Tim Purpura, Vice President, Global Sales and Marketing, Morse Watchmans explains how key control meets all the criteria essential for effective facilities management.
Facilities management is a broad discipline that encompasses a wide range of services, from maintenance to security and beyond.
To complete these services, facilities managers have a number of tools in their kit, each designed to perform a specific function.
But, as business operations continue to strive towards digital-physical convergence, it is becoming more and more complex for facilities managers to determine the right tools of the trade.
There seems to be a choice: The first is to conserve the budget and make do with the legacy solutions, sacrificing integration and efficiency.
The second is to adopt new technologies without giving much thought to the infrastructure in place, creating a gap in security and operations.
Key control solutions offer facility managers a true middle ground.
Why key control?
It is unlikely that any building, facility or organisation is without keys.
This is true whether it is a standalone retail store or a multinational billion-dollar business.
Keys have been in use for thousands of years, used to secure everything from doors to equipment lockers, file cabinets and more.
During the 1990s, Morse Watchmans realised that there was a need for companies to track sensitive keys.
With Morse Watchmans already having been a leader in security with a sound business relationship, and the trust of so many, companies were not afraid to share their key concerns with us.
We learned that companies were storing their irreplaceable master keys on pegs inside locked strongboxes and that many of these same companies employed full time workers to distribute keys and maintain reports, 24/7.
We were also made aware of how mistakes were made and how employees took advantage of this system. Keys that were lost or stolen created costly risks.
This system lacked the control and flexibility facilities management teams required to support the organisation’s core business operations.
Herein lies the beauty of a key control system; key control marries conventional security measures with the needs of modern facilities through technology.
Security at the heart
Facilities management and security are directly intertwined, forming the backbone of a safe and functional environment.
Collaborating on emergency preparedness, risk management and incident response, these two disciplines work hand in hand to ensure the smooth operation of business.
Key control does the same, keeping keys safe to mitigate security risks such as violence, theft and vandalism, while simultaneously enabling a host of other facilities management functionalities.
The core of key control’s security functions starts with its ability to safeguard against inappropriate access to critical keys.
Key control systems securely store keys in an enclosure with each key uniquely assigned and tracked.
Authorised users gain access to specific keys by providing credentials, such as a PIN or biometric authentication, which grants them permission to remove a key from its designated compartment.
This allows teams to manage and track access to various areas throughout a building or across multiple buildings, thus minimising the risk of unauthorised entry or loss of keys.
Key control modules can also house proximity cards used in access control systems, adding another layer of security and oversight to buildings with existing access control systems.
Integrated software further enhances the security capabilities of a key control system.
A user-friendly interface allows administrators to manage and configure access permissions, generate detailed reports and receive notifications about activities.
Additionally, one or several key control systems can be integrated with other security systems, such as access control or video surveillance, creating a holistic solution.
Key control applications
On the surface, the aforementioned functions of key control appear to be security focused.
However, when applied to facilities management, these functions can be applied to meet a number of organisational needs relating to efficiency, accountability, resource management and more:
Emergency preparedness – the unfortunate reality is that facility managers must prepare for every foreseeable emergency the business may encounter, including an active shooter event, natural disaster, fire or other crisis.
To do so, facility teams will often create a detailed crisis management strategy, for which key control should play an essential role.
Take schools for example: It is not uncommon for the school and classrooms to be locked to outside access during an emergency.
While the intent is to mitigate unauthorised access, locked doors can exacerbate first responder response times if they are unable to unlock building or classroom doors quickly.
Any locked area thereby becomes a risk to those inside while uncontrolled access threatens a facility with unauthorised entry.
By utilising a centralised key control system, facilities of all types can ensure that emergency keys are securely housed and readily accessible to local first responders.
Using a unique PIN code or other designated credential, responding officers or school resource officers (SROs) can swiftly retrieve required keys, enabling them to enter and address the situation promptly.
These procedures are then written into the facility’s larger crisis management strategy and implemented during drills.
Operational efficiency – maintenance is another central function of facilities management teams that relies heavily on the use of keys.
What’s more, facilities managers may oversee a large number of staff members who all utilise a variety of maintenance keys.
These could be keys to storage facilities, individual buildings or rooms, heavy machinery and even fleet vehicles.
But, with a centralised key control system, personnel can quickly access the keys necessary for completing required tasks.
This effectively eliminates time consuming searches for the right key, reliance on multiple key copies and promotes staff accountability.
Facility management can also easily control the system remotely to maximise its reporting and access capabilities.
For example, if an employee working the late shift calls sick at the last minute, and another staff member must cover for that individual, it’s much easier for the manager to remotely authorise access to a key cabinet than to physically travel to the site to release a key.
By providing a streamlined process for accessing and returning keys, maintenance teams can promptly respond to requests while ensuring that doors are secured and unlocked as needed.
Contractor management – contractor management and facilities management are closely related since facilities managers often need to contract out labour or services to third party providers in order to complete specialised projects within a facility.
In doing so, managers may be charged with coordinating contractor schedules and access, monitoring contractor performance and ensuring contractor compliance with safety regulations and organisational standards.
Key control systems allow facility managers to remotely grant localised access, empowering contractors with physical access to the areas and tools required to perform their job for the period of time they will be there and nothing more.
This functionality ensures that tradesmen such as plumbers or HVAC technicians have access only to the areas of a building they need without giving access to the entire building.
Not only does this safeguard facilities from unauthorised access, but also upholds the principle of least privilege established under zero trust security models.
What’s more, the key control software keeps a record of contractors’ key usage, allowing administrators to track a worker’s activities.
If an asset goes missing, it is possible to know who had physical access to that asset last based on the key control reports generated.
Alerts can also be sent to the facility manager if an individual tries to remove a key that he/she is not authorised to use or attempts to leave the building without returning a key.
This granular level of key control allows for unparalleled oversight, ensuring contractors remain accountable and on-task during assignments.
Addressing pain points
Key control systems have also become indispensable tools for facilities management due to their ability to address pain points faced by facility teams in day-to-day responsibilities.
For example, many facility managers find it difficult to maintain regulatory compliance while conducting their routine functions.
However, today’s key control systems make it easier for management to comply with industry and government regulations pertaining to key control and access management.
This is especially true for industries such as casinos and law enforcement that have strict procedures in place relating to authorised access and chain of custody.
Key control and related auditing functions help ensure that security obligations are being met in highly regulated environments.
Key control systems are also a cost-effective solution that proactively reduces a facility’s security spend.
By reducing the possibility of lost keys and limiting access to master keys to authorised individuals, organisations can save thousands in unforeseen re-keying costs.
Moreover, an electronic key control deployment can eliminate many time-consuming, costly procedures related to manual key management.
With digital key control, there is no more wasted time standing in long lines, no more signing logbooks and no more buddy punching, resulting in proven ROI for facility teams.
Lastly, it is important to consider the capabilities of key control that go beyond the management of traditional keys.
Morse Watchmans’ systems are infinitely customisable to include various modules for physical keys, access cards and even lockers to manage larger objects with extreme efficiency and control.
Asset management lockers are ideal for housing equipment such as radios or laptops as well as personal staff items like cell phones.
Fleet management tools also compliment the capabilities of electronic key control, empowering facilities management teams with control over business fleet vehicles and delivering actionable insights on fleet utilisation for operations optimisation.
The evolving role of key control
Facility managers are the people who make sure we have the safest and best experience possible in our place of work.
In this way, it helps to think of key control as a complement, rather than a replacement, to facility managers.
From minimising security risks to optimising resource utilisation, key control helps teams execute the processes that make their built environment succeed.
In the future, we can expect to see the benefits of key control for facilities management continue to expand beyond security and operational functions to include business intelligence and data-driven automation.
At Morse Watchmans, we are also reimagining the human element of key control, developing new, comprehensive solutions designed to save lives and improve outcomes for all stakeholders.
It’s all part of our outside-the-box thinking – that you’ll find right inside the box.