Control office furniture keys to prevent costs

When keys are lost, cut replacements using computer code machines
Monday, November 18, 2013
By Scott Harris

Having working keys for office furniture is a security benefit. However, it can quickly become an unexpected expense if not properly controlled. Keys are lost or misplaced for many reasons, such as staff changes, office moves and furniture re-configurations.

The requirement for working furniture keys will vary depending on the type of business. Larger banks, corporations and insurance companies have mandated security requirements which stipulate that furniture be locked when employees are not at their desks or workstations. Small to medium-sized companies may not be as rigid or have established security policies. All firms should set up a key control system and implement a process for replacing keys when needed.

Key control

A good key control system will use a lockable key cabinet and provide users with one working key for their daily use. Inside the key cabinet, there will be two keys for every piece of furniture and that are cross-referenced to a floor plan. One key should be tagged as “control” and the other key tagged as “loaner.”

Access to the key cabinet should be restricted to one or two competent employees. Should employees lose their key or forget their key at home, they can go to the system’s administrator and sign out the loaner key. The control key is for emergency use only and should never leave the cabinet.

The administrator will keep a log and request the loaner key back. If the administrator finds that an additional key is required, it can be ordered by knowing the manufacturer name and lock number. By having this type of key control, a client will never have the additional expense of having to call in a locksmith to do an emergency lockout call because an employee leaves a key at home or loses it. There is always a working key in the cabinet.

Key replacement

All major office furniture manufacturers have locks for which replacement keys can be easily obtained. Every lock has an identifying number or alphanumeric code embossed on its front. When the manufacturer’s name and the lock number are known, a facility manager can successfully get replacement keys that work.

Local hardware stores or small key-cutting places don’t always have the proper key blank. Even if a similar key blank is used, the key can be hard to use. When a key is duplicated, it is one one-thousandth of an inch off. If the facility cutting the key doesn’t tune up and align its machine on a regular basis, the duplicated key may be even farther off. These stores don’t always have a proper stamp to mark the new key that was made, either.

Facility managers should ask vendors if they’re cutting the keys to code or duplicating keys. Keys cut by a computer code machine are the most accurate, as all the cuts are set exactly to manufacturer specifications.

Many facility managers call a locksmith to get replacement keys cut by code. A locksmith who comes to a site will normally charge for a service call, plus a flat rate labour charge and the cost of the keys. Many locksmiths don’t have a background in working with office furniture or the codes for the office furniture locks. Sometimes they too will cut the keys on a slightly different key blank than the lock manufacturer recommends.

Replacement keys for office furniture can be obtained through an office furniture dealer who places replacement orders through the manufacturer. This process can take some time, from entering a purchase order to receiving the key and sending it to the client. Some dealers have better responses and infrastructure than others. Keys can also be obtained from a facility’s office furniture installer, but he or she will also have to source them.

If facility managers know their lock number and the furniture manufacturer’s name, keys can be obtained through several companies that specialize in replacement office furniture keys. Some furniture manufacturers offer this service online.

Scott C. Harris, president of, is a locksmith who has more than 25 years of experience in dealing with office furniture keys and locks. He provides facility managers, call centres and office furniture dealers with support for replacement office furniture keys and locks. He can be reached at 416-936-5804 or


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