News Archive

Lock And Stock

by msecadm4921

Tzachi Wiesenfeld, Managing Director of ASSA ABLOY UK, has been appointed Head of Division EMEA and Executive Vice President ASSA ABLOY. He and Robin Rice, MD of Abloy Security, speak about the company and locks and more at the manufacturer’s Willenhall, West Midlands base.

Tzachi Wiesenfeld takes one of the new Chubb mortice locks out of its box and wrapping and onto the coffee table. “It gives us an opportunity to do something that most of the people that install locks would love to have,” he says. What if the installing locksmith has a wooden door and has to drill? You end up with sharp corners; chiselling out material; ‘it’s a very very difficult task’. This new mortice lock has installation spikes on the back of the lock cases to help the installer mark out drilling positions, and the round ended case does away with the need to chisel out a square ended mortice. It’s a modular lock, he continues; the installer can install electromechanical wires, that can connect the lock to an electromechanical system, such as an alarm. And as for the weight of the door handle, another bugbear for the traditional installation: “In other words, if the spring was too weak and the handle too heavy, there was no resistance at all; however, at the other extreme, if the spring was too tough, too tight, and the handle too light, it was very difficult to resist the pressure of the spring. What we have done here is install two different spring mechanisms inside one lock.” And the installer can opt for one or the other. Demand for this product, so far, has exceeded supply, he adds.

On the other side of the coffee table is Robin Rice, MD of Watford-based Abloy Security, the electronic, electromechanical side. He begins by mentioning the company’s Futurelab Sweden-based website (www.assaabloyfuturelab.com) for end users to contribute to research and development, answer questionnaires, and get knowledge of innovations across the group as they become available, even the company’s thinking (and to go by the home page of the Futurelab site, we are talking way beyond locks – topics range to video surveillance over Internet Protocol, and smart card readers for physical and IT security).

Launches

Electric locks are becoming more interesting to a much wider market audience, he suggests; people are realising the limitations of simple devices to lock doors, compared to complicated, access control systems: “So electric locks are really coming into their own,” Robin Rice said; growth is 20 per cent a year, he suggests. “It’s a difficult sale, because it’s an expensive product; but it does offer a lot of added value.” He goes through product launches, such as: the CLIQ range of cylinders and keys; and the ARX, previewed at IFSEC 2005 and on show at IFSEC 2006. ASSA ABLOY, he adds, will not compete with access control manufacturers, but if it is involved in access control products, it can develop products that are much more interesting for the market.

Expect also a launch of CCTV for the residential market, taking something that used to be only for the professional, and making it affordable for domestic applications, using retail channels, such as the high street, DIY stores, maybe locksmiths. As for the company itself, it has ‘more co-ordinated selling points’.

Besides the residential and consumer brand, of more interest to the Professional Security reader is Abloy Security, to repeat, for electronic security solutions, for among other sectors, water and other utilities, and telecoms; then the newly-established ASSA ABLOY Architectural Solutions, bringing together the ASSA and Union brands – the idea there to offer building solutions to for example universities and hospitals, construction projects, meeting the latest standards and regulations. Tzachi Wiesenfeld adds: “It’s a growing issue; because of the latest regulations people find it difficult to meet regulations; if they buy bits and pieces from various companies, they have the risk that, either due to the wrong product mix or installation, there’s exposure … so there’s a trend to one complete supplier.”

Another unit: Mul-T-Lock, a channel working with locksmiths, and to a degree, architectural ironmongers. Here are the Chubb and Yale brands. So that whereas a locksmith might see several sales representatives from the same company overall, now there is one. And another unit, for police stations, and prisons, Chubb Lock Custodial Solutions. In this custodial sector there is a growing demand for electromechanical locks, the firm reports. And there is an export department, which includes most of the UK brands. Tzachi Wiesenfeld points to export growth, particularly in the Middle East. There the firm has been developing Union Design Centres, Tzachi Wiesenfeld reports, working closely with local architects on specification work, to offer what he describes as a complete product range according to their needs. Before and during IFSEC 2006, the company made much of these brand names, and others such as HID, under a single banner, ASSA ABLOY.

What of foreseeable trends? For electronic cylinders, there is a lot of interest, but it’s early days, Tzachi Wiesenfeld suggests; they are too expensive for the mass market: “The secret is going to be to listen to the end user, and the actual requirement, and simplify the product and bring in a product that’s affordable and distributed in a way that is efficient.” Aesthetics are important, he adds; and here he returns to the beginning, handling the blue Chubb mortice lock. If in the past people were ready to compromise on design and aesthetics of products, because it was more about application, and features, this is no longer the case, he argues. He returns too to regulations and the single supplier, in doorsets, for example, rather than buying components from several. The company has a full-time manager responsible for standards, whether in Britain or Europe; and sales staff have training to understand standards. He raises the Disability Discrimination Act (covering access and other building use by the disabled) and WEEE (the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment directive from Europe). Even though, mostly, that directive about the disposal of equipment does not apply to ASSA ABLOY, Tzachi’s point is that it took a while for that to become clear, and the manufacturer has to keep monitoring. And the company keeps investing; it has for instance a UKAS-accredited test laboratory, with five full-time staff: “It’s becoming a very important function in the business, helping us to test ideas, newly-developed products, in certain cases competitor products, and customer products. I think it pays dividends in terms of higher standards, fewer failures and so on.”

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