The Mechanics of Mechanical Access Control


The term access control often brings to mind images of electronic security systems that feature highly advanced technology, such as biometrics devices, smart cards and integration with video.

The problem with this association: 1) people often do not realize these high-tech products would not be effective unless integrated into a much larger access control system; 2) because they are extremely expensive, such products could suck up an entire security budget.

Although less sexy than high-tech security gadgetry, a mechanical access control solution more often than not will create a practical foundation for a total security solution. For security systems integrators, it is important to gather all the information as a means to have the total security picture in mind, and not just a “whiz bang” product solution. In designing and implementing an effective mechanical access control system, there are three distinct steps in realizing excellent results, and each of these steps is integral to the next. 

These steps include setting goals and objectives, defining what the security model looks like, and implementing the system. 

Communicating Goals, Objectives Are Necessary to Educate Client
The first step in successfully building a mechanical access control system is analyzing the customer’s needs. It is important to first figure out exactly what is to be accomplished with the system in order to set realistic and effective goals and objectives for the system. For integrators, there is the issue of helping their customers understand that security is a balancing act between control and convenience as they assess where their organization lands in relation to the value of what is being protected. Rarely will an organization fall totally at one end or the other of the control/convenience spectrum. 

That said, in setting goals and objectives, it is important to assess the budget as well. The budget sets the concrete parameters of what can realistically be accomplished with a security system. When considering the budget, a mechanical access system is often an ideal initial option. Not only is it less expensive but also it provides a security foundation that can be built upon over time as needs change and more money becomes available. The development of a strategic plan for the building of the system is an important factor to keep in mind, as it provides a long-term solution that will not depreciate in value or need to be completely replaced. 

Finally, it is crucial for the integrator to continuously communicate with the customer. Not only is this important in assessing the customer’s needs, but also provides the integrator the opportunity to justify why a mechanical access control system is in their best interest. Ironically, integrators often tell “what” they can and cannot do during the planning phase, failing to tell them “why” they should or should not do something. Ultimately, the communication process puts both the integrator and customer on the same page and bolsters a strong partnership throughout the security system design and implementation process. 

Define the Components of What a Security Model Should Look Like
Every security model consists of three components — products, people and policies. How and to what degree these all relate depends largely on the goals and objectives determined in Step 1 above. All three, however, need to be “integrated” into the design of the system. Without taking the end users into account, the policies are meaningless. Without policies and procedures directing the end users, the product solutions will likely be compromised. Without the right product solutions, it is impossible to meet the security goals and objectives for the system.

Once each of the previously mentioned components (and the interrelated roles they play) are understood, focus can be shifted to the functional requirements of the system and an actual solution can begin to be designed. The functional requirements of the mechanical access control system can be broken down into four distinct categories: protection, control, detection and intervention. At this point, it is prudent to assess how much security is truly needed. This assessment pertains to the overall system as well as to specific areas of the system that may require additional layers of security, depending on the value of what is being secured. 

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