When many of my clients hear “electronic access control,” they envision top secret government installations with retina scanners and voice activated x-ray doors. In reality, electronic access control is a simple method for controlling who has access to a certain area and when. Even though the initial cost of these electronic devices can sometimes be daunting, many electronic systems can help your property or business save money by increasing efficiency, tracking costs, and-of course-improving security.
Improve Payroll Efficiency:
Modern access control systems can supply data in a format that is readily compatible with payroll packages and software. This simplifies the tedious and error-prone process of entering employee attendance data manually. Even in moderately sized organizations, this leads to useful savings and efficiency improvements in the payroll department and, for larger organizations, the savings can be very substantial. Simply put, the system records when an employee enters the building and when they exit and logs that as paid time. This system also stops the “clock me in/out” problem that many larger companies deal with. Since the clocking in and out is tied to a fob, another employee cannot punch a time-card for the delinquent employee. This saves time in data entering and in logging hours.
Many organizations are using fobs and codes to control printing and photocopying – before they can make a copy or print a document, the pass holder has to present their pass to the machine. This not only means that unnecessary usage is eliminated, but also that records can easily be kept of the volume of copying and printing carried out by individuals. This is a big incentive to print only what is necessary, thereby saving costs and protecting the environment. It can also help maintain the security of confidential documents by logging who made copies and when.
Cashless vending and cafeteria services can also be implemented using the same access control passes. This avoids the expense and inconvenience of having to issue separate passes, and also means that when a pass needs to be issued, canceled, or updated, the job only has to be done once. Again, this can lead to big savings in administrative time and costs and removes the opportunity for cashier theft. Fastenal recently came out with a vending style machine that dispenses larger items like tools, drill bits, cutting blades, and other consumables. This can be a great advantage to companies that currently require their employees to cover their own costs for consumables but also want the employee to use a specific product. Most companies currently track these purchases on paper, but items fall through the cracks. By using a machine like Fastenal’s, purchases are easily tracked through the system and inventory is automatically updated.
Protect the Environment:
For many users, however, one of the biggest benefits of installing a modern access control system is that it greatly reduces energy bills and, therefore, carbon emissions. This is achieved by arranging for the access control system to exchange data with the building management system. Since the access control system knows which areas of the building are occupied, once this interchange of data has been enabled, it is a relatively simple matter to configure the building management system so that it automatically turns off unnecessary lighting and reduces the air conditioning in unoccupied areas.
Enhance Building Security:
A well-implemented access control system can start its work even before staff and visitors reach the building, by controlling entry and exit to the car parking lot. Modern systems can be programmed to allow access only to authorized cars, or simply to count cars until the car park is full, and then bar further entries. This not only greatly improves the flow of traffic, but may also eliminate paid staff that are often currently performing this task.
Now let’s look at what an access control system can do inside the building. It can be used to limit access to specific areas, ensuring that only authorized staff can enter them. In multiple occupancy buildings it is often useful to tie the operation of elevators into the access control system, so that users can only send the elevators to the floors occupied by the company for which they work.
It’s worth noting that access control can also restrict access by the time of day and day of the week. This means that staff who have access to a building or an office during normal working hours can be barred at other times. Conversely, cleaning staff can be allowed access only after the normal working day is finished.
Some systems even go further by, for example, providing an effective solution to the problem of bookings for meeting rooms and similar shared facilities, making it possible for authorized users to book the room or facility on-line. Then, at the appropriate time – but not at other times – their access control badge or card will allow entry. Arguments over bookings and wasted administrative time controlling the bookings manually are eliminated. Securing the room also ensures that unauthorized users cannot gain entry for unscheduled meetings causing the room to not be ready for the party that booked the room. This not only saves headaches, but also additional cleaning and room preparation costs.
Perhaps one of the biggest cost savings and security improvement over traditional mechanical key systems comes when someone needs to be locked out. Traditional mechanical locks required a the time consuming process of removing each lock from the door, rekeying the lock, and reissuing keys. The same task can be accomplished in minutes with electronic access control systems.
High Tech Security with Cameras:
A solid access control system will also integrate with security cameras and modern security cameras can do some amazing things. Cameras with facial recognition software can notify security if a sex offender steps on the property, help lock down trouble areas, or unlock exit points in case of an emergency. Automatic License Plate readers can help auto dealers log cars in and out, automatically unlocking the exit and entrance gates as needed. And building site plans tied to the access control system and camera system can make it easier for security to see what doors are locked, unlocked, opened, etc. and the guard can quickly jump to a camera shot of the door. This method helps keep the guard orientated when viewing several cameras.
Clearly modern access control systems have a lot to offer, but when it comes to installing such a system, there is always one element that we have not considered. This is availability of budget or lack of it. Before assuming that there is insufficient money available to install a system, it is worth looking again at the features and facilities discussed in this article, many of which lead directly to cost savings. Many systems can also be purchased in stages to spread the costs out over several years.
The features described apply to modern systems that have been designed from the outset with versatility in mind and some of the functions, like the system for car parking, rely on the expertise of the installer or consultant for successful implementation. I strongly recommend seeking an installer that has a good track record in the access control field and that combines market-leading products with expert support. With all this in mind, there is no doubt at all that an access control system can be an excellent and an invaluable tool for enhancing business efficiency and security.