In the First Place You Look: Exploring Key and Asset Management

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A key and asset management system can provide ROI by mitigating loss and theft

Danny Garrido

How do you determine the return on investment (ROI) that comes from securing your company’s keys and assets? As a professional in the security industry, you start to realize just how many companies struggle to answer that question. It goes well beyond lost keys and devices.

Modern security and building systems can be highly intelligent ecosystems that do much more than just preventative maintenance by monitoring, tracking and controlling access to keys and assets. These systems create more streamlined operations for a business, which then create opportunities for continuous ROI.

However, there is a difference between knowing what your current methods are costing you and understanding where and how they are affecting your bottom line. This article will examine how features of intelligent key and asset management can improve operational efficiency and accountability and create financial return.

Operational Efficiency

What do your day-to-day operations look like? Do your employees meet up every morning to check in or receive their keys from a supervisor? Are they starting the day by waiting patiently in line to check out their laptops, scanners or keys to pooled vehicles?

Some organizations use a peg board filled with keys, some an endless set of paper or plastic tags, and some even still have the classic ring of keys hanging from a supervisor’s belt. Using these methods to manage keys and assets is a massive drain on operational efficiency in three key areas:

  • Use of time
  • Risk mitigation
  • Operational expenses

Resolving those problems creates an opportunity to save time, proactively manage risk and reduce operational overhead. By securing, managing and auditing the use of physical assets, a business can reduce downtime and use resources more efficiently.

Use of time

The larger an organization, the longer that manual methods of tracking keys and assets can take. For example, consider the real example of a large university with multiple buildings and more than 10,000 staff members. With 800 employees needing keys at any given time and multiple key sets for each building, this university did not have time for a key shop or supervisor to manually administer keys. They were already experiencing delays from contractors on weekends, who, of course, charged for the time they spent waiting to receive keys.

What was the result? An overall lack of supervision. Keys would go home with employees or get lost in drawers. When a vehicle was needed by groundskeepers, they often wasted up to 45 minutes looking for the keys, sometimes coming up empty handed. Management had no method of knowing who had what keys or assets at any given time.

The administrative cost of overseeing all of this manually, or with a system that does not function as it should, is massive. When combined with time lost to locating keys and assets – such as scanners, radios and vehicles – this can easily add up to thousands of dollars in lost productivity each year. One method that works well for larger organizations, like the university mentioned above, is decentralizing the location of critical keys and assets. Instead of having everything picked up in one location, for example, an organization can automate the distribution of keys and assets where they are going to be used. This limits the amount of time that is spent running back and forth to get ready for shift startup, while freeing up management’s time to focus on other tasks.

Again, consider the university example. If 10 minutes of wasted time is saved every day for each of 800 employees, that equals more than 133 hours saved every day. If those employees work five days a week, 50 weeks of the year, then more than 33,000 hours are saved annually.

Risk mitigation

Risk comes in many forms. A key or an asset, for example, could fall into the wrong hands, compromising the safety of employees, the privacy of client information and more. These can be catastrophic losses on many levels, but the right security system and process control can mitigate the threat.

Stolen keys are as much of a danger as lost keys. When an employee leaves on bad terms, a company needs to ensure that that person no longer has access to any sensitive areas or assets. If an ex-employee refuses to return a key, it forces the company into a costly rekeying. When one company redid the roof of its building, workers found hundreds of keys that disgruntled employees had thrown onto the roof after being terminated.

Some of the better software solutions are rich in features that define limited access parameters and provide total visibility over item access, both critical factors in risk mitigation. Several of these systems have the option to limit an employee’s area of access to their working hours, or to have an alert go out if an important asset or key has not been returned by day’s end. Another benefit of these solutions is that it is much easier to adjust permissions electronically than to do so physically.

This does not just apply to facility keys, either. These permissions can cover virtually any sensitive asset, like heavy machinery, R&D equipment, data racks or firearms. Improper asset management can lead to loss of productivity, loss of sensitive data or even loss of life, so it is critical to have the right tools configured for a business’s unique needs. Through an intelligent key and asset management system, a business can automate and enforce safety protocols consistently, effectively and with measurable results.

Operational expenses

When considering an access control or human resources system that integrates with key and asset management, a business should think about the ways in which it can simplify administrative overhead. Can the system automate the check-in and check-out of keys and assets so that a manager does not have to do it? Can it automate the addition or removal of employees and security access seamlessly in real time? These functionalities free up administrative resources, allowing personnel to focus on revenue-generating tasks, translating time saved into money earned.

Take a moment to consider all of the expenses of manual operations:

  • Loss of management’s time to supervision
  • Loss of employees’ time at startup
  • Loss of employees’ time “looking” for something
  • Higher overhead costs
  • Rekeying and other lost key costs
  • Lost or damaged device replacement
  • Loss of time because of uncharged devices

It can reach a point where many companies do not even know how much they are spending on these expenses each year.

One retailer had a giant cardboard box full of price scanners. Between staff misplacing scanners, using them roughly and not tracking their use, the retailer did not know how much money it was losing to asset replacement each year. It was just “the way it has always been done.”

“We don’t know what works and what is broken,” the retailer said. “We don’t even know how much we’re spending on them each year. We just write it into the cost of doing business.”

A large benefit of a fully integrated key and asset management system is that it can remove any doubt about how much is being spent on operations. By having that transparency and visibility, business operations become more efficient and produce more value at lower cost.

The Benefits of Accountability

A key part of everything mentioned above is accountability. That is especially the case when it comes to reducing inventory. When operations lack traceability, the result can be that employees are more careless with company assets and equipment. To cite an example from another retailer, one employee hid a new price scanner above the ceiling tile in the bathroom, just to ensure that no one else had access to it.

It is even more common to see employees monopolize a “favorite” company vehicle, or for new vehicles to suddenly accumulate high mileage while older vehicles go unused. As with keys, it is tedious to do manual logging to track a vehicle’s status, fuel level, mileage and discrepancies. Such records are also likely to have errors and incomplete data, as people often skip processes for convenience.

With an integrated key and asset management system, there is no guessing about where items are at any time. If the system tracks user access, then it provides a clear trail to follow if an asset is damaged or missing. When employees know they are accountable for how they treat company property, they tend to be more careful, which extends the life of the assets.

Solutions are also available that allow for the monitoring of the condition of assets, such as the operational status of vehicles. If a staff member notices that a vehicle is faulty, there are integrations that can immediately alert management to lock out that vehicle’s use until the situation is resolved.

In short, more accountability creates better staff behavior, which produces a positive impact on a business’s annual inventory budget.

Options for Fully Integrated Systems

The ROI of a fully integrated security system is about more than creating peace of mind; it is a modernization of operations. When in the market for a security system, a business should not only focus on immediate pain points and needs. Instead, the long-term potential of the system as a holistic solution should be considered. The goal should be an all-encompassing security strategy, not just an access control or camera system.

In your industry, which devices do you regularly oversee? What sensitive information do those devices manage? What areas do you need to control access to and why, and can you extend that reach? How do those factors affect your administration, employee efficiency, risk mitigation, external threats and inventory accuracy and cost? The answers are different for everyone.

No matter which industry you are in, gaining full visibility of your keys and assets through a fully integrated security ecosystem can increase your uptime and productivity while reducing costs and risk for your business.

Some options that can achieve this include:

  • Smart keys and locks, intelligent and integrated key cabinets, and lockers that can automate and regulate the check-in and check-out of any asset and, if applicable, keep assets charged
  • Setting access permissions to limit key and asset access by user, shift hours and equipment managed
  • Tracking the use of keys and assets with 24/7 audit trails to create accountability for staff, while improving safety and reducing the need for rekeying
  • Custom notifications and alerts to inform management of faulty vehicles, restricted access and other issues
  • Detailed software reporting to oversee operations remotely and gain a high-level view of the performance of the key and asset inventory
  • A fully integrated and proven system that can scale if needed and that lives seamlessly in a business’ existing security strategy

These solutions can help extend the reach of existing security systems to crucial offline assets and areas. Chances are, there are multiple avenues to achieving maximum ROI through the security system, so do your due diligence to assess your operations and determine where you can improve. As with any other investment of this type, ensure that the organization implementing the system has a proven and reliable track record and will be around to provide support for many years to come.

Danny Garrido (danny.garrido@assaabloy.com) is president of Traka USA.

This article originally appeared in the spring 2019 edition of SIA Technology Insights.

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