Locksmith Products for The New Year: Ins and Outs

Jan. 15, 2014

As one year comes to an end and a new one begins, it seems to be an opportune moment to see what product types are 'IN' and what product types are 'OUT.'

As example, mailbox locks which use flat steel keys are OUT. You might as well send those old Couch and Keil maibox key blanks to the scrap heap.  The government printed new rules in the 1970s for increasing the size of gang-type mailboxes and for increasing mailbox security. Pin tumbler mailbox locks took over the market.

Knob locks are OUT.  ADA laws first began a door knob exodus for commercial applications twenty years ago. Manufacturers have worked overtime to develop new lever designs which are pleasing to the eye and are much easier to operate than round knob counterparts. Think modern and sell levers.

Keyless is IN.  The mechanical Simplex lock has been a crowd pleaser since the 1960s.  For fifty years, the Simplex lock has had its place along with traditional key-operated types of locks.  As the price of electronic push button deadbolts, latches and locksets have decreased during the last decade, both mechanical and electronic keyless locks are finding a much wider audience.

Car keys are OUT. This is a hard one to swallow for this reporter. However, I own a 2008 Toyota Prius and a 2012 Chrysler Town & Country.  Both cars have pushbutton ignitions and the emergency keys are orphans in my pocket, never to be used.  Also, almost every car manufacturer except Chrysler and Mitsubishi have changed to sidewinder-type emergency keys. 

Vehicle key remotes are IN.  Since key-operated ignitions are disappearing, a remote becomes the car operating system for drivers. Locking, unlocking and engine starting are all controlled by a wireless connection with the remote. Adding another remote to many car models which have been manufactured during the last 20 years consists of sitting in the vehicle and following a few simple procedures.  Remote programming procedures vary by model and year, but with remotes selling for  over $100, it can be a profitable locksmith sideline.

Electronics is IN. You knew I was going to mention electronics. Selling some electronic products does require sales ability. The public often has to be sold on why they need a high security lock. Conversely, bank charge cards, hotel locks, smart key vehicle systems, computers and iPads have one thing in common. They do not need a metal key inserted in an ignition lock in order to operate the product.  Anybody under the age of 50 has been trained by experience to expect electronics to simplify their lives and products available in the security field have to live up to that expectation.  During the next few years it will not be a question of if you will service and install electronic security products but only a question of when you will begin.  

Buying new key machines and tools for your business is IN.  At one time I visited a locksmith in a small town near Venice, Italy. This locksmith had over $40,000 worth of key machines on his workbench. While normal wafer lock auto keys may be on the decline, Sidewinder, Tibbe, tubular, dimple, high security and other unusual lock systems are still in demand.  If your business gets a reputation for only being able to cut the most elementary keys, the public will find somebody else who has built a reputation for making any type of key.  Locksmiths are synonymous with making keys and we have to support key replacement above all else.

The days of a locksmith general practitioner are OUT. At one time a good pin kit, a code machine, a supply of key blanks and some knowledge of locksmithing was all that was needed to make a living.  To be an automotive locksmith today requires a large investment in both training and tools. Access control jobs usually take several days to complete. You cannot drop all the wires and go on a lockout.  Safe lock servicing was once a simple procedure of drilling and transferring. Now there are glass relockers, hard plate and electronic locks to deal with.

The locksmith business will always definitely be IN, but the greatest success will come to those locksmiths who follow the ins and outs of our industry and continue to change with the times.