Thursday, April 23, 2020

Do your base housing key control practices make life difficult for staff and soldiers?

Soldier sitting on dorm bed
Being a soldier isn't an 8-5 job. Even on stateside military bases, soldiers often have overnight guard duty and training missions or provide mission-critical support for operations on the other side of the planet. At your base's unaccompanied housing (UH), soldiers are in and out of dorms at all hours.

However, day-to-day management of your unaccompanied housing certainly is an 8-5 job — or at least you have an office with set hours of operation. So what happens when a soldier is locked out after hours? Who is responsible for making a late-night trip to the base to let a soldier in or check out a spare key? What happens when that spare key isn't where it's supposed to be?

Key control is a 24-hour mission, and even one misplaced key or after-hours trip can cause a litany of headaches for several people. While you've probably taken some steps to manage keys, whether with a pegboard or a locking drawer in your office, these practices do little to make your staff's lives easier, whether during office hours or late at night.

Here are some ways modernizing your processes with electronic key control can help improve your management office.

Run an Efficient Office

Whether your UH office's employees are non-commissioned officers (NCOs), civilians, or a mix of both, virtually all of them have job duties that aren't specific to maintaining a key cabinet 24 hours a day. Even if you do limit key management to one employee, every time someone needs a key, the key manager must stop whatever else they're doing to check it out. And who has that responsibility when that employee is out sick?

Key control doesn't have to be a tedious process for all involved, disrupting productivity every time someone needs a key. If you're looking for a better way to manage keys, consider an electronic key control system that restricts access to authorized user with proper login credentials. Such a system should make the key checkout process quick and painless, freeing up employees to focus on other tasks rather than constantly monitoring a pegboard.

Know Where Keys Are

Regardless of how you manage the keys in your UH office, you've certainly had to deal with a situation where a key that should have been on the pegboard or in the cabinet wasn't there. If you use a paper access log for tracking key use, it might indicate that the key wasn't checked out, but it's clearly missing. How many staff and soldiers would you have to question to find the key? How long would it take to find it?

You can eliminate the need for tedious and often flawed paper access logs by using an electronic key control system that automatically tracks every transaction in the system. A simple report should tell you exactly who took keys and when, giving you a verifiable audit trail and preventing employees from wasting time on a wild goose chase to track down a key. You should also use automatic alerts to let managers know if a key hasn't been returned to the system in a reasonable amount of time, ensuring keys are where they belong at all times.

Reduce After-Hours Trips

Now consider the scenario where a soldier is returning from an evening training operation and is locked out of his or her unit. Not only is that soldier going to be stuck waiting for an office employee to drive to the base to check out a key, that employee must also take time out of their personal life to take care of the problem. Does that sound like the model of an efficient military operation?

Equip your UH residents to help themselves in a secure way by using an electronic key control system that offers a total lockdown solution for every key in the system. Using a secure biometric fingerprint reader gives soldiers access to the system, while the total lockdown capability limits their access to their specific key only, protecting other units in the building. This eliminates the need for office staff to make a late-night drive to the base and gets soldiers in their units in a timely manner.

Key control doesn't have to be a headache for your office and can even be used to give your staff a break. Visit our website for more information about choosing a key control vendor or how electronic key control helped the housing office at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Best Practices for Dealership Key Control During the COVID-19 Crisis

Person wearing protective gloves and disinfecting a car key
In a dealership, keys change hands frequently between sales consultants, managers, and of course customers. But as the world is faced with the rise of COVID-19, businesses everywhere are implementing new prevention measures to protect both employees and customers.

If your dealership is still able to continue operations in some capacity, integrating recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) into your key control will show customers that your business prioritizes their health and safety.

To ensure your key control systems remain secure while keeping your employees safe, here are tips you can follow:

Minimize Contact With Customers

When recording a buyer’s information, take a picture of their driver’s license rather than scanning or photocopying it. This will prevent possible contamination of your hands and various surfaces around your dealership.

In the service department, encourage staff to wear gloves and masks when interacting with customers and handling their keys and vehicles. (Be sure to follow best practices for personal protective equipment use or else they won't be effective.) Before returning a customer's key fob, disinfect it and place it in a sealable bag (see the sample customer letters in NADA's "20 Group Best Practices: COVID-19").

To further reduce customer contact, some dealerships are providing touch-free pickup and drop-off services for test drives, vehicle purchases, and service appointments.

Link Your Key Control Data to Customer Records

Automatically linking key control data to customer and prospect records by integrating your key control system with your DMS allows sales associates and management to see which cars are off or on the lot. Associates can confidently practice social distancing and allow prospects to take solo test drives, while still maintaining accountability and security of the keys.

If you’re offering any kind of vehicle delivery service, it’s important to secure customer keys and maintain a record of who handled each key and when. Unfortunately, thieves in some areas are exploiting the coronavirus situation and stealing keys and vehicles from local dealerships. Taking steps to protect the keys in your care and keeping an accurate audit trail will help prevent theft and protect your dealership from liability.

Set up Remote Access to Your Systems

If you’re working from home, don’t forget to set up remote access to your key control system so you can manage user access and view various system reports. For example, key activity reports will provide a picture of what is happening in the dealership, and keys out reports can alert management to any problems.

Disinfect Keys and Hardware

Using EPA-approved products, disinfect keys, key tags, and key control systems before and after each person touches them, or at least every hour. Please check the manufacturer’s cleaning and disinfecting instructions for electronic key cards, fobs, and hardware. Print a copy of our key control system cleaning guidelines and keep it near the system as a reminder.

For key control systems that use a fingerprint scanner for user authentication, consider temporarily switching your login method to a fob and/or password. While fobs, keyboards, and fingerprint scanners are all high-touch surfaces, you can use a broader range of cleaners and disinfectants on fobs and keyboards. If you do use a fingerprint scanner for system access, make sure you follow proper procedures for cleaning the device and wash your hands thoroughly after each use.

Doing your part to protect everyone during this time will build trust and confidence in your employees and customers. Improving your dealership’s preparedness against widespread illness will not only benefit your business but your customers as well.

For additional guidance, feel free to contact us with any questions you may have about adapting your key control practices during this time.