What is a master key system?
Master key systems work like any regular keyed system, but it allows you to have different levels of access to each lock.
KEY SYSTEM MECHANICS
A master system modifies a standard pinning of the cylinder one step further and uses “master wafers” or “spacers” in each chamber. These wafers create an additional shear line that allows the master key to turn in all of the locks. This way, you can have different pinning combinations for different levels, but the extra shear line(s) can allow a number of different keys to work the lock.
How are master key systems set up?
There are four possible levels to a master key system.
- Great Grand Master
- Grand Master
You will always have a master and sub-master, but depending on how you want your system set up you may/may not have a grand or great grand master. To understand what these levels are, let’s look at an example.
A rudimentary system would include only two systems, a Master and Sub-Master system. Say your store has four main locks: the front door, receiving door, office door, and merchandise case. You want your manager to open all of the doors, your shift lead to open the front door, receiving door, and merchandise case, and your other employees to only open the merchandise case. You will need a master key system with two sub-masters under it. The master key would go to the manager, one sub-master would go to your shift leads, and the other sub-master would go to other employees.
A step up from the set up just described would include a Grand Master key. Your District Manager currently carries a large ring of keys and would love to simplify his responsibilities. You can give him a Grand Master key that will open every door in all stores in his region.
Typically a company officer or who is in charge of several district or regional managers would be in possession of a Great Grand Master. While your DM had a massive key ring, think about the size of the box it would take to contain keys to all of your stores. If you wanted a key to open all of your stores, you could cut a great grand master key. Many key system vendors (including us) don’t recommend ever cutting these keys and strongly recommend a high security, difficult to duplicate key like Dorma, Primis or Medeco.
Master key systems can be modified to facilitate changes in your company structure.
WHY WOULD I CONSIDER A MASTER KEY SYSTEM FOR MY COMPANY OR ORGANIZATION?
Obviously, the biggest benefit is the ability to have controlled access to certain openings with one key – no more key boxes or unmanageable key rings. If you need to change or modify the access matrix, these systems are very flexible.
REKEYING A MASTER SYSTEM
If you are concerned how rekeys work on master key systems, the only time you would need to rekey the entire arrangement is if the master key was lost. In the example we just talked about, if a regular employee lost their key, you would only need to rekey the merchandise cases and hand out new keys on that sub-master level. Your manager and shift supervisor keys would still work.
Surprisingly, this doesn’t come with a bigger price tag. Some vendors may charge a setup fee, but after that you’ll pay the same price for keys and cores that you would on a standard system.
Are there any downsides?
The biggest downside of master key systems is the risk you run if a key is lost or falls into the wrong hands. The other potential downside is translating the benefits of the master key system throughout your organization.
SHOULD YOU MASTERKEY?
That’s a decision you should make only after a careful analysis of your physical security requirements. Your local licensed locksmith would be happy to assist you with making an informed decision by helping you become familiar with master key systems in general.
It is important to hire a reputable and licensed locksmith company when you are faced with a lock and key emergency. If you would like to know more about locksmith rekeying service, how to install a commercial lock,
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