Identity In Limbo

May 16, 2018

If you are old enough to have lived through the beginning of the computer age then you fit into my category. Before computers and the still blossoming electronic age, security was thought of as metal-to-metal. Customers requiring additional security turned to locksmiths first. Every security product was expected to be in a dormant stage of either being locked or unlocked. Persons with authority could easily operate the security product and no history of lock usage was recorded.

Nothing changed during my 25 years as a locksmith. The most important tools on my workbench were pin kits, tweezers, followers and key machines. That was during the last quarter of the twentieth century. My customers were only interested in stronger or more secure mechanical locks. Nobody asked me for audit trails or keypads. The alarm industry was never my competitor.

Explosion of electronic items has changed everything. Mechanical products require long lead times for designing and bringing to market. Changing electronic chips can be a much shorter and less costly process for manufacturers. During our recent visit to the Security Hardware Distributor Association Industry Summit (SHDA), new products from many manufacturers consisted of extending electronic operation to already existing mechanical hardware.

Who 'owns' this new market? While security products still have a metal-to-metal basis, pin kits and followers are not required. Sales and service becomes less manual and more intellectual. Computers and volt meters have become the new workbench tools of necessity.

Aaron Fish wrote an article in Locksmith Ledger a decade ago outlining two possible alternatives for future locksmiths. We can either become sub-contractor installers for integrators or move in the direction integrators have taken.

The jury is still out on this one. Alarm companies, integrators and manufacturers themselves are out beating the bushes for security hardware sales. A new, different and expanding amount of security products are there for the selling. Our identity as security providers must change with the times or we will get lost in the shuffle.