Implementing A Master Key System

Implementing a Master Key System

Let’s be clear here: There is no single Master Key that locksmiths have that opens all locks. We often get asked if we have one key that opens every door. That is simply not possible. If this is something you are looking to achieve in your facility, implementing a master key system is the ultimate solution. A master key system is unique to a set of locks specially coded along with a set of corresponding keys.

The type of keying system a company chooses to go with often depends on the kind of organization at hand: school campuses, office buildings, residential complexes, and restaurants all have their own specific needs. In many of these instances, a master key system works swimmingly because of its economical design and trusted security. For too many of us, keys go missing like socks in the laundry. As such, it’s important to have a singular, unifying system that has a clear hierarchy of keys that are easy to keep track of. 

A Master Key for All Locks: How it Works

A master key system might seem complex, but really it’s relatively intuitive and straightforward. Basically, the system allows multiple keys to open the same lock. Keys are broken down into four categories, listed here in descending order of access:

master key system

Great Grand Master Key: This is the grand poobah; it can open all locks. It opens all subsequent key systems under it, including the grand master, master, and change keys.

Grand Master Key: This key grants access to the multiple master keys and, in the category beneath that, all the change keys.

Master Key: The master can lock and unlock all of the change key locks.

Change Key: Sometimes referred to as an Operating Key and sometimes as a sub-master key. This key can only open one lock. The lock that it operates in can also be unlocked by its master and all others above it.

Usually, pin tumbler locks are used to make this keying system work, but it is possible to have a master system in almost any lock – think of the old “skeleton key” or keys used in lockers. In the case of a pin tumbler system, a key that corresponds to a door is inserted into the keyway, lifting the pins and unlocking the door. A Master Key can create that same effect with different “cuts” on the key.

Interestingly, the ancient concept of master keying is used regularly by mimicking the behavior of a master key electronically with fobs in an access control system.

Advantages of a Master Key System

Lots of businesses benefit from this system because of its increased security. By allowing you to administer different keys to different employees, you can create a tiered structure where different authority levels have corresponding levels of access. This network can also simplify things: since one key (for example, a master or grand master) can unlock multiple access points, you won’t have as many lost keys floating around. A master/grand master can make it easier for supervisors or cleaning staff. Say goodbye to the busy, weighty ring of keys and hello to an efficient master key system! 

A Case Study

We recently conducted a case study to examine the danger of an unstructured key system and how master keys could help. In one municipality study, too many people had unknown access to too many areas, causing excessive theft, vandalism, and health/safety issues. In response to this issue, we implemented a master key system for the entire borough where each door had a unique key and several levels of Master Keys. This solution offered the appropriate access to various zones/rooms within each town-controlled location while allowing supervisors and town managers access when needed. This approach allowed for better organization and tracking of who has access to what. If a particular Change Key is lost, the door lock can be rekeyed at a low expense. If too many Change Keys to one door are “out in the field” over a year or two, that door can be rekeyed, so none of the existing keys will work. The rekeying is done to preserve the function of all of the Master Keys in the system.

Want to upgrade your key and security system? Consider us your master key locksmith: The Security Professionals work across industries to fulfill your security and keying system needs expertly.

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