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Key Control Insights: How to Keep Your Lock and Key Program Simple

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In 2015, a specialty retailer’s loss prevention leadership team was tasked to implement better cost controls and management around their locks and key program. With over 300 stores nationwide, high employment turnover, and limited resources, they were driven to improve store operational productivity by doing more with less - an all too familiar situation in today’s retail climate.

The “simple” objectives were to:

  • Standardize and simplify key control practices at the store level
  • Control the number of keys per store and perform at improved efficiencies by reducing the number of lock changes taking place
  • Centralize management controls of the stores key systems while improving key holder accountability


 These seem pretty simple, but let’s face it, centralizing the management of locks and keys can’t be easy. Or can it? 

Note: This article presents actual InstaKey client data for analysis. For that reason, we will be keeping the client’s identity confidential.

Wouldn’t a solution like this require additional time and expense to be effectively centralized and managed?  Ironically, it really doesn’t have to. By working directly with their chosen partner, InstaKey®, Loss Prevention established a controlled environment, secured all doors, and can now manage who has access via a centralized solution.  Here’s how they did it:

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  • Restricted Keys: They needed a proprietary lock system using restricted keys that cannot be copied. They taught management to get those keys back upon employment turnover, eliminating the need to change the locks each time a key holder left. They also wanted each key to be uniquely serialized which allowed for them to be tracked to each key holder.
  • User-Rekeyable Lock Technology: When keys were lost or unaccounted for, they needed a cost-effective solution that eliminated their need to call a locksmith or change the locks every time a key went missing. This solution also needed to be immediate and on-site, where store management could change the locks.  By using a Rekeying Kit held on site, store management could rekey the lock already in the door with the turn of a wrist. Each core can be rekeyed up to 9 times without having to swap out cores.  Now rekeying is just the cost of new keys.
  • Centralized Management: Loss Prevention also needed a way to manage all locks and keys remotely without the large investment of electronics.®, a cloud-based records management platform, is designed to keep track of keys and key holders, doors and locations from anywhere.  This software also included digital features designed to collect data from the store.
  • Digital Site Survey: This module allowed for easy collection of each store’s existing lock hardware imagery while on site, using smartphone or tablet cameras. This solution saved significant time and upfront locksmith labor costs that would have otherwise been incurred.
  • Digital Key Holder Update: This module allows stores the ability to assign keys to key holders through tablets or smart phones. By having store personnel sign for their individually serialized key, Loss Prevention now has visibility to audit key holder data and improve compliance.

By integrating these tools into their lock and key program, the Loss Prevention team achieved these objectives cost-effectively. Here’s a peek into their key control performance data three years later. These graphs include actual client data from


  • All Store locations are installed with this solution.
  • Keys are tracked to key holders and transitioned between them (without requiring a rekey) about 140% annually. That’s 35 rekey events avoided each month, when keys are returned.
  • On average, 13% of stores per year rekey due to lost or unaccounted for keys, down from 100% of the stores in 2015.
  • Current Program Metrics:
    • >63% of stores are still on their initial step of the Program, meaning they’ve never needed to rekey.
    • >23% of stores have had to use their Rekeying Kit once.
    • And, 13% of stores are between steps 3 and 6.
  • By keeping locations secure and only rekeying when necessary, that’s an annual savings of over $75,000 per year (or $225,000 since implementation).
  • No additional human resources were needed, just better system processes.

Data is always our top driver, but what does the client think?

InstaKey: We are now in the third year after implementation of your InstaKey KeyControl® Program. Has this Program delivered on your expectations?

Client: Emphatically, yes! As a prior InstaKey client, I was aware of what to expect and what could be delivered and, based on what we were looking for, our expectations were well met. With the help of InstaKey, we were able to standardize and simplify our key control at the store level. We are now more equipped to control the number of keys in circulation at each store and we have reduced the number of lock changes taking place. Key holder accountability has been improved by centralizing the management of controls of our stores’ key systems. Expectations were high to begin with and this has been a no-brainer after implementation.


IK: Were there any unexpected benefits of implementing InstaKey’s KeyControl Program?

C: Yes! We knew that our key control was not exactly where it needed to be, but after implementing InstaKey’s KeyControl Program we had clear visibility into where our energies should be focused to tighten controls and improve compliance in the field. We also achieved an ROI with this Program. It wasn’t necessarily an unexpected outcome, but it was not the focus of what we were trying to achieve.


IK: How has the centralization of key control affected your team’s productivity?

C: This Program has allowed Loss Prevention (LP) to take full ownership of our key control and remove responsibilities spread across Facilities, Human Resources and Store Operations. As this happened, we were able to identify where compliance was lacking to ensure only authorized personnel were issued keys and control when and why a store should be rekeyed.  Before LP taking ownership, some key holders shouldn’t have had keys, but were allowed to only because a store manager didn’t have the coverage they wanted.  We were able to better control this to make key assignments a decision that only LP makes.

LP can now consciously decide whether it’s necessary to rekey a store or not. Generally, managers come from all kinds of retail backgrounds where the typical protocol is that whenever there’s a change in management, you rekey the store. With this Program, that’s not necessary because if you get a key back it can be reissued without the need to rekey. It took some training for our managers, but we have been able to significantly reduce the amount of rekeys that occur. Giving that decision to a handful of people in LP gave us the visibility into the Program we needed to make this change. Even as a team of two, we have been able to refocus efforts and reduce time needed for key control as we oversee stores, corporate security, and eCommerce.


IK: Do you have any insights or suggestions for your industry peers?

C: The InstaKey KeyControl Program can help to shed light on what is really going on in stores. We had a hunch that there were probably unauthorized key holders, but we really didn’t know how many unauthorized key holders there were or how frequently keys changed hands without proper oversight. I would also like to emphasize how simple rekeying has become. The user-rekeyable locks might seem complicated or intimidating, but after you do it, you’ll see how simple it is! When our team members perform a rekey for the first time, they’re always sending us emails saying how easy and seamless it was. The simplicity makes it so LP doesn’t have to be on the phone hand-holding when it’s time to rekey. Its great!


This data and client feedback paint a clear picture of the simplicity and benefits of standardized key control practices. Controlling the number of keys per store, performing at improved efficiencies and centralizing management controls of the stores’ key systems while improving key holder accountability became a reality for this client with the support of InstaKey and a better KeyControl Program.


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