The End Of Universal Technology

Jan. 2, 2017

Dozens of lock manufacturers have appeared and disappeared over the years. A common theme for almost every one of these companies was the pin tumbler construction in their lock cylinders.  An interaction between the key cuts and pins formed an opening at the shearline and the key could be turned to operate the lock.   The advantage for locksmiths was that the same general servicing procedures could be used to repair a lock cylinder regardless of the original manufacturer. 

In fact, most mechanical security products have similar features.  One of my profit centers as a working locksmith was repairing door closers. Every door closer uses a spring and piston.  With a few specialized tools, a locksmith could disassemble, clean and repack almost any make and model of door closer. 

Another profit center for me was vehicle locks. Although there were variations such as the GM sidebar system, most car locks were easily removed for servicing. Armed with a dozen different blanks, a locksmith could quickly make new keys for every domestic car in existence.     

The result was that locksmiths became general practitioners.  We did not have to specialize in one brand.   From Arrow to Yale, from Chrysler to Lincoln Zephyr, locksmiths became known as the experts who could solve any security product problem.

The secret to all of this success was that most lock products of yesterday had mechanical parts.  Basically some kind of cover could be removed and the inner workings could be repaired as needed.  

Cover plates are becoming a thing of the past as electronics moves into the security arena. Pins and springs have been replaced by circuit boards.  At the same time, electronics allows for additional features such as audit trails and hours of operation which are not possible with single use, mechanical locking systems.

It is no longer possible for locksmiths to be general practitioners.  Electronics has allowed manufacturers to develop proprietary software.  That trend may be changing as some companies now offer open architecture so software from others may be able to be used. 

Currently we are in an electronic security product shakedown period which may last for years to come.  Old electronic systems continually disappear as newer electronic systems take their place. The best advice is to work closely with your favorite locksmith distributor before deciding which electronic security system is best for your customers.