The locksmithing industry continues to evolve. The modern locksmith needs to constantly develop new skills and look for opportunities outside their traditional areas of operation. The demand for locksmithing services are very strongly linked to the commercial and industrial sectors. However, residential work has somewhat declined (deadlocks and window locks are fitted as “standard” in most new private dwellings), and the proliferation of the big-box hardware stores and shopping centre key cutters has catered for many residential needs such as basic key cutting and the supply of hardware.
Some businesses have made the decision to specialise in one field, with automotive and EAC (electronic access control) the two main areas that locksmiths are specialising in. Other businesses continue to offer more traditional locksmithing services, including lock installation, keying alike, master keying, safe & vault work and general automotive services.
The automotive game changed when immobilizer technology become compulsory in all Australian manufactured and delivered cars in 1993. Locksmiths wishing to continue to be able to handle all automotive work had to invest in new and expensive equipment, and they needed to learn a whole new set of skills. At the same time, the average car key that may have cost less than $10 was now well over $100. And as quickly as locksmiths were learning new skills and suppliers were developing new automotive diagnostic tools, the car manufacturers were busy making changes to negate the effectiveness of the new skills and equipment.
Over the last ten years we have seen the introduction of a new type of locksmiths – the specialist automotive locksmiths. This locksmith has invested heavily in equipment (sometimes in excess of $250K), searches the internet to look for the latest tips and tricks, attended specialist courses, put together by suppliers of high-end equipment and even travelled overseas to attend specialist automotive locksmithing trade shows. The type of work this locksmith does also include high-end diagnostic analysis, ECU resetting and EEPROM (Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory) programming.
The real winner in this has been the consumer, with automotive specialists locksmiths able to offer a fast and reliable service that is often significantly cheaper than going through the car dealer.
Previously this was the domain of alarm technicians and even electricians. Now more and more locksmiths are seeing the benefits of electronic access control. Advancements in technology have resulted in numerous products becoming available that are essentially “plug and play”, especially at the entry level. The costs of these products are indeed competitive.
We are seeing more locksmiths enter the EAC segment. They already have great relationships with their clients through the provision of mechanical security systems, and electronic security is seen as a natural progression. There are also numerous training courses available to help improve their skills in this area.
The move into EAC is not without risk:
• The margins are generally lower than for traditional mechanical security,
• There is a need for project management skills to deal with sub-contractors,
• Being up to date with the latest building codes and regulations is essential,
• There is the potential need to outlay funds long before any return,
• Cost overruns, callbacks and rectifications are commonplace.
All Rounder or Specialist
While a number of smaller locksmithing businesses are specialising, most of the larger businesses still provide the full gamut of locksmithing services. They will engage the services of specialists in specific areas or select and train their existing staff in these specialist areas.
Regional locksmiths are perhaps the most highly skilled of all locksmiths. Their location means they need to have the skills to work in the areas of locksmithing, including high end automotive and EAC.