SSI Industry Hall of Fame Class of 2018 Inductee: Arthur Geringer

SDC’s Arthur Geringer was a door hardware and access control innovator who pioneered design and practical application of electricity to door openings for security and fire/life safety.

Founded in 2004 to represent the highest commendation for going above and beyond in professionalism, conduct and achievement, the SSI Industry Hall of Fame now numbers nearly 100 members.

SSI is proud to welcome Security Door Controls (SDC) Founder Arthur Geringer (1923-2016) to the class of 2018.

Why He’s on the List

  • Door hardware and access control innovator who pioneered design and practical application of electricity to door openings for security and fire/life safety
  • Actively involved in the door hardware business for more than 60 years, founding Security Door Controls (SDC) in 1972
  • Inventor of numerous electronic lock designs, he is credited with ushering in modern era of access control hardware with development of the 90° throw electric lock that is now commonly used
  • Invented first dual failsafe, electromechanical lock for locking perimeter doors that used repelling magnets in lieu of moving parts and spring to retract the locking mechanism
  • Received certification as Architectural Hardware Consultant in 1952; recipient of Door and Hardware Institute’s Founders’ Award and Distinguished Consultant award
  • Member of the Door and Hardware Institute, Builders’ Hardware Club of Southern California, SIA and ALOA, among other organizations, participated in standards setting and contributed content to industry periodicals

Road to Opportunity Unlocked

Childhood experiences in the family business and war service providing safety and security enforcement were forerunners of a future career and success in the security industry. He grew up in his father’s architectural hardware business in Chicago, at age four stacking hinges there.

Upon graduating high school began working in a shipyard at the beginning of World War II before enlisting in the army. Returning to civilian life in 1945, he settled in California where he was employed at a major Los Angeles contract hardware firm. He eventually moved to a prominent architectural hardware company as sales manager.

Keys to Success

His self-reliant, can-do attitude and inquisitive “let’s take it apart” nature are most responsible for his success in product design and innovation. His core values of devotion to family, god and country are most responsible for success in business and building a family-run entity celebrating its 46th year of existence.

Probably the biggest challenge in his career became his biggest opportunity. While employed at Door Controls he had an idea for a failsafe lock to meet California State Fire Marshal (CSFM) requirements. He applied for a patent and offered the concept to his employer to produce it. When it became clear his employer wasn’t interested, he resigned his job and founded SDC.

Toying With Ideas

Ideas for his groundbreaking, patented designs came from his ability to think outside of the box. He developed at least two patent design ideas that were sparked by toys. One toy he recalled from childhood used repelling magnets to move skating figures around an ice rink. This led to the invention of the first dual fail-safe, electromechanical lock to be approved by fire marshals for locking perimeter doors, resulting in the changing of codes to accommodate the lock.

This lock became the springboard for growth and SDC’s first commercial facility. The toy also inspired the HiTower lock, the first lock to be approved for access control of stairwell doors and has been installed in thousands of buildings around the world. Another toy, a miniature train with a battery-powered sound chip used to make the engine noise and train whistle, also stimulated his imagination.

It became the catalyst for the invention of the first and only delayed egress lock that integrated a human voice stored on a chip into a lock that notified shop-lifters or wandering patients why the door would not open, when the door would open and that security was on the way.

Sometimes It Pays to Be a Square

After founding SDC, Geringer encountered a challenge providing a Minneapolis building with disability-compliant door levers. “This was a disaster to me because none of the mortise locks at that time had springs that could handle the weight of the levers,” he had said. “That first job was furnished with cast bronze levers and the springs available just couldn’t do the job. I had to find something to solve the problem.”

Initially, he sourced levers from Germany and then found American sources with levers of lighter weight. Yet he knew they couldn’t get enough torque out of the springs and, ultimately they would fatigue. He met with his spring supplier’s engineer to find a way to get a strong enough spring into the small space available in the locks.

The supplier’s founder wandered in and asked about the problem. He took one look at the lock and replied: “Square wire.” Although he had never heard of square wire, Geringer realized if it was equal in width to the diameter of a circular wire it would contain more material, and therefore be stronger. He had the solution! This reinforced his father’s lesson that you can have all the college degrees in the world, but without experience you are guessing and headed for disaster.

The Geringer File

♦Born 1923 in Chicago

♦Father owned hardware store, mother died when he was six and then raised by stepmother

♦One of two siblings, brother Rickard

♦Married to wife Mae, who helped him launch SDC

♦Had two sons and a daughter, with 15 grandchildren and great grandchildren

♦World War II army vet, served as a Stateside combat engineer and later transported war prisoners by train

♦Other interests included construction projects, boating and attending grandchildren’s sporting events well into his 90s

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