What are Restricted Key Products?
Factory restricted key products may include keys, key blanks, lock cylinders and/or interchangeable cores. The process of ordering factory restricted key products is slightly different for every manufacturer, but there are certain common elements.
The driving principal behind all restricted key products is to limit the ability to get keys and locks to authorized individuals. Toward this goal, authorized individuals are either issued a credential (such as an identification card) or their signatures are kept on record at the factory. Restricted key systems that use an identification card are more common to residential customers but are also widely used in commercial applications.
Restricted key systems that use an identification card may require that the identification card be brought to an authorized dealer who may use the information on the card as permission to buy the restricted products on the customer’s behalf if the system is factory controlled; or the dealer may stock the restricted products and be able to sell them over the counter when the appropriate credential is presented.
Geographically Controlled Restricted Key Products
Manufacturers designate specific restricted key products for the exclusive use of a specific dealer in a certain geographical area. Often there will be a “buy-in” involved for the dealer – that is, the dealer must by a certain dollar amount worth of product in order to be eligible for exclusive rights to a given set of products within their territory. That means the dealer must, at least initially, have the products in stock.
Dealers often use these geographically restricted key products to guarantee customer loyalty, since the customer cannot get these products anywhere else except from that dealer. This ability to control the customer is a powerful incentive to the dealer to protect the restriction of the product. The customer’s security is enhanced because the dealer is economically motivated.
Life is unpredictable, however, and more than one restricted key system client has been left high and dry, unable to get parts or keys for their system because their dealer left the business for one reason or another. If the restricted key system is for an individual person there is not really much of a choice because factories do not sell to individuals except through a dealer; however if the key system belongs to a business or institution it may be controlled at the factory level. To order products for a factory controlled restricted key system, a customer can go to any dealer who is willing to handle the order.
Ordering Factory Controlled Restricted Key Products
Some manufacturers have specific order forms for restricted key products but others require an end user Letter Of Authorization (LOA). Factories require their LOA’s to contain specific information and they provide examples to help the end user assemble all the necessary information. Delays in order fulfillment occur when the end user leaves out important information because the letter must pass through a few hands before the factory even sees it.
Below is a simple flow chart of the chain of communication involved in a typical factory restricted key order:
As shown in the flow chart above, the factory typically does not communicate directly with the end user, but only with the authorized dealer (in this case the local locksmith, Joe). Often the end user will call the locksmith with incomplete information, for example,
“Can you help us get five copies of our key number EA56N4?”
This number, EA45N4, may mean something to the factory that created the key but it does not even tell Joe the Locksmith what factory to call. Joe asks questions and finds out the name of the manufacturer (in this case, “Big Lock Company;” we’ll call it “Big Lock” for short) and calls Big Lock’s Key Systems Department and asks how to order key number EA45N4. The Big Lock Key Systems representative replies that he needs an LOA on the end user’s letterhead requesting key number EA45N4; giving permission to Joe the Locksmith to order the key on their behalf; indicating to what address Big Lock should ship the key; and signed by the person of record whose signature is on file at Big Lock’s Key Systems Department.
In the illustration above right is shown an Everest D Family restricted key. The number circled in red is the facility code number. Notice that the keyway also appears on the key, stamped on the shoulder of the key blank (just under the bow, at the beginning of the blade). The keyway is D145.
How Restricted Key Product Orders Are Delayed
In the example above Big Lock has specified five essential parameters for the LOA. If the end user complies with only four out of the five, Big Lock will reject it. This is where delays often occur.
For example, Joe the Locksmith relays the parameters to the end user. In three days the end user writes the letter and faxes it to Joe the Locksmith on Friday. Joe scans it and emails it to Big Lock the same day, but because it’s Friday it sits idle at Big Lock until Monday. On Monday it enters the queue of key orders. With luck the Key Systems Department reviews it on Wednesday, however they find the letterhead given does not name or address that Big Lock has on file for this key system. The Key Systems Department notifies Big Lock Customer Service, but it is late in the day and Customer Service does not email Joe the Locksmith until Thursday. Joe does not see the email until Friday morning. He calls the end user, but the person at the end user took Friday off and does not get the message until Monday. The first week has come and gone and the second week is already underway.
Since this is not the only restricted key order being processed by Big Lock, the customer must wait their turn. Big Lock is not responsible for delays caused by incomplete information provided by the end user or dealer and will not rush an order because of it. In the end it might be six or seven weeks before what should have been a simple order for a key is finally shipped from the Big Lock factory.
How To Prevent Delays in the Restricted Key Product Order Process
Preventing your restricted key product order from unnecessary delays is actually easy.
- Research: find out what documentation is required by the manufacturer. Have your dealer verify what documentation is required with the manufacturer.
- Provide complete documentation. Don’t leave anything out. Do not submit the order until you have all the information requested by the manufacturer.
- Send the information to your dealer in the manner required by the manufacturer. For example, some manufacturers require a "live signature". That means a signature in ink - not a fax or a scanned copy. In that case the LOA must be sent via courier - Postal Service, Fedex, UPS, etc.; if it is sent by fax or email it will be rejected by the factory.
- Verify that your dealer received the information and ask for a ship date. If your dealer does not provide a ship date, call back daily until you get one. This will force your dealer to call the factory, thereby verifying that the factory in fact has your order.
Making the effort to follow these four simple steps exactly will prevent unnecessary delays in processing your restricted key product order.