Once a decision has been made to have an access control system installed in your business, the next logical step would be to solicit bids for your new system. Make sure that the
salesperson knows the features you are looking for in an access control system as not all systems will have the same features. The fact is that the security company you have asked to bid on your system may not have a system that fits your needs. It's important that you let the salesperson know up front the features you are looking for, otherwise you'll end up getting what they have and not what you want. Once you have received the bids you must sort through them to determine if the systems being proposed meets your specifications. Now comes the harder part, comparing bids from one company to another.
In the security industry most companies buy their products for around the same price, everyone gets about the same discounts within a few percentage points. You can expect to see up to a 20% difference between bids. So if you find discrepancies among bids, avoid taking the lowest bid without questioning the differences. The bigger the difference the bigger the red flag...something's wrong so you better start asking questions.
Here are some questions to ask that will impact cost.
Does the bid include the locking hardware?
You would think so...but not always. Lock hardware is oftentimes a component of an access system that gets overlooked. Oftentimes another company will install the locking hardware because the access control company lacks the skills necessary to properly install the locks. Customers go with the lowest bidder and at the end of the job you have a electronic access control system installed only its not hooked up to any locking hardware because that was not part of the bid. Too many times an unsuspecting customer signs a contract just to find out the locking hardware is not included and then costing unplanned additional expenses. So now you need to hire a company that installs electronic locking hardware to get the job completed and that can easily add up to over a $4,000.00 for a simple four door system.
Does the bid include training?
Better find out up front. A technician finishes installing your new equipment, goes over a few key points and hands you the book or directs you to an on-line tutorial and tells you everything you need to know is in the book or on-line and suggests you review it. Make sure the bid spells out the training you will receive on your new system. When you do receive your training it's best to have two or more people attend.
Does the bid include door closers?
Door closers? Yes door closers. When you install an electronic access control system the doors must be able to automatically close and return to the locked position. Without a door closer the door will remain open which defeats the purpose of an electronic access control system. Door closers can run from $175.00 to over $400.00 per door depending on the type of door it needs to close.
Is the correct wiring being used?
In some cases, special wire is required especially if the wire is being run through a plenum ceiling. This wire costs a little more per foot but when you have a couple hundred feet of this special wire it can add hundred's of dollars or more to the cost. Plenum wire is jacketed with fire-retardant material to minimize hazardous materials that will burn in a fire.
Some access control features adds cost.
Monitoring of door status will add cost to the proposal. Additional wire and labor to run the wire to monitor door status can add up quickly, depending on how large your system will be. If this is a feature you want to have make sure to ask the salesperson about it during your first meeting. Make sure it is written into the proposal if its something you want. To add it to the system later would mean $1,000 of dollars.
How is the wire being run?
Some installing companies will run your wires down the surface of your walls and cover them with a plastic channel that sticks to the wall. This is a labor saving cost to the company as it takes less time to do the installation. This can save a company a days worth of labor thus lowering their bid dollars. Hiding the wires takes a considerable amount of time costing the company more labor dollars. If you're expecting the wires to be hidden in the walls make sure they know what your expectations are. Sometimes running the wires down the surface of the walls are the only way to get power to a door and can't be avoided. If this is the case the salesperson should review that with you before the installation. Also in a warehouse situation running the wires down the surface of the wall is necessary as the walls are normally solid concrete. When this is done it is usually run in steel conduit so the wires cannot be tampered with.
Does the bid include access credentials for the system?
In the case of an electronic access control system make sure that your bid includes access control cards/fobs or at least a price per unit for them. Access control cards/fobs can average around $6.50 each, if you need a 100 that can be $650.00. You may be looking at one bid that includes a specific number of access control cards and one bid that does not. That could be a $650.00 difference or more just by itself.
Is computer equipment being supplied?
Typically an electronic access control system controlling software is installed on one the companies existing computers systems. Sometimes a bidding company will include a new computer in their bid to run the software and it may or may not be at the customer's request. If that's the case, it could make one bid higher than another by $800 to $1,200 dollars. That could be a reason for the difference in price.
Equipment specifically manufactured for a company.
Occasionally you'll fine companies that are installing equipment that's specifically made for them. This normally does not add any additional cost to a bid but its worth a few seconds to discuss what this means to you. We recommend staying away from systems or companies that are installing this type of equipment. When a company installs equipment designed specifically for them it means that they're the only company that can service or repair it. Trying to replace the company would mean replacing most of the equipment that they installed. Know what type of equipment is being installed and ask your salesperson can other authorized dealers besides your company work on the equipment you're installing...the answer should be YES.
Some questions to ask.
1. Are there any monthly ongoing fees?
2. Is this a lease or do we own the equipment?
3. How long is the warranty? Get as long as you can.
4. Does the system being installed have room to be expanded?
5. Are there any Software License fees?
6. Will the installing company be using any sub-contractors?
7. What is your average response time for service work?
8. Is this a proprietary system? Stay away for these systems as only the installing company can service the system.
Consider adding KEY CONTROL to your system!
You may want to consider adding key control products to your access control system from the beginning. Chances are that the hardware on your access control doors will have key over ride in the lock, especially interior doors. Now is the perfect time to upgrade your locking system. Key control products takes the worry out of how many unauthorized keys there are to your building. With a key control system no one can get a duplicate key made without your knowledge. So when you get the keys back from an employee that is separating from the company you know that its the only keys the employee has to the door. And as long as that happens, you'll never need to re-key a lock again. For $65.00 to $90.00 per cylinder you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you're in control of the keys to your building.
Once you get through all that you need to consider the company proposing the system when looking at the bottom line. If you're dealing with a smaller company like a two or three person company their overhead is less so they can afford to be lower in their price than a company of a much larger size. But it may not be in your best interest to select a smaller company with a lower price. Here's why; a smaller company can mean more vulnerability due to minimal or no support, technical expertise, timely repairs, and may lack the ability to adjust to your needs. Attractive pricing today can come at a higher unrealized cost tomorrow. Yes, you may have saved some money but you could be waiting a few days to get service on your access control system. Smaller companies cannot respond quickly to service request due to manpower or the lack of. That's not going to sit well with you when you have an issue with doors not locking down, especially after investing the money necessary to get the system installed. Imagine that you've just purchased a new car from a dealer and you got a great price but then imagine that the dealer only has one mechanic. How long do you think you're going to wait to get service on your new car. One thing for sure is that its not going to be the same day you drive to the dealership for service. The same thing could hold true when you call the smaller company for service on your access control system. Most service companies have their schedules already set a few days in advance to service other accounts. With the schedule already full, smaller companies usually lack the flexibility to accommodate same day service requests due to the availability of manpower. If anything can be done it is usually after hours and on overtime so you're going to pay a premium labor cost. Larger companies, in most cases, has the manpower and flexibility necessary to accommodate same day service requests.
Often smaller companies are limited to the access control systems available to them. This is because the higher end access control manufacturers have a set criteria they go by in allowing companies to become a dealer for their products. One being "how large is the company". They want companies that are large enough to support the end user and to service their products in a timely fashion. This forces the smaller company to sell access control products that are common over the counter products, and for the most part are good quality products. Larger companies can obtained those products as well. The over the counter products are a good value if the customers needs are simple and straight forward. This is where you need to be careful when comparing bids. The smaller company makes a bid using the limited products available to them and hopes it will fit the customers needs now and in the future. The larger company makes a bid using a much wider range of products including over the counter systems. They select the system that will best fit the customer's needs based on what the customer tells them is important to them. When you're looking at the bottom line dollars ask yourself this, "Are they biding this product because that's what we need or because its what they have?" Nothing worst than learning the system you just had installed doesn't do certain things you assumed it would do. Question everything when comparing bids.
Do your homework and choose the company that's right for you.
When looking for a company to work with, consider these things:
1. Find a company that offers more than one type of access control system but not so many that they are not proficient in any one of them.
2. Provide service work should your system require it.
3. Provides training to users on the new system.
4. Provides phone support.
5. Is established in the community.
6. Use a company that is licensed and insured.
7. Avoid using a one or two man mobile only company. Access control systems require a team of qualified people to provide a successful end result for the customer. Do your homework and research the type of system being proposed on the internet. If you can't find anything out about it...walk away.
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