Did you know that on average a master-key system begins to degrade in two to five years after implementation?
One of the main reasons for the deterioration is due to non-restricted keys. Another is the availability of key blanks that can be used by anyone that cares to determine the top-level master-key for their place of employment. Lastly, one of the largest problems is the result of poor key control records by the end user — all keys cannot be accounted for either because of un-restricted keys and/or the lack of up-to-date records of who has been issued what key, its key number, and the number of keys they currently hold.
Other reasons master-key systems break down so quickly is because a master-key is lost, or the customer calls a third-party locksmith to work on their buildings locks. When a master-key is lost or mistakenly given to someone who should not have it, the integrity of the system fails. All of this could be avoided to one degree or another by establishing a new master system maintained by a single locksmith and not using third-party locksmiths, or by installing a restricted key system.
As a side note, the simple and common practice of having your master-key on your key ring, and or not having it under your direct control, hidden from sight, is a common way to lose control of not just the key but your business assets.
Any other locksmith can take your existing master-key and re-key a lock without the benefit of the master-key system record. What the third-party locksmith cannot provide is the guarantee that the new key for the lock is NOT also a sub-level master-key that will open one or more locks in the same building. Sometimes this something as simple as one key working one or two unintended locks. Other instances might create a sub-master that will work multiple locks, departments, apartments, etc.
Lastly, for the purpose of briefness, master systems immediately break down because of the “My Key” factor — as in even just one person who does not need to carry a master-key in the execution of their job duties, insists that “My Key needs to work this lock too.” The reality of the matter is that at the very moment just one key must also work another lock enters the equation the systems security and stability — and its life-cycle — is reduced. This is most certainly true after the system has been re-keyed because any cross-keying of even just one lock compromises the security of potentially multiple locks. In other words, it or any other key can become a sub-master to one level or another. A couple of the worst offenders in this regard are low to mid-level supervisors and the custodial crew that is not issued a master-key (nor should they have one). Any cross-keyed cylinders in any master system MUST be accounted for and designed into the system at the start to avoid system degradation.
By taking many factors into account, a system can be designed that accounts for the various access needs, providing the barest to the most liberal key usage and access, but also minimising or eliminating the longer-term risk to your company’s assets.