An institutional locksmith job is similar yet different from a commercial or commercial/residential locksmith. The institutional locksmith may work with fewer lock manufacturers’ hardware or in some instances, if unlucky, the institutional locksmith may have inherited building(s) using many different manufacturer’s locks. He or she may be the recipient of bean counters’ financially driven decisions.
The institutional locksmith I had the pleasure of interviewing for this article is in charge of approximately 15,000 doors, covering a number of buildings. This is a sensitive government job performed by dedicated locksmiths whose identity and locations cannot be discussed. The answers to Ledger’s questions relate to the job requirements of just about every office building(s) institutional locksmith.
How did you get started in locksmithing?
My family was financially strapped when I was growing up. To make money, I went to work for the neighborhood locksmith sweeping up. I became interested in how locks worked and seeing my work habit and interest, he began to teach me. I worked for him until I graduated high school.
What was required for this job?
Five years of journeyman locksmith experience and knowledge of Best Interchangeable Core, SFIC.
How long have you been on the job?
A bit more than 13 years here.
What are the advantages of your (institutional) job?
I receive complete medical, dental and vision coverage at a much reduced rate. Since I have the prescribed number of years, I have qualified for a retirement package that includes medical. As a union member, my job is very secure.
How many locksmith work with you?
I am the locksmith leadsman. There are a total of four locksmiths.
What is your work schedule?
Four days a week, ten hours a day. My schedule is Monday through Thursday. Every locksmith works four days - no weekends.
How are emergencies handled during off time?
If there is an emergency, a locksmith is called and he receives at least eight hours straight time pay.
How do you keep track of all the doors?
All of the doors are bar coded. We have a computer program that tracks everything about each opening - the lock, what keys operate the locks, who has keys, who had keys, who approved the key and lock service requests, status of all work performed and door hardware. We also keep track of all core combinations, current and used.
What are the jobs of a locksmith?
We service all the hardware in the opening except the electrical connections. All of our locks are Best SFIC compatible. The locks and other architectural hardware are represented by all manufacturers. Since we are a government organization, we can not exclude manufacturers.
This past year we handled over 800 calls for service. All of our access controlled openings are activated by HID employee badges. We install or repair/replace between 50 and 100 locks each month.
In addition to working as a locksmith, what additional duties do you perform?
I work with lock manufacturers to provide the correct lock hardware on new and renovation construction, and revise construction specifications as new hardware becomes available. Also I have all shop administrative duties.
What key machines do you have?
We have two Rytan duplicators, a Silca tubular machine, an Ilco steel key machine, two HPC 1200 code machines, two Best SFIC punch machines and an Ilco engraver.
Do you use original key blanks or aftermarket key blanks?
We only use original key blanks for door locks. For auxiliary locks, we purchase the best price key blanks. Every key that is cut is stamped with an identification number.
How do you exercise key control?
We are very strict on keys. A manager must sign each and every key request. Only one key is given for each request. For any level master keys, additional signatures are required. If a key is lost, the fine is $25 for an employee and much higher for contractors. All of our controlled keys have a blind serial number that is referenced to an employee.