10 Best Practices when Implementing a Master Key System

10 Best Practices when Implementing a Master Key System

There are many points to consider when selecting your next restricted master key system (system). On the surface, some appear to be quite straight forward, such as patent life or the number of possible keying combinations or even the system hierarchy. However, not all systems out there are created equal and many system capabilities may appear adequate today but will fall short as system expansion is required or when (not if!) someone loses a key.

This article whilst not entirely comprehensive will provide a simple check list of the main items to consider when selecting and implementing your next system. We have also drawn on over 100 years of collective security experience including leading forward-thinking Locksmiths across Australia who have installed some of the most complex systems across a vast array of markets including Government departments, Defence sites, Ports, Remote sites, Utilities, and many more.

Most systems are protected by a patent or design registration or both. The patent is important because it protects you against unauthorised copying of your keys. The system you choose should have a long patent and a tightly controlled dealer network. Whilst this will not entirely prevent unauthorised key production, it will go a long way to prevent it. The patent is further supported by a tightly controlled dealer network to ensure componentry is only available through these dealers, thereby further limiting the possibility of the production of unauthorised keys.

Kel Phillips from KGB Locksmiths in Brisbane QLD says “We have over 4,000 restricted key systems out there and most people do not often grasp the concept of patent protection. Our experience is that clients rekey their locks about once every 8-10 years. If a system patent life does not exceed at least 8 years from date of installation, then an end user is taking a risk in having an out of patent system without really realising it, thus leaving them without protection against unauthorised key copying.”

Cara Russell from Prestige Lock Service in Port Kennedy WA says “Not all systems are suitable for every environment. In fact, many out there should be reserved for indoor use only. 

Many seasoned locksmiths have the same thought process as Cara, that is, almost all systems are suitable for “clean environments” such as white-collar offices. However, if it is a hostile and dirty environment such as a port, beach, roadside application, defence site, or utility, with varying degrees of weather fluctuations throughout the year, then this must be considered when choosing a suitable product. 

“Working with many councils and organisations in southern Sydney especially around Brighton-Le-Sands and George’s river, the salt causes many issues with locks – especially corrosion issues with padlocks – and clogging of cylinders making the locks in operable” says Angelo Koukounaris from St George Locksmiths in Rockdale NSW. 

Products that have Teflon (or similar surface lubricants) coated components and do not rely on spring pressure to operate are more suitable for harsher environments (springs within cylinders typically get clogged and dirty with dust and debris – springless or very close to springless systems are ideal for many outdoor environments). 

“The need for a robust key system that is reliable in all environments is essential and one would think that this is the case for all key systems on the Australian market, but this is not the case. One particular system we’ve seen over the years was very temperamental and even the smallest amount of dust caused locks to seize up” adds Kel.