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Tim Purpura, VP Global Sales and Marketing for Morse Watchmans, explains how electronic key control enhances productivity and accountability for businesses.

Unique mechanical keys have been used as a security tool traced back to ancient Egypt. While these security implements were primarily made from wood some 6,000 years ago, today they are commonly manufactured from metal, easily reproduced and small enough to carry around in pockets while assets stay secured and protected behind doors and locks.

“Although revolutionary, convenient, and cost-effective, because of their small size, keys are problematic when misused and when they are unaccounted for,” says Tim Purpura, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Morse Watchmans.

“Their small size often means that they become easily misplaced, lost, or deliberately stolen at enterprises large and small, which wastes time and money and increases risk of security breaches.” 

In the early days, before electronic key control was an option, enterprises resorted to storing all keys belonging to their facility on pegboards or placed them inside drawers or metal lock boxes, making it difficult to track usage.

Assigning keys meant manually logging a person’s name and date on a piece of paper attached to a clipboard to notate key removals and returns.

Humans causing human error

Purpura points to the fact that many businesses must comply with state of government regulations – or face the consequences.

He adds: “Manual key management invites more frequent incidences of human error and criminal activity because there is no easy way to track where all physical keys are located and when they are due to be returned.

“Many enterprises must also comply with government or state regulations regarding security initiatives or face fines, making losing or misplacing a key a costly and very undesirable situation.”

These are some examples of what can go wrong when tracking keys manually:

  • Authorized employees can forget to write down the key removal on the log. If a key to a vehicle or mechanical room is urgently needed but missing, tracking it down to the person who removed it causes disruptions to transportation schedules and delays to crucial maintenance needs, such as mechanical repairs.
  • Authorized employees can remove keys and properly notate their removal, yet forget to return them before they go home, causing disruption and frustration to employees who need them for their next work shifts.
  • Authorized employees can forget to lock the room or strongbox where the keys reside, making all of them at risk of being stolen for unauthorized usage.
  • Administrators have no way to easily track the keys and know where they are located. Little information is known about how or why the keys are being used, or if employees are accountable for their actions.
  • Keys can be easily stolen, duplicated, and replaced unnoticed, giving third-parties complete access to restricted areas of a building.
  • Unauthorized employees and visitors can easily take keys and gain access to secured areas and perhaps drive off the premises with a company vehicle or take valuable equipment, such as computer hardware.

Enhanced security, productivity and accountability

Tamper-proof electronic key control systems allow authorized employees to carry through their daily work initiatives without having to take any extra time to find their assigned keys. Key administrators will no longer need to distribute keys because employees can enter their credentials into the key control system and easily access their assigned keys.

The system also enables managers to instantly see where all keys are located, who has them out and when they are due to be returned.

Electronic key control systems provide usage, tracking and safekeeping of all physical keys. Enterprises that have large numbers of keys can dramatically improve organizational efficiency by completely managing all of them.

Installing an electronic key control system provides many benefits, including enhanced security, increased productivity, and a boost of accountability. All key transactions are recorded, and audit reports are available as needed or can be scheduled to automatically be emailed or printed at specific times.

“Managers no longer need to spend time tracking down keys because the system is designed to allow key administrators to easily look up the status and transaction history of any key,” said Purpura. “When keys are missing or overdue, email or text message alerts inform key administrators where they are.”

Better synced together

Purpura sees the benefits of modern control systems – especially when it comes to integration.

“Another benefit of today’s key control systems is their capability to be integrated with other security systems as part of networked security.

“When these systems are synced together, there is enhanced efficiency across multiple platforms.

“A new employee, for instance, who has approved access to multiple restricted areas of a facility can be programmed for this authorization into the key control system. Their credentials will then automatically transfer to other security and business systems, such as an access control system.”

Data about key transactions and alarms to other systems provide faster response times across the facility. Open protocols in place on a key control system allow it to be integrated with IP video surveillance, intrusion and fire alarm systems, access control, and other systems for highly networked control, saving time and providing more information about “actual-time” actions of all employees and visitors instantly.

Custom key control

Many key control systems come with the option of selecting from a variety of modular components, which make it possible to customize a system to the specific needs of an enterprise. Module choices include key modules, card modules and storage lockers for assets such as hand-held radios, mobile phones, wallet, and even small weapons.

“Key administrators can also customize the level of security needed for each key,” explains Purpura. “Some industries have compliance regulations that require signatures from two or three individuals, sometimes from different departments. 

“When a multi-factor authorization is programmed into the key control system for specific keys, the cabinet door will open and release the keys only when the required logins are completed by each person and the credentials are verified. Other keys can be programmed to be used only at specific times of day as well.”

“Managing enterprise security means providing employees with purposeful and meaningful tools that will help them excel on the job.

“Technology such as key control not only improves security, but also maximizes time management for both employees and administration across all departments for a unified and integrated approach to accountability to achieve a more efficient and productive workplace.”

This article was originally published in the bumper September edition of Security Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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