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Partnership and the Path to a Totally Integrated Safety and Security Solution

by Byron Whetstone, American Direct President and CEO

Let’s be honest, doors can be a real pain.

For each door opening, there are dozens of mechanical and electrified components, specified and sourced from multiple manufacturers. The end product must meet the design, form, and budget of the architect, security consultant, and end user. The general contractor has to coordinate an array of subcontractors, each responsible for a different phase of delivery, installation, and integration. Not to mention the security and IT teams responsible for software implementation, compliance, and ongoing operation and maintenance.

Multiply that by 100 or even 1,000 doors on a project, and it’s not surprising fingers point up and down the supply chain when an issue arises. If an intelligent lock fails in the field, does the end user call the contractor, the manufacturer, the hardware distributor, the commercial integrator, or the electrician?

In other words, “Who owns the door?” Not who owns the lockset, hollow metal frames, software, or security camera. But who, realistically, is going to be the steward, the keeper of the door?


The Challenge of the Channel

When we started American Direct in 1991 as a contract door and hardware distributor, a door was basically just a door (frame, slab, and hardware), and access control wasn’t much more than locks, keys, and closers.

Today, the door is a dynamic digital ecosystem — intelligent locks, electric strikes, position switches, card readers, video surveillance, biometrics, life safety, and more — responsible for aggregating, analyzing, and effectively acting on a rushing river of data. This innovation at the door opening offers the amazing potential to simplify and secure human life, as well as improve a building’s long-term operational efficiency. It also introduces significant new vulnerabilities, including cyber threats and the increasing complexity of the door opening itself.

Of course, this change didn’t happen overnight. In the contract hardware space, we have seen for years the inevitable convergence of the mechanical, electrical, and electronic components of the door opening, prominently marked when the CSI specification for electronic hardware moved from Division 8 to Division 28 in 2016.

However, more than two years later, existing Division 8 and Division 28 sales channels are still extremely fragmented, even as product innovation continues to accelerate. Even the most advanced access control solutions are all-too-often initiated with a “low-bidder” mentality, where the physical, electronic, and software solutions are provided by multiple purveyors with varying levels of experience and training.

This disintegrated approach leads to costly mistakes throughout the project and frustration for the end user left on the hook after a project is “complete.” Even more concerning, it endangers the human lives we are responsible for securing.

Reimagining the Channel

Certainly, we all want safer, more secure buildings. But how do we create safer, more secure buildings while also meeting the design, budget, and timeline needs of our clients?

For many in the contract hardware space, the dawn of 8/28 created confusion and chaos. For our company, it reaffirmed what we already knew: the door opening is inextricably connected with life safety and security.

At American Direct, we have known that in order to survive and thrive in this new age of rapid acceleration, we would need to think beyond doors, frames, and hardware — even beyond the latest and greatest access control hardware and software. Therefore, we have reimagined our business with the mission of providing clients with “totally integrated safety and security solutions.”

This may sound like marketing jargon, but we know from experience that even the smartest and most sophisticated “access control” solution is only as strong as its weakest link.

To ensure the long-term safety and security of a building — as well as achieve design, budget, and timeline goals — we must be relentless in our pursuit of total integration of every single facet of a door opening. This includes being able to provide totally integrated 8/28 products, services, and expertise, as well as finding smarter, more efficient ways to collaborate throughout every phase of a project.

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Starting with Safety and Security

To achieve a totally integrated safety and security solution, it is imperative we put safety and security front and center in pre-construction.

When access control is treated as an afterthought or add-on, it invariably leads to costly mistakes and frustration for all involved. However, when the end user, security consultant, architect, manufacturer spec team, general contractor, door and hardware contractor, access control provider, and integrator are brought to the table early in the process, we can collaborate to reduce costs, improve timelines, and deliver a better end result.

For example, on the recent $30 million renovation of the 17-story Parkshore retirement community in Seattle, WA, American Direct and AccessNsite were brought on board in preconstruction by Halverson Construction and the end user to provide a totally integrated safety and security solution.

This early involvement allowed us to work with the contractor, architect, manufacturer spec team, software provider, and IT team to plan and coordinate specification, bidding, and implementation for all access control and door opening components. Through this collaboration, we were able to identify a much more efficient and effective way to handle installation and integration:

1) The WiFi locksets were individually programmed and pre-loaded with credentials and access rights and labeled to correspond with specific openings at Parkshore.

2) The locksets were pre-installed on the doors and delivered to the site.

3) The installers only needed to hang the doors and put batteries in the locksets.

To quantify the benefit: On average, the cost of a single legacy opening is $2,750, and it typically takes a two-man crew a half day to install. In contrast, the average cost of an intelligent opening is $1,650, and at Parkshore, we were able to install 12 intelligent openings on just the first day.

By being involved early, selecting the right technology, and providing total integration in every phase of the project, we were able to significantly reduce installation time and save the client more than $100,000. Just as important, this integrated process significantly reduces the likelihood of failure in the field, which can be as high as 20% for intelligent locks installed through more disintegrated delivery methods. This provides the end user with peace of mind that their building and its openings will operate reliably and efficiently for the long haul.

Taking Ownership

It may sound harsh, but in today’s world, you must innovate or die. Our industry is no exception, and if companies are unwilling or unable to find new ways of providing value to customers, they will not survive the imminent collapse of the existing sales channel.

The good news is that for those willing to embrace this change, we have the opportunity to reinvent the channel to our mutual benefit. That makes each of us — owners, facilities managers, security consultants, IT teams, architects, general contractors, manufacturers, spec teams, software companies, door and hardware contractors, engineers, electricians, and commercial integrators — collectively responsible for owning the door opening.

Ultimately, we are not competitors; we are partners. By dedicating ourselves to ongoing collaboration and the relentless pursuit of innovation on behalf of our clients, we can deliver on the promise of totally integrated safety and security solutions and move our industry forward with greater efficiency, effectiveness, and profitability.

Learn More

To learn more about how you can partner with American Direct and AccessNsite to save time, money, and stress with totally integrated safety and security solutions, contact the sales lead in your region.

East Region: Byron Whetstone

Central Region: Todd Neely

West Region: Jerry Pennington

AccessNsite: Brian Ashley