Electronic Locksmithing Survey

Four cutting-edge locksmiths from various regions agree that electronics work is the key to a profitable future.

I expect the successful lockshops to become more of a full-service integrator of all security products. I expect to see an explosion of electronic access control products mostly in the standalone but online variety.


Browns Lock & Safe, Charlottesville, VA

Browns Lock & Safe offers security services from A-Z, with the exception of armed guard services, says owner Stewart Brown. “In this economy I do not feel comfortable turning anything away, even if it requires that we sub some of the effort out to others.”

The service areas spans 250 miles of Virginia and West Virginia. In the past 3 years we have executed over 1/3 of our business in areas in excess of 200 miles distant from the shop.

His lockshop has separate divisions for each specialty. “Although we currently have separate divisions, we need to more fully train some of the techs so they can work in more areas. It is becoming harder and harder to keep electronic work separate from mechanical work, and more and more we find that the mechanical only techs really need to have some basic skills in low voltage installations,” Brown says.

The shop has two passenger vehicles and eight Econoline 250 vans.

Three employees are fully electronic techs, but can also do some mechanical work; two mechanical techs can barely function in the electronic world, and two are more mechanical than electrical, but also have some good skills in the electrical.

How many have cross-trained?

We are constantly cross training. I try to get all techs to factory training several times per year, and the training in the past several years has been mostly electrical or electro-mechanical.

About how long have you been offering each specialty?

Almost since the business began back in 1950. We started by offering basic mechanical locksmith services but very soon thereafter started installing alarm systems. Around 1972, we hired the first tech who was dedicated almost full time to alarm installations.

Products serviced and installed include:

Electronic locking devices: IR and Kaba

Video surveillance: Mostly CCTV, analog and/or digital. We have done some wireless installation and hope to do more. We chase video jobs that also require access control or heavy and difficult mechanical work that would chase off some of the video-only companies.

Alarms: Yes, mostly Honeywell. We do not have a fully proactive alarm department and need to do more in this field. Mostly we service clients who come to us by way of our telephone book advertising.

High energy door operators: No.

Low energy operators: DORMA, LCN, Falcon and Gyrotech. We also service any brand as long as we can get parts. We have two techs who are AAADM certified.

Delayed egress: Yes

Complete access control systems: Galaxy, Millenium, Vanderbilt (Schlage SMS), Kaba, and RS2. RS-485 networks from most, wireless networks from Kaba and Schlage

Standalone access control: Primarily Kaba and Schlage

Do you get calls from integrators and dealers to install just the electric lock for them?

Sometimes, especially with Kaba Mas X09 work, as we have five techs certified on the X09. Sometimes on access control bids we are approached by a company far from the site who needs installation labor. But in these situations we tend to dominate the competition because we are the low-cost, all-in-one source provider.

Are you licensed for electrical and low voltage work?

We have not enough need for high voltage work to have a fully licensed electrician on staff. Our contractor license is the unlimited Class A, with low voltage electrical certification.

What other licenses are required in your state/region? VA DCJS, City Business License, State SSC License

Do you know who your AHJ is?

Certainly, and it varies from region to region, city to city. We keep in touch with Fire Marshall and Building Officials in each area. We are big believers in the code and take to heart that it describes only the minimum acceptable requirements. And we make sure to send techs to code training seminars on a regular basis.

Do you know which building codes are enforced in your jurisdiction?

Yes, and we have most of them in the shop. We find the ones we refer to most often to be NFPA 101 Life Safety, NEC, NFPA 80 for Fire Doors, and the ADA standards.

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