How Lock Technology Reduces Chances Of Unauthorized Machine Access

Gs Davidson Electronic locksEmployee theft, physical attack and stolen machine keys are facts of life for vending operators. It is not a question of “if” such events will occur, but “when.” Fortunately, lock technology has advanced and made it possible to minimize the chances of having equipment burglarized. These advances have made it possible to manage the “people” factor more efficiently.

Vending Technology News recently sat down with Joey Dalessio, general manager of GS Davidson, a distributor specializing in OEM products, to discuss measures for protecting vending machines and micro markets from unauthorized access.

The following are excerpts from this interview.

1) Can you explain how an electronic lock works for vending machines and micro market coolers?

The programmable electronic keys are assigned access permissions to each lock they are to operate and to the schedule desired. Being able to set the start date and time and end date and time for the key holder for every lock provides amazing control and flexibility. In addition, the risks associated with lost or stolen keys is eliminated.

The typical software provides key management customized by the end user to meet their specific requirements. From this software, detailed, flexible reports can be generated to assist in the management of the electronic locks and key system. Tracking who, when, where entry was successful or unsuccessful, authorized or not.

The better systems allow for total integration with existing equipment. One electronic key can be programmed to open cam locks, t-handle cylinders or removable plug locks typically found on vending equipment.

The individual electronic locks are typically part of a locking system, and if properly managed and maintained, can be a comprehensive loss prevention program incorporating access control, audit capability, physical security and route management for all machines in use.

2) What do you see as the biggest benefits of electronic locks?

  • Controlling access to your machines to protects revenues.
  • Easy retrofit saves money for less time consuming installation.
  • Collection efficiency is improved by tracking each time the machine is opened.
  • Electronic rekeying is quick and efficient, which reduces your exposure from lost or stolen keys and the expense to rekey a physical lock.

3) What is the cost of retrofitting a vending machine or a micro market cooler with an electronic lock?

Electronic replacement locks have MSRP in the $200 to $250 range for most vending equipment. There are operating equipment and software costs, and other accessories that can increase the cost, but that also improve the efficiency and security to protect the investment.

4) What types of data do electronic locks provide other than when a machine is opened?

The data indicates who specifically entered, when they entered with a date and time stamp, and when they had an unsuccessful entry.

5) Do electronic locks integrate with existing vending management software?

Not off the shelf.

6) Are any vending machines made with electronic locks so that they do not need to be retrofitted with the data device?

There are always OEM applications where manufacturers equip their machines to either differentiate their brand or the end user specifies a system during the build phase to save money, but with vending electronics, it is less common.

The configuration of the system is really the domain of the end user, so they often ship machines with “basic” locks with the intention of replacing them when installed.

7) For companies that use physical locks, how much does it typically cost to rekey a vending machine or a micro market cooler?

Rekeying costs from $7.50 to $15. If cylinders are done as “bench work” on site, the cost would be considerably higher. The technician needs to physically visit each machine, replace the cylinder, check and inspect etc. Electronic locks eliminate the need to visit the machine to change access.

8) What questions should a vending or micro market operator ask an electronic lock provider?

  • Does the manufacturer have world class tech support for software and systems support?
  • Does the manufacturer have all of the retrofit cylinders needed for a project?
  • Is their delivery timely?
  • Do they have the appropriate certifications for physical protection and any electronic certifications?
  • Do they have an installed base and references of similar businesses that use the equipment?
  • Do they provide training on-site, factory and/or on-line?

9) Given the cost of electronic locks, at what point in a vending company’s growth does it make sense to make the investment?

A new business should start with the right locking system and save money from inception. There is not a “number” of machines or geography parameter; it varies.

Calculating the quantity of machines times the number of times employees leave, lose keys or keys are stolen plus the time needed to rekey can be time consuming and expensive.

A small staff may take weeks to do a change-out. Electronic locks save money in the long term and the upfront cost will save money if implemented and managed correctly.

Oftentimes, the capital investment can become a monthly expense if a lease is written properly.

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By Jeff Adair, Editor

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