Monday, February 24, 2020

Preventing Food Contamination: Who Has the Keys?

Ice cream factory tankManagers in the food production and processing industry already understand the importance of preventing contamination. It's not simply a case of complying with federal and international regulations. Even one injury or illness that's traced back to one of your facilities can have a long-lasting impact on your business.

There are, of course, the financial implications of having a facility shut down for extensive cleaning and repairs, or the variety of legal settlements and court cases. It could also take years for a brand to recover from the loss of public trust after a recall or other incident.

That's why it is imperative for food production facilities to operate at peak safety performance at all times and to take all reasonable steps to prevent contamination — incidental or not. Especially the not.

Whether it's perpetrated by a disgruntled employee or a foreign terrorist, intentional adulteration is a real and terrifying concern in the food industry. Government regulations are leading businesses to beef up their security as plants put locks on tanks, install more surveillance, and invest in security training.

However, one area that many in the industry might be forgetting is how these extra locks and keys are being handled. Locking up an easily accessible liquid tank is a great step, but who holds the keys? How many copies of that key are floating around your facility? Do you know when the tank was accessed? And who did so?

Here are some ways an electronic key control system can help you make your facility more secure and mitigate the risk of intentional adulteration.

Controlling Access to Sensitive Assets


Access control is the front line — and sometimes the last defense — of security for your entire facility. A gate manned by a guard, an exterior door unlocked by a key, or a storage tank secured with a padlock are all examples of controlled access. However, many businesses fall for the dangerous mindset that once somebody is inside the facility, that person must belong there and whatever they're doing is acceptable. Of course that's not always true.

Vendors and other approved guests might have basic access to a facility, but that doesn't mean they should have complete freedom. Likewise, not all employees inside the building need unrestricted access. A custodian shouldn't be able to open a locked food storage bin, for example.

That's why it's important to take your basic physical defense measures, like security gates and locked doors, a step further by controlling who has access to keys. When granting user permissions in an electronic key control system, only employees who need access to certain keys to perform their jobs should be authorized to use such keys. If the system locks keys down individually, employees who use the system can't take keys they're not supposed to have. This better controls access to sensitive areas and prevents inappropriate key use.

Holding Employees Accountable


Brewmaster checks tanks in a breweryDespite all your best efforts, mistakes happen. In fact, human error is often cited as a cause of all sorts of business headaches — data breaches, damaged equipment, and even food recalls. Even when somebody is doing their best, trying to make sure your company is performing at peak efficiency and meeting federal regulations, a key can still be misplaced.

The important thing is how you react to a missing key, if you know to react at all. Replacing a padlock might be inexpensive, but what if that key lands in the hands of somebody who isn't supposed to have access and is predisposed to abuse that access? How long would it take you to be aware the key is even missing? Your electronic key control system should have alerts when keys aren't returned so you can react quickly and prevent potential problems.

This also lets employees know they'll be held accountable for what happens to keys they're responsible for. If they know management will be alerted if a key isn't returned, they're more likely to be a good steward of their access and not simply grab an unused copy of a key from a pegboard. Misplaced keys are a thing of the past when every access point is automatically logged and securely backed up.

Protecting Against Insider Threats


You might not be aware you have a disgruntled employee until it's too late, which is why it's important to minimize access to items that can be easily adulterated. This is especially true for employees who were recently terminated or resigned. An employee who left on good terms but still has access to the facility is a potential threat.

Be sure you remove secure access rights from former employees as soon as possible after their termination or resignation. Whether they have access to physical keys or electronic key cards, they should be unable to reach secure areas or tanks without an escort. Any keys they're carrying should be returned to an electronic key control system immediately and their login credentials revoked.

Whatever method you take for securing your food processing facility's keys, be sure you commit to the process and actually hold employees accountable for how it's used. Enforce new rules consistently and continually, otherwise you leave your company at risk of intentional adulteration.

For more information on protecting your business, check out our eBook 5 Steps to Make Your Facility More Secure.

Monday, February 17, 2020

A Simple Guide to Key Control Jargon

Wooden mannequin surrounded by question marks
Every industry has jargon that’s confusing to the average person. This can cause problems when industry professionals try to communicate with anyone outside their area of expertise. In the UK, for example, medical terminology became so confusing to patients that misunderstandings began affecting quality of care. As a result, the Royal College of General Practitioners told doctors to avoid jargon when speaking with patients.

While key and access control lingo isn’t so complicated that it’s almost a language in itself like medical terminology, we do believe that clear communication is crucial to helping businesses.

Whether you’re researching key management methods for your business or need to order parts for your electronic key control system and aren’t sure what they’re called, the following list of terms is for you.

Common Key Control Terms


Audit Trail — A key control audit trail includes reports with specific details each time someone uses a key. This data includes who removed it, when and why they removed it, and when the key was returned. Also called a key control log. Read more about why audit trails are important.

Access Card — A plastic card that, like a credit card, is programmed with data that only a special sensor can read. It provides access to restricted areas or systems. View an access card

Control Panel — The part of an electronic key control system where a user performs system functions such as checking out keys, running reports, and adding new users. It often includes a touchscreen. View a control panel.

Eyelet — A metal ring that’s used along with a rivet stem and washer (both terms defined below) to attach keys to key tags. View photos and order supplies from our online catalog (current customers only).

Key Fob — A keychain-sized piece of hardware that restricts access to secure areas or systems. It grants entry by generating a random code, emitting an electronic signal, or being scanned by a special reader. Car key remotes are one of the most common types of fobs. View a key fob.

Lockbox — A small, hinged box containing a set of keys. They’re commonly attached to house doors in the real estate industry and to car windows in the automotive industry. Read more about lockboxes.

Key Tag — A paper or plastic identifier that’s attached to a set of keys. Some tags, especially paper ones, have the key’s information written directly on them. Others have an embedded computer chip that’s coded with information about the key. These key tags are used with an electronic key control system and are more secure than labeled tags. Learn why it’s helpful to set up a key tag preparation station.

Key Control Log — Another name for an audit trail. The key control log is a set of reports with details about each transaction.

Key Plug System — An updated version of the traditional wooden pegboard. Keys are attached to pegs and inserted into slots on a numbered board. Also called a mechanical peg system or lock plug system.

Module — A component of a mix-and-match system; think of it as one piece of a puzzle. For example, the KeyTrak Guardian allows customers to choose modules for lockers, keys, or cards.

Pegboard — A board with regularly spaced holes that hold hooks. Keys or other items are placed on the hooks. View a pegboard.

Reader — An electronic user authentication method that scans a piece of hardware such as a fob or biometric characteristic such as a fingerprint. Read about why you should use fingerprint readers with your key control system.

Rivet Stem — A long, thin metal piece that’s used along with a washer (defined below) and eyelet to attach keys to key tags.

Server — A computer that controls an electronic key control system. View a key control system server

Zap Strap — A thin rubber-coated wire that’s used to attach keys to key tags.

Proximity Card — Another name for an access card.

Washer — A donut-shaped metal piece that’s used along with a rivet stem and eyelet to attach keys to key tags.

To learn more about key management, read “A Four-Minute History of Key Control” and “Do You Need to Improve Your Key Management?

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Three Condo Concierge Horror Stories

Gloved hand opening doorConcierge service is a hallmark of a luxury living experience. But what if the concierge decides to take advantage of residents rather than serving them? Without the right employee accountability and controls in place, that’s a real risk — just read these concierge horror stories.

The $200,000 Jewelry Heist


At a condo complex in Cleveland, Ohio, a concierge used his access privileges to enter four different units, from which he stole over $200,000 of jewelry. He then worked with an accomplice to pawn the stolen property.

The Booze-Loving Concierge


One Virginia concierge treated a resident’s home as her own personal bar. Upon entering the unit, the employee was caught on camera guzzling the resident’s alcohol.

The Man in Black


While traveling in Thailand, a Vancouver, British Columbia, woman checked her condo’s security camera footage and observed a man in black — whom she recognized as the building’s concierge — enter her home, slip on a pair of white gloves, and help himself to several hundred dollars from her dresser drawer. Another woman in the same building reported that a total of $5,350 in cash had disappeared from her home in two separate incidents — with no evidence of forced entry.

How to Protect Your Residents


When provided conscientiously, concierge services are a much-appreciated complement to busy people’s lives. To reduce the risk of a dishonest employee abusing their access to condo dwellers’ homes, use electronic key control to enforce the following checks and balances:

  • Avoid using master keys and require concierges to check out the key to each unit individually.
  • Set up alerts when a concierge has a key for longer than necessary and restrict access to keys outside of their normal shift hours.
  • Notify residents by text or email when the key to their unit is checked out.

Take the time to thoroughly assess how you treat key access. Are you providing residents a service or is your complex a nightmare waiting to happen?

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Top 12 Questions to Ask Key Control Vendors at NADA

Fast-moving crowd on trade show floor
What if purchasing an electronic key control system were like purchasing a new vehicle? In some ways, it is: You’re looking for a system that’s reliable, meets a set of specific specs, and is backed by top-notch service. Most of the time, unfortunately, you don’t have the opportunity to take multiple systems for a test drive, so to speak, in a single day — except at the NADA Convention & Expo.

As the industry’s largest event for new-vehicle dealers, NADA is the perfect time to select a new key control system, among other products and services, because you have the opportunity to see and compare multiple options at once.

With more than 500 companies exhibiting at NADA, however, it’s crucial to map out a strategy. If you’re in the market for an electronic key control system, here are some questions to ask to make the most of your time:
  1. Will the vendor customize a solution for your dealership or is it a one-size-fits-all product?
  2. Can the system and vendor grow with your needs?
  3. Is the software tailored to the auto industry?
  4. How do employees access keys and assets?
  5. How are transactions tracked?
  6. How user-friendly is the system?
  7. What reports does the system offer?
  8. Can the system be accessed remotely?
  9. Do you have to install the system and train your employees yourself?
  10. What support services are offered after the system is installed?
  11. Does the company have a track record of product development over the last three to five years?
  12. Does the system accommodate the number of keys and/or dealer plates you need to store?
To help you evaluate and compare potential electronic key control vendors more thoroughly, visit our Resources page to download our Key Control Checklist and Electronic Key Control Scorecard.