, title and type
  • Cross-references people to cores, doors, buildings they access

  • Displays locks, lock location and the people, keys and departments with access to that lock
  • Lists manufacturer product records with items connected specifically to that manufacturer’s product

  • Shows the doors with cores, locks and other items that are installed on the door
  • Displays doors and people, keys and departments that can access those doors

Software – general
  • Comprehensive list of reports available as an on-screen menu
  • Built-in easy-to-use backup program
  • Program always displays date of last backup
  • Lists users who made backups with dates
  • Dynamic searching capability for all records
  • Large note field available on all card records
  • On-screen indicator shows when historical info. is present for a record
  • On-screen indicator appears when notes are present on a record
  • Able to operate in an NTFS network environment with TCPIP protocol
  • Multiple users can access program at same time
  • Stanley service that Import/Append data (Some formats)
  • Mass deletion

I could have typed all that, but it was easier to copy it.

What this has allowed us to do, is let the HR department issue keys that I provide, and return them so there is an accurate record when that person leaves.  Security also has the ability to see who has access to an area, but cannot do transactions of keys.  The software will let you determine the abbount of access a person has when signed in.  I may not want someone to see the key-cut codes, or certain other areas.

One of the features that I use currently is it's multi system capability.

I have our "old system" that we are trying to replace with a new patented system, and our "new system" both being controlled on this one software. One of my old systems is an A3 system.  I also have 4 different A2 systems, in addition to our "new system" (which is  a patented A2 key system from Stanley Best).  The ability of the software to help with keying, and core  pinning for A2, A3, and A4 is advantageous.  It helps to be able to click on a core, and have its pin stacks shown where you can print it out and give it to someone to build if necessary.  It also takes the headache of figuring the math out to make sure it works for all the keys assigned to that core.

I also have a couple of Corbin and Schlage systems in it.  It won't help with the building of the core, but you can track keys and enter their key cuts.

I would be lost without this software to help me do my job.  It saves an enormous amount of time, and helps with accuracy.  Also, the tech support offered for the system is unmatched.  You will have the codes for your keys, and ability to manipulate them.  Not all companies will let you have the codes without going through a middleman who may want you to use them for the information.

If you use a different software for A2, A3, or A4 systems, I would love to know what you use, but it would be hard pressed to beat the Keystone 600N.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Institutional Locksmithing: Grade 1 vs. Grade 2 What's the difference?

Institutional Locksmithing: Grade 1 vs. Grade 2 What's the difference?: Recently I have been asked to create a spec sheet for a new construction project at work. When we got to the meeting with the architect and...

Grade 1 vs. Grade 2 What's the difference?

Recently I have been asked to create a spec sheet for a new construction project at work.  When we got to the meeting with the architect and construction contractor they asked for my opinion on what I wanted in the building.  My first question to them was "Grade 1, or Grade 2?"  I got a few blank stares from some of the participants who don't deal with hardware as to what I was talking about.  Of course I wanted Grade 1 locks for the project, but they had built into their budget Grade 2.  That is OK since they will be interior office doors, but for the exit hardware, I made sure it was Grade 1 panics and closers.

So, what's the difference?

To help describe the difference, I will deal with cylindrical locks for the moment.  The following chart will help explain the difference:

You will find the differences in lever torque, and cycle counts. 

Why is this important?

Let's say I have a door that is used by a bunch of students many times a day, like a door to an auditorium or some other multi use room.  Say we have 1000 students who go through that door 3 times a day.  Well, that is potentially 3000 openings a day, 15,000 a week, and 75,000 to 100,000 a semester.  You will see by the chart that in a grade 3 it should last about a year (2 semesters and a summer).  In a grade 2, 2 years; and in a grade 1, 4 years.  Now we know that this is extreme, but you get the idea. 

So what's the big deal?

Quick example:  Grade 1 Cylindrical clutching lever-$250.00
                          Grade 2 Cylindrical clutching lever-$120.00
                          Grade 3 Cylindrical clutching lever-$  65.00

Now that is just a rough cost, depending on which brand you prefer, and finish and function, that price can vary quite a bit.

So, 2 grade 3's for the price of a grade 2, and 2 grade 2's for the price of a grade 1.  Basically even money for the life expectancy, till you figure failure rates, and maintenance costs.  Then the grade 1 is by far the better more logical choice.

Take a look at some of the construction of the locks in the following spec sheets:

On one of the install sheets I found some information I didn't know from the the sales rep, or the catalog.  If you don't use the "removable through-bolts" then the lock does not meet the grade 2 ANSI standard and becomes a grade 3.  I have steel doors in a lot of my areas, and don't always install the through-bolts.  Didn't know I was downgrading my locks.

If you look at how some of the locks are built, you will notice that some of the spring returns for the levers are in the rose.  lots of companies do this, which leaves a little tab that handle sets over for the handle return to level.  In the grade one, it is in the body of the lock, not in the rose.   Now this is just from the examples I have shown.

The grade 1 is a Stanley Best 9K.  The grade 2's are Yale 5300LN, and the Cal-Royal SL series.  The Yale does not have removable through-bolts, but the Cal-Royal does.

I use SFIC cores ( see other blogs ) and appreciate the fact that on the 9K you cannot take the handle off on the outside without taking the core out first.  I have seen locks opened by taking the outside handle off and exposing the inner workings.  A good security feature to have if you need that.

A couple of things to remember, not all grades of locks have the same functions.  This too can be a determining factor in what grade of lock you use.

The Best 9K is a grade 1, and the 7KC is a grade 2.  There are about 15 other functions that the 9K can do that the 7KC cannot.  Most brands are like this.  If you have a special need or function, you will probably have to use a grade 1 anyway.

The same can be said for panic devices and closers.  I will try to do them in future blogs, but you get the idea of grading.

The whole thing boils down to this,  What is your budget, how often is the door going to be accessed, and what types of functions do you need.

Please leave comments (I am actually curious if anyone reads this).

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Institutional Locksmithing: The times they are a changin....

Institutional Locksmithing: The times they are a changin....: I haven't posted since the beginning of the Fall semester at the University. A lot has happened in the past few months. We have a new buil...

The times they are a changin....

I haven't posted since the beginning of the Fall semester at the University.  A lot has happened in the past few months.  We have a new building project with a "Design Build" philosophy.  Not a process I like, but it is the way buildings are being built more and more.  It is supposed to allow existing funding to be used more efficiently.  Some of the building has already been let out to bid, wall systems, electrical, concrete, landscaping, etc.  But access control and hardware hasn't yet, even though the wall systems have.  If you are wondering why this is a problem, it is because the exterior doors are in the wall systems (most of the building is glass) and different glass doors require different hardware.  We have on campus several Kawneer wide style panel-line doors.  Not bad doors, but not the best made either. I have had difficulty with the Panel-Line EL panics in them.  Even brand new ones won't work correctly sometimes. We used to have Vistawall doors, narrow and medium style.  I am looking forward to all of those being replaced.  The doors we have grown to really want are Special-Lite doors. I haven't had to touch any of them since they were put in. Yes, they are more expensive, and yes, they are custom fit to each opening, but the saying "You get what you pay for".  The reason this is important, is the hardware choices made by the end user need to the ones used.  Some of the companies who spec the hardware will change it to an equal alternative.  If you don't make it very clear what you want, you will end up with the cheapest thing on the market.  Remember, it is you who has to fix whatever is installed.

One of the other things I have learned, and am dealing with is state lisencing.  Before, I was exempt because I was at a University.  Now that our maintenance company is contracted to the University, and we are not direct employees, I have to get a whole new lisence.  To do that, I may have to start my own company to get the lisencing.  We will see where that leads.

Anyway, I will start posting more, I have been asked a lot of questions lately, and have a few ideas to talk about.  If anyone has a suggestion, leave a comment.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Institutional Locksmithing: Where do you start?

Institutional Locksmithing: Where do you start?: If you start a job at a facility that has some kind of key control and key policy in place; and is being used, you are one of the lucky fe...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Institutional Locksmithing: Certification......Training......and Connections.....

Institutional Locksmithing: Certification......Training......and Connections.....: With the start of our school year, I haven't had a lot of time to sit down and write. However, lately I have been looking at where I am in ...

Certification......Training......and Connections.......

With the start of our school year, I haven't had a lot of time to sit down and write.  However, lately I have been looking at where I am in my career.  As an Institutional Locksmith, there are a lot of times you feal like you are on an island.  By that, a lot of us did not start out as a locksmith.  We were carpenters or other facility personnel who learned the trade to cover the position, and stayed with it.  I am one of those people.  But since then I have done a locksmithing school, and try to stay up with current trends.  But you can't do it alone.

I have been doing some digging about becoming certified as an Institutional Locksmith.  To me, in the state where I live, the locksmith licensing does not help the Institutional locksmith since it is not required for us to have it.  However, we are responsible for more than getting into your car, or making the extra key for your house or business.  We have to make sure that ADA rules, and Lifesafety codes are being followed.  I'm not saying that your local locksmith doesn't, but once the lock is installed, his part is finished.  Ours we work with everyday, and will be responsible for the results of our decisions.

In my research, I have come across a couple of organizations that offer a certification course.  The first is from the National Locksmith Association.    This is a well established organization of locksmith professionals who cover it all.  However, they do a lot of concentration on autos and safes.  The first is something the Institutional Locksmith doesn't deal with hardly ever.  The second is a specialized field.

Additionally, there is the National Locksmithing Institute.  They offer a course for the Institutional locksmith.  It is a week long, and covers the basics through, and including lifesafety, with a certification exam at the end.

Another is the Institutional Locksmiths Association.  This is the organization I am the most interested in.  It is more available to this area.  I also am impressed with the different subject matter in their training.

All have arrangements with different manufacturers for specialized training on their products.  For those of us who are tied to an institution, It is important to try to get connected with one of these organizations so we can keep up with changing trends, and hardware.  And these are not the only ones. 

In the last week, I have had 4 different companies (salesmen, or suppliers) in my office for various reasons.

I have learned that most offer some kind of training, and a couple offer CEU's (Continuing Education Units) at various locations around the country.  A couple offer training at no cost as long as you can make it to the site.

Even with manufacturer training, connecting with other professionals is a must.  I have been one since my days working for the Department of Labor (where we could not accept anything from a supplier, including a pen or notepad) of not accepting offers of attending events.  Recently, I have been transitioned to a company contracted to do the maintenance at our facility, and my boss keeps telling me I need to go so I can develop a network of people.  This has caused me to join  , and write this blog.

But I want to take this forum to thank one of my reps for a recent event that has given me a much needed spark.  Stanley Black and Decker held an appreciation a couple nights ago at a venue about an hour and a half from my home.  It was at a Horse Track where they had rented a suite for us to relax and meet others who use their products, and get to know some of the folks in their offices.  It was a very enjoyable evening where I got to know some of the others in the area, and discuss what we use and just talk shop with others who get it.  I met a lot of great people there and appreciate the head of security giving a little tour of some of his equipment.  If you are invited to events like this, whether you use their product or not, go.  You will get a feel from people who actually use the product and get an honest evaluation of it.

We are all just a downsizing away from needing to go somewhere else, even though we will be the last ones gone (someone has to lock it up) and the first ones back (someone has to UN-lock it also), and I have learned that contacts are very important.

Make a connection.......

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Institutional Locksmithing: SUPPLIER SERVICE....Back it up.....

Institutional Locksmithing: SUPPLIER SERVICE....Back it up.....: "As an Institutional Locksmith, you will deal with a wide variety of companies and sales reps. I can't count the number of people I have had..."

Institutional Locksmithing: Samples, Salesmen, and You

Institutional Locksmithing: Samples, Salesmen, and You: "I have been called 'The sample King'. I'm not really sure why, unless you count up the approximately $11,000 in samples over the past 8 yea..."

SUPPLIER SERVICE....Back it up.....

As an Institutional Locksmith, you will deal with a wide variety of companies and sales reps.  I can't count the number of people I have had in my office for various companies.  With some companies, once you receive your product, they are done with you till you need them next.  With others, communication is a premium to make sure you are taken care of, and they will back it up.  I work with many suppliers in my office.  When I say "work" I do mean work.  I have a variety of security devices and systems that I need occasional help with.  I don't have the luxury of an office staffed with multiple people who may have a particular system they are very good at.  I have to know all of my systems.  I do OK, but I do need help on occasion.

I have a "hotel" card access lock, stand alone, with no key over-ride, in one of my dorms.  Internally, I do not program the lock, but I am responsible to make them operational.  This is not always a good way of maintaining the integrity of the system.  It was that way when I got there, and the powers that be don't see a need to change.  With that being said, the company who manufactures the lock will not help if there is a problem unless you purchase an extended warranty.  These locks are now 11 years old, and, in my opinion, are not worth the amount of money required for the warranty.  Not to mention, they don't have anyone to repair them in the area.  I could become a "certified" repairman so I could  buy plug and play parts; but I do that now anyway with salvaged parts. 

On the flip side of that, I have an electronic system that does not have the an extended warranty, but my sales rep will take the time and go out of his way to make sure the system is operational if I have questions.  Not all reps, or companies will do that.  In one of my previous blogs I wrote about Salesmen, Samples and You....
Those type of people are the ones you end up using because of their commitment to your needs.  Colin Sharp from World Wide Locking is one of those people.

But the reason for my writing this post is a recent issue that had me nervous.  I had ordered several boxes of key blanks before the summer began,  (we run a patented system from Stanley Security, Best Access) so for me to get parts, I have to plan ahead.  I can't go across the street to Wal Mart, or down the street to Home Depot to get parts.  Anyway, I had used up a box of keys replacing the lost keys and cores from summer students and campers (yes, we replace the lock when a key is lost,  think about it, would you want your child in a room that someone has a key to that was lost or stolen?)  and had pulled out a new box to finish my task.  I cut the key, but it didn't work correctly.  I discovered it was a variation of the system we were using.  I was a  little panicked.  This is Tuesday, and I have Freshmen moving in on Friday.  I called my sales rep and told him my problem.  He had a box of keys overnighted from the factory, on a patented keyway to replace the ones that were not correct.  I can't say enough about the support I receive from Hutch Hibbard with Stanley Best Access.

Not all my reps are as interested in what my needs are, as long as I keep some orders coming.  The same can be said of my local suppliers.  Some are very easy to deal with, and will help guide me through some situations, and offer solutions.  Others in town, I can't get them to call me back.

So your relationship with salesmen is important, it is a 2-way street though.  Professional relationships are necessary and should be cultivated carefully.  Who knows, you may need those contacts later if you ever go to another position.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Institutional Locksmithing: Where's the Quality????

Institutional Locksmithing: Where's the Quality????: "Are we really advancing? I took a vacation recently and went museum hopping and old town watching. I even rode on an old steam powered tr..."

Where's the Quality????

Are we really advancing?

I took a vacation recently and went museum hopping and old town watching.  I even rode on an old steam powered train in an open car.  When I got back, I had a couple of work orders on some locks that weren't working properly.  The first one was in our library, a building that is 40+ years old.  I know the hardware I was working on was original to the building.  In that area are some old Yale locks that have had the spindle cut off and been replaced by a SOLID machined brass knob that will accept an SFIC (small format interchangeable core  (see other blogs)) core.  The only thing wrong with that lock, even with a (no kidding) 2 lb.knob was that it needed lubed.  The craftsmanship in that piece of hardware reminded me of what I had been looking at the previous week.  If you are like me, when you walk into a place, you instantly notice the hardware on the door.  You can't help it. Some of those buildings had hardware that was 100 years old and older, AND STILL FUNCTIONED.  Check out the history of locks, it goes back over 4000 years.

 The other had been hit by something during an office move, and had bent the inner workings of the spindle holding the knob.  That one was at least 20 years newer.  The quality was OK, but not the same as the older lock.

Now, many of us are faced with budget issues, and with that fact, most of what we can afford are imported locks.  I can tell the difference in the locks in my office, and can almost tell you which country they were manufactured in.  Not all imported locks are bad, but the old saying "You get what you pay for" deffinately applies.

Locks now are made with stamped metal that will let the lock just meet standards.  They have been tested to the point that the manufcturer knows within a small percentage of when a part in it will break.  Some of them look so much alike that the parts are interchangable, and it makes you wonder how many different names they are made under.  Even panics and closers have gotten "processed".  When I started where I am now, there was a cabinet full of parts to rebuild Norton closers.  I have springs, cams, bodies, arms, tools and vices to hold the closers, etc.  Some of those closers (OK a lot) are still on the doors, and still functioning.  We have replaced several storefront doors, and the closers that came with them last about a year before they blow up and start leaking.  Again, you get what you pay for.

We have become a throw away society gradually, but is it worth it anymore to just replace a piece of hardware, or should we buy something of quality to begin with?  Which is more cost effective?  How can you convince the powers that be that paying a little more up front saves in the end?  Sometimes many times over.

I know some of my sales reps read this, and several other locksmiths out there also.  I would really like some input about how to go about specifying a quality piece of hardware that is worth buying and makes the bean counters happy also.

 In todays world with restricted budgets and a need for more cost effective buying, it can get pretty confusing when deciding on hardware that works well and is affordable.  Anything for mental peace.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Institutional Locksmithing: Key access control boxes

Institutional Locksmithing: Key access control boxes: "What is a key access control box, and why should I need to use them? Key boxes are used in a variety of places, most notably, prisons, cas..."

Key access control boxes

What is a key access control box, and why should I need to use them?

Key boxes are used in a variety of places, most notably, prisons, casino's, and high security facilities.  There are a couple of types available, and the 2 I will show have strengths and weaknesses. 

At our facility, we are trying to do a complete rekey.  Part of the process is to eliminate the need of way to many people carrying grand master keys.  The use of these boxes will allow the people who need access to have it, but in a controlled way.

There is a line of key control boxes that could be strategically placed in various building lobbies that could all but eliminate the need for carrying a master key. These boxes can be accessed with a key, card, electronic ID, or bio-metrics.   This technology gives Administrators, Security personnel, and facility managers control over their surroundings by monitoring access to their assets and surroundings.

The boxes come in various sizes from 4 to 164 spots.  You can also get them with storage boxes for drugs in the infirmary, chemicals, firearms in security, or a variety of other uses. They could also be used for custodial personnel and maintenance personnel for daily checkout of keys.  These companies also have tamper-proof key-rings that are serialized for tracking.  We could put the necessary keys on the rings if there are multiple areas that need accessed in a shift.  The use of these boxes could solve the need for anyone to carry master level keys. 
The 2 brands shown are the Morse Watchman, and the Key Systems line of boxes.  Both are used by security and other agencies across the country.  The one we selected is the GFMS Key Systems.  To access the boxes, we decided not to use just a pin code, or a card;  We chose instead to use the Schlage biometric hand reading system with the Hand-Lite software that is available to access the box.
The Schlage hand reader doesn't use a print, it is a hand geometry reader that reads the shape of the hand.  When we first installed them, we were all impressed with them.  However, recently, they have become a little unreliable due to a calibration issue.  A system that is only a little above 90% reliable needs some further evaluation.  The box does have some pluses, it can be used in place of any card reader, or electronic touch pad.
The key boxes, though, have been pretty much bullet-proof.  They have a new fingerprint reader on the box itself that has been tested to be a lot more reliable.  The reason is that it is already in the software that controls the box, and isn't tied to a second software to open it.
We chose a biometric opening system because, it has to be you to.  You are not going to loan out your hand, or have it be stolen from you. 
One of the reasons we did not select the Morse Watchman system is the fact you can put the asset back in any of the available slots.  The asset is attached to a plastic chit keytag that has a reader in it. 
 There is nothing to keep the asset from being removed from the keytag so you loose accountability.  With the Key Systems, the key itself is reinserted into a lock and locked.  Unless you are allowed access, you cannot remove it.
Both systems will inform you if an asset has not been returned in a timely manner, or removed to begin with.  I have several set up with emails as soon as it is removed, and many with emails as soon as the time limit for the key has elapsed.  The variety of things you can do with the boxes depends on your imagination.
Several of the boxes can handle firearms, cell phones, etc.  Imagine someone needing to assign a vehicle with a cell phone, credit card for fuel, and the keys.  With these, you don't have to be there, and you can make sure it is that person, because with the biometrics it has to be you.
They types of reports that you can run can tell you just about anything you want to know.  They can even do security round check reports with a security check feature.
I currently have 14 of these boxes, and they do what I need, and have room for improvements.  The biggest catch is THEY ARE EXPENSIVE.  They start at $5000 for an 8 asset box.  The boxes can go from a single asset lockbox to the more common 4 or 8 assets all the way up to 164 and more.
If you are going to stay with a mechanical system, and build your keying around a mechanical system, these are worth looking at.  However, if you KNOW you are going to an electronically controlled system, cards, prox, etc. you may want to jump into that to begin with.
If you have questions about this type of system and the pros and cons that I have run into, please post.  I will be happy to share my 3 years of using them with you.