Security integrators’ business activity supports the research: substantial progress is expected in access control sales during the next four or five years. One of the segments currently experiencing very robust growth is electronic locks and electrified door hardware. While the coronavirus pandemic may have slowed end-user sales and installations due to the challenges of performing these activities only when it’s safe to do so, it hasn’t deterred end-user demand, integrators say. Yet, with this growth comes challenges both in the complexity of the technology and the way solutions are delivered to the marketplace. Security integrators handle these challenges in a great number of ways.
“Electronic locking devices and door hardware are mission-critical to the functionality of an access control system,” says Dave Sweeney, general manager, Advantech, a Cook & Boardman Company based in Dover, Del., and a Security-Net member company. “We’ve seen this market steadily grow over the past few years, and one of the reasons is because the price point of the battery-powered, integrated handled sets have come down enough to allow customers to deploy card readers and access control on secondary and tertiary doors,” Sweeney says. He notes that 10 years ago it would have cost $5,000 to do a wired card reader door versus $1,200 today, making interior doors much more economically feasible to secure.
Jamie Vos, partner at Security Solutions, a PSA Security integrator based in Bellingham, Wash., concurs that the access control market is expanding into every type of business and including more doors per installation.
Convenience & Control
Around the spring of 2021 was when building owners and operators fell into a more regular pattern of usage among tenants in their buildings, resulting in the knowledge of when the buildings would be open and closed, how they would be accessed, and what type of access control would be needed, says Peter Pavlov, principal architect for physical security, Skyline Technology Solutions, Glen Burnie, Md. “Access control became a more vital part of securing the building by tracking who enters the building — also how the buildings are used, adding more remote-control capabilities. I can unlock a building or lock a building more easily, remotely, without actually driving and keying everything. So, that’s what I think started to drive this growth in access control,” Pavlov says.
Along with other security disciplines, “Having access control as a category is certainly a growing trend, especially with what’s going on in the world today with COVID and people working remotely,” says Sam Korff, principal, JM Resources, King of Prussia, Pa. “Being able to open doors and give instant access is all very important, and so we’re growing this part of our business. Because people are working remotely, and so not everyone is on staff, not everyone wants to manage keys; they want to do it with an app or smart phone, so having electronic door strikes for that reason is very important.”
David Alessandrini, vice president of Boston-based Pasek Security, a Security-Net member, agrees. “Our business with electronic locking devices and door hardware is increasing, as is our backlog. There is an increase in the installation of wireless access control locks and cloud-hosted systems, as well as multifamily housing using cloud-based access control for tenant units and common area doors. There is a shift to more automatic-operated doors and not just for [ADA], but overall hands-free operation.”
Manufacturers aren’t slowing down in their development of electronic locks and associated hardware, especially when it comes to wireless devices. However, the smarter and more integrated these devices become, the more difficult they can be to install and program accurately. Security integrators — many of whom did not specialize in door devices before now — may find themselves getting behind in the skill level required to outfit a door electronically and provide this piece of an access control system to end users.
"The manufacturers are not going to take their foot off the gas; they’re going to continue to innovate, and they’re going to push more and more technology down to the opening. So, either the integrators can get with the program and become better at the opening or they’ll lose to someone who is better at the opening."
Total Opening Solutions
“As more and more sophisticated access control openings are being specified for projects — and oftentimes it’s the manufacturer that specifies their technology on these projects — the integrator of today needs to be better prepared to deliver those openings in an efficient way, but also in a profitable way,” describes Mark Duato, senior vice president of strategic integration solutions, The Cook & Boardman Group, Winston-Salem, N.C. “The default position for a typical integrator is to say, ‘We’ll do it the old way. We’ll rip those locks out and we’ll put in a strike or a maglock and a reader on the wall.’ That’s a very typical integrator response because they don’t have the expertise to do the more sophisticated openings.
“The manufacturers are not going to take their foot off the gas; they’re going to continue to innovate, and they’re going to push more and more technology down to the opening. So, either the integrators can get with the program and become better at the opening or they’ll lose to someone who is better at the opening, who does have that expertise. But oftentimes they’re leaving margin dollars and service and support revenue for these access control projects to someone else who is better prepared,” Duato believes.
Tolliver Quaco, installation technician with Skyline Technology Solutions, installs a HID iCLass R10 reader and HES 1600 strike. IMAGE COURTESY OF SKYLINE TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS
The Cook & Boardman Group is positioning itself to capture those opportunities by building a “family of companies” that can address total opening solutions. It recently has acquired security integrators — many of which are ranked on SDM’s Top Systems Integrators Report — including A3 Communications, Advantech, 3Sixty Integrated, Bass Security, and BlueViolet Networks. Cook & Boardman is a distributor of commercial doors, frames and hardware, electronic access control equipment and specialty products; and provides full systems integration services through its newly acquired integrators.
Duato explains, “The uniqueness of what we’re doing is the fact that we have in our traditional doors, frames and hardware business — which is a bigger piece of our business — a lot of expertise around the opening. In our integration businesses, we have a lot of expertise around the systems integration business. My function is to essentially bring our businesses together to serve these end customers through the construction management of delivering opening solutions, all the way through to the delivery of integrated products with best-of-class brands and best-of-class software platforms, and also providing aftermarket services tied to those.”
Lenexa, Kan.-based American Direct Procurement Inc. uses a similar approach to the market, which it describes as providing “complete control at every door” and “a seamless experience for our users at every step — from pre-construction, logistics, installation to integration, access control, and field service.” Like The Cook & Boardman Group, American Direct combines Division 8 and Division 28 product, service, and expertise to deliver integrated security solutions at the physical door opening.
But these are far from the only solutions available to end users of door security solutions. For other security integrators, the right approach is partnering on a local level. Considering the challenges integrators confront both with keeping up with new technology and the inherent trickiness of performing work to a door, many integrators partner with locksmiths.
“We hire experienced locksmiths to install the hardware and do on-the-job training with our other technicians,” Vos explains. “We also use manufacturers and the resources they provide.”
Best Practices in Door Security
Security integrators gain an advantage by developing a standardized approach to access control and door security solutions. These are some of their best practices:
- "If the door is not a standard door — such as a glass door or extra-thick door — verify that it should be done by a sub-contracted locksmith,” explains Jared Wasserman, CEO/CFO, Alert Protective Services, Chicago. “We can quote it for them because we have good relationships with plenty, or they can go to their own locksmith that they prefer to use. But we will have them take care of that cost because I’m not going to break something that we wouldn’t know how to fix or would cost us a lot more money to correct if we damaged."
- For anyone who installs electronic locking devices and door hardware, the hard part is getting the right hardware to the site with the technicians, Sweeney thinks. “There are so many different commercial door standards and, to complement these standards, we have a similar quantity of electronic locking hardware standards. There’s a time when you need a mortise electronic strike or cylinder strike; or there are times when you have to use an electronic lever set; and other times when you have to use magnetic locks, which have many mounting brackets that may be required. You must understand if the hardware requires a fire rating,” he says. Sweeney emphasizes the importance of ensuring that the team member who evaluates the door then selects the appropriate locking hardware, “So our technical people can be successful in deploying the solution.”
- One of the most essential tools that Modern Systems uses are templates for the doors they are installing locks and hardware on — not the paper templates that come with the new locks and hardware, but sturdier ones that Modern Systems designed and then had fashioned by a metal fabricator. “We have metal templates for installing cylindrical and mortise locks on doors. For the mortise, you can walk up to the door, slide the template onto the door, and it’s got every hole you need right there. You cannot miss-drill,” explains David Hudson, sales manager at Modern Systems Inc., Yadkinville, N.C.
- “If you’re replacing a door that already has a mortise handset in it with a wireless-style lock, it has the connection points to connect the template to the door using the same mounting points as the mortise that was already in there. So, everything lines up perfectly when you’re done,” explains Nate Jones, project manager at Modern Systems Inc. “Those in and of themselves have probably cut even the manufacturer’s suggested time down tremendously. In some cases, if the door is in good shape and it’s not anything crazy, you’re talking almost half the time, if you do it correctly, by using these.” The templates paid for themselves within the scope of just one job, he says.
- At a high level, Korff says, it’s important to provide sufficient wiring and connectivity, even in locations where the customer doesn’t necessarily want an electronic door now but may want it later. “When we’re running wires throughout a building in new construction, we want to get as much wire in, because clients’ budgets change, their desires change — but if we can get that smart infrastructure in, then they can go back at a later point and expand those systems without hassle,” Korff says.
- For specific devices, Vos suggests doing the following:
- Door switches — “Make sure to know the code on mounting heights. Also look at the way the door swings and imagine yourself in a wheelchair pushing the button and getting into the opening.”
- Electromagnetic door locks — “Pick one manufacturer and stick with them; this reduces errors and can help in consistently delivering the best possible experience.”
- Door strikes — “Don’t skimp on tools and jigs. Also make sure to determine if the frame is concrete-filled before going out, so you plan the appropriate amount of time and ensure you are specifying the correct strike.”
- Electronic locks — “Make sure you can get wires to them. The replacement should go very easily if it is like-for-like. I would make sure to have experience or specific training on mortise-style locks.”
Greg Rogers, owner of Safe Lock Security Solutions Inc., locksmith partner to Skyline Technology Solutions, installs a Sargent IN220 PoE lock. IMAGE COURTESY OF SKYLINE TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS
Pavlov says the major change in access control over the last few years is smart locks. “[They are] drastically changing the architecture of the system and require a lot more IT knowledge. It’s not just low-voltage, open/closed circuits anymore; you have an intelligent device, which is sitting on your network at each door. You still need the locksmith skills … to install the device. But now, you also need IT knowledge to troubleshoot it, because most of the issues are [things like] why the lock is not talking to the Wi-Fi system or why it’s not communicating on the customer network, which are preventing the door from working. So, definitely invest in training your access control techs on at least the basics of IT and networking so they will have a better understanding how those devices work,” Pavlov advises.
Korff says these systems can do a lot of very cool things if integrated with other systems, but it’s important to understand what their end use is, and to provide guidance and education about them. He recommends having a dedicated project manager on all door security jobs and documenting what the end system is going to look like and what its functionality is.
“When you’re talking access control, you want to make people’s lives easier — that’s the whole goal,” Korff says. “Electronic doors are more expensive than manual doors, so you have to have to understand what the benefit is. The benefit is really allowing people to manage buildings remotely. If you can make their lives easier, you’re going to have a very successful business.”