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5 Key Control Best Practices in Retail

Sponsored by InstaKey Security Systems

It is essential for retailers to have an effective key control system in place at their stores. This will help standardize security of the facility, assist with improving key holder accountability, and aim to reduce shrink loss opportunities.

Below are five essential key control cornerstones any retailer should look to implement:

1) Identify a complementary key control system.

There is no one-size-fits-all key control system. However, most are customizable, so find one that suits your security needs precisely. Consider factors like square footage, all lockable doors and cabinets, number of key holders and amount of keys being carried, as well as who specifically requires access. The complexity of the key control system will depend largely on the store’s specific security layering with other systems, master keying, and key restriction. For example, many retail locations already use master key systems providing single keyed access to all of the locks for an entire facility. As this is a common practice, many retailers should recognize the associated security risks and expenses when one of these master keys are lost, stolen, or unaccounted for. Look to a key control system designed to manage these situations through improved key tracking and cost-effective, rekeyable solutions.

2) Maximize key holder accountability with restricted keys.

The overall goal of key control systems is to restrict access to any lock, drawer, cabinet or door. It’s important that the number of keys in the store is tightly controlled and tracked to each key holder. Make sure to utilize restricted keys that are difficult to duplicate. Keys that can be easily copied without approval correlates to increased liability opportunities, such as shrink, theft or fraud. Each retailer should have an established set number of keys per store based upon an authorized key holders listing by position.

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3) Be prepared with a rekeyable solution.

In a fast-paced retail environment, keys can be accidentally misplaced, lost or stolen. High turnover is another major issue facing retailers, so it’s important to be prepared when these situations occur. With a larger staff, stores must quickly weigh key security needs versus cost and convenience. It’s likely that a key will become lost or otherwise unaccounted for at some point, or that an employee will quit without returning their keys. The process of replacing all affected locks becomes expensive, disruptive, and time-consuming. Instead of bringing in a locksmith or swapping cores, be prepared with rekeyable locks that can be changed with the simple turn of a key, allowing security to be restored quickly. Prior to any lock change, make sure to issue and track keys to key holders to help avoid operational disruptions. Once a lock or set of locks have been changed, be sure to collect and properly manage all negated key sets.

4) Track the key control system online.

An effective way to manage and enforce a key control system is through the utilization of an online or cloud-based software program. These programs allow real-time access to security information such as key holders, locations, doors or keys themselves. When an incident arises, this data can assist in the collection of who, what, where, when, and how. Such programs are designed to allow access through any Internet-enabled device, helping to maximize real-time key control remotely or at the store level. Through sharing of key control information with store personnel, policy enforcement and security auditing become much simpler to manage.

5) Policy and procedure enforcement.

Regardless of the key control system in place, make sure it is enforceable and measurable. Policies and procedures are meant to be implemented, reviewed and revised regularly to help tighten compliance. For example, when issuing keys, establish and document which key holders receive which keys through an authorized key holder listing and receipt signoff procedure. Similarly, if an employee is leaving the company – whether the departure is amicable or not – add a documented exit policy to get the key back prior to separation. In addition, make sure to publish who is authorized for ordering extra copies of keys, lock changes or service requests. With these simple procedural additions, key control exceptions can be better managed at store level, providing audit compliance measurements. An efficient key control system will regulate key quantities, help to manage who is holding them, provide publishable audit capabilities, and measure lock changes or associated service request frequencies.

All key control systems are designed to restrict access, but many are only as good as how well they are managed. Retailers should look to regularly audit their key control systems, so they can identify and simplify procedures aimed at any documentable long term shrink reduction. Many retailers today utilize only some of these cornerstone solutions, so look to add the others to help continue tightening your security while increasing your stores’ compliance.

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