Key Steps To Selecting Your Security Hardware Provider

By Tim Almond, Product Manager, Adams Rite Europe

In commercial applications, the choice of door hardware will increasingly be determined by a combination of legislation, in the form of building regulations, and the requirements of insurance providers who set specific parameters for security levels.  While identifying the most appropriate generic product type to suit the specification should be a relatively straightforward process, thought should also be given to the provenance of the product that is, who supplies it. In most instances, the solution will be an off the shelf commodity product and therefore, it could be argued, largely self selecting.

As well as ensuring the technology of the product is right, it is equally important to consider the technical expertise of the manufacturer supplying it.  Because security hardware so often falls within the commodity category it is all too easy to make price the determining factor, this however introduces the risk of sourcing inferior products.  The emergence of low-cost copycat products has increased the need for vigilance in many industries, not least security hardware.  Two seemingly identical products can be realms apart in terms of quality of both materials and manufacture.  An uncertified copycat product will not have been subjected to the same routine testing regime, either as an individual component or as part of an integrated access and egress control package.

In choosing a security solutions provider, the physical product is only part of the story. Behind the product should be an audit trail of product development and testing, with quality standards in place for manufacture and the appropriate technical support to back it up.
Another part of the process is to decide how early in the design process you should be thinking about hardware.  Typically not considered until it comes to the question of door design – or even after that, there can be huge advantages gained by involving the lock manufacturer at a sufficiently early stage so the best lock solution can be identified and built into the design process. That, of course, requires a manufacturer with the technical resources to be able to make a positive contribution to the process.

The right manufacturer will understand the context of specification, having a thorough knowledge of the implications of building regulations and the impact that the specific function of the door will have on product selection.  By introducing this expertise at the beginning of the design process you can avoid a situation where there simply is not a locking product available for the application.  Talking to the hardware specialists at the outset avoids the need for compromise at a later stage.

The question of price will inevitably arise and there may be some resistance to paying the price premium for a branded product.  However, it is worth considering what goes to support brand integrity.  The testing regimes and developmental processes that require investment do add relatively little to the overall price when compared with the value and confidence they add to the product.  Certified testing and recognised quality management processes make the difference between a genuine commercial lock and a cheaply produced lookalike.

In fact, on large projects, product cycle testing can offer valuable data for the process of estimating cost of ownership.  For a PFI project, lifecycle costs can be based on a 25 year life, and a product such as a lock may only carry a 10-year guarantee.  In truth, frequency of use (and misuse), will actually determine the length of time a lock will last:  a main access point to a building will see locks being subjected to far more frequent activation than those on an occasionally used service door.  When products such as locks are cycle tested to specific conditions and key milestones, it is possible to provide more accurate evidence to the specifier of the projected lifespan based on estimated usage rather than simply a blanket guarantee. 

Another critical factor will be the manufacturer’s ability to deliver and there are two facets to this consideration.  It has already been stated the solution will often be an off-the-shelf product, but does the manufacturer have enough shelves to meet the demands of a major project?  If several hundred, or even thousands, of the same product are required, are they available in sufficient quantity where and when they are needed?  Equally, if the manufacturer has been brought in at an early stage in the design process and a tailored solution identified, does that manufacturer have the capability to bring the product through within a workable timeframe?

Finally, consider the customer support offered by the manufacturer.  A manufacturer with a strong infrastructure and well developed resources will have the capacity to offer technical support from people with sector-specific experience and knowledge.  With this resource, the manufacturer moves from supplier to business partner, capable of identifying the right product now and the right products for the future.