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The ‘Total Cost of Ownership’ concept in entrance control
Many security equipment projects go out to bid in order to help ensure fair pricing for security equipment buyers. Sometimes an RFP/RFQ is generated to solicit bids or quotes on a project. These RFPs and RFQs may come from a professional security consulting engineer or simply from an end-user looking to get the best bang for his buck.
Many times, these bids are quite successful because they help buyers find the most efficient integrators and manufacturers of such equipment. The danger, however, is that competitive bid situations actually can lead to higher costs for buyers, when low upfront cost, less quality-built products that are offered in the proposals turn out to cost a great deal more in the long term.
Sometimes, financially strained integrators or manufacturers will “throw a low price together” in order to win the project at very low margins, thereby making their financial situation even worse. Then, they will try to make up the lost margin by using cheaper components, unqualified installation labor, or by skipping critical steps in either the manufacture, installation or integration.
Let’s look at a particular segment of the security products business, entrance control equipment, and see how the selection and buying process for such equipment should take into account the “Total Cost of Ownership,” rather than simply the lowest bid price.
What is entrance control equipment?
Entrance control equipment can be thought of as the front line of access control, which refers to the products and concept of protecting premises and information from unauthorized persons. It encompasses all of the technology and hardware of access cards, card readers, biometric readers, door strikes, special software, intelligent video and entrance control equipment. Entrance control includes all of the devices for controlling passage within an access control system.
Entrance control includes a wide range of products: security revolving doors, security portals (mantraps), turnstiles, and optical lanes (optical turnstiles) with or without barrier arms, wings or sliding or swinging panels, and obstacles. Generally, all of these products share the same objective: to allow only authorized persons to pass through a secure checkpoint, such as a front lobby, employee entrance or other access-controlled point.
Most entrance control products are designed to help detect and prevent piggybacking, tailgating or crossing through by unauthorized or uncredentialed persons. All of these products have various uses and applications, depending on security level desired, necessary throughput, architectural needs, proximity to staffed location, and architectural and design influences.
Some recent trends that have influenced the interest and growth of entrance control in recent years include terrorism threats, workplace violence, employers’ increasing desire to provide a safe workplace for their staffs, and the possibility of domestic disputes carrying over to the workplace. In addition, technology has changed to the point where integrating a good entrance control system with the building’s access control environment is simpler and more seamless.
Generally, a professionally designed and well-implemented entrance control system pays for itself through the manpower savings in lobby and security staff. The entrance control equipment makes the staff more efficient, and decreases staffing demand, proving a clear R.O.I.
Many commercial office buildings have already installed some form of entrance control, particularly if an access control system is in place. Entrance cControl systems help protect the building’s occupants, provide a secure and safe workplace, and also improve the desirability of an employer’s workplace. The entrance control projects being discussed today and in the future are often new construction or replacement of outdated or end-of-life equipment.
The newest developments in entrance control include small footprint swinging glass barrier optical lanes, and IP-based systems. The swinging glass barrier lanes save space, allow for more lanes per linear foot, are often elegant and have increasingly fast throughput.
IP-addressable entrance control systems are optical lanes, turnstiles or other devices that are linked to the cloud and allow the users, integrators or technicians to monitor, manage, configure and schedule maintenance remotely via either the customer’s network, any PC, a tablet, or smart phone.
Total Cost of Ownership
Entrance control equipment is offered in the North American market by a handful of firms that produce a variety of products that essentially either mirror or overlap each other’s lines in terms of appearance and basic function. Generally, there are some very good products offered in the market, and buyers have some good choices. Like any other market, the buyer should always be careful to compare apples to apples, when looking at the value of a purchase, and should not just focus on the upfront purchase price.
Some of the factors to consider may seem obvious. Of course, you’re concerned with quality, right? So, what is the manufacturer’s quality assurance policy? Is there a policy and practice of testing finished products (burning the units in) before shipping, to avoid unnecessary surprises during or shortly after commissioning at your site?
Do the products include a warranty, and for how long? Does your manufacturer build to safety certification standards and use an independent certification lab, such as UL or ETL? If so, the product is less likely to cause injuries and will probably have less downtime. Does your manufacturer consistently test and run its products in its own factory to be able to predict preventative maintenance (PM) intervals and then recommended PM parts and procedures? Does the company perform and document its Mean Cycles Between Failure (MCBF) rates? If so, unplanned service calls will be kept to a minimum.
It’s easy to see how a well-made product will give you lower repair bills and less downtime than a lesser quality product. That’s clear. But, what about the expected lifespan of the product? How does that affect Total Cost? If we can estimate the expected lifespan, does that help us assess the true cost of ownership? The answer is Yes.
Generally speaking, an entrance control system has an expected lifespan of 10-15 years. There are exceptions. We know of some systems that only lasted five years and then need to be replaced, and others that are still operating after 25+ years in use. When selecting an entrance control system, a savvy buyer will take into account the expected life of the system, as probably best estimated by looking at the manufacturer’s existing installed base of systems. Ask the manufacturer for a list of clients, the products that they use, and how long the products have been installed on site.
It is clear that the real cost of an entrance control system is much more than just a quote, or bid price. Entrance control system selection is an area where you often do truly “get what you pay for.” Savvy security buyers and specifiers will look for products that will offer the greatest value over time, taking into account the manufacturer’s reputation and experience, quality commitment, certification policies, preventative maintenance schedules, repair needs and product life expectancy.
Mike McGovern is Southern Region Sales Manager at Automatic Systems, a North American manufacturer of security entrance control systems for pedestrians and vehicles. He can be reached at: