Access Control: Here's Why Integrators Choose Multiple Lines

By Brian Rhodes, Published Jul 28, 2014, 12:00am EDT

With so many access options in the market, how many platforms do integrators typically sell? Moreover, why do they chose the lines the sell, and why not more (or less)?

We surveyed integrators across the globe, "How many different brands of access control do you install? Why not more or less?" and report out on the results in this note.

The Breakdown

More than 80% sold more than a single line, with the most common level being 3 systems:

One Size Seldom Fits All

Why more than one line? Very few integrators find one system meets the needs of every customer. An integrator often specifies a particular offering from their portfolio based on what features, pricing, and overall system size their customer is asking for:

  • "4 brands. As an integrator we furnish product based on customer need. Although DSX is our base system, sometimes we need a hosted solution or a pure IP solution. This drives our need to install and support the other brands."
  • "Three (3) because we offer Software based, Browser Based, and Biometric for our three. We limit ourselves to 3 primarily to allow us to better support and service our customers."
  • "We offer and install four products. There is rarely a one size fits all approach with access control."
  • "As a company we have 3 main access controls that we tear as an entry-level to enterprise level. "
  • "We have to have multiple options because every customer has different needs."
  • "3: Continuum, Ademco/Honeywell, and rarely Infinias/Intelli-M. Depends on customer needs and what fits them best. "
  • "We are always evaluating systems to see if they be a better fit for current of future customers."

Among those reporting 'just one' offering, their selections are simplified by a narrow market focus or a line able to scale easily and economically to projects of different sizes:

  • "One. The GX and WX ranges of ICT cover all possible needs for access control, security and automation ranging from a single "offline" door to a federated multi-site enterprise size system."
  • "S2 is very good at small or large systems.  Same hardware, simple licensing."
  • "We do larger systems, so Software House works for our market niche.  If we did single door projects, we would need other options."
  • "Only one. Because it meets most of our needs and has proven to be reliable which is the #1 need."
  • "One, we learn it, stock it and teach it and it works for our customers."

But Less is Easier

However, many integrators clearly expressed they wished they could sell fewer options. They repeatedly cited the difficulty being proficient in multiple platforms at the same time, and also reducing the overhead cost of training installers and technicians to work with them: 

  • "We have used several in the past but we've standardized on one. Our theory is to be the best at one that handles any situation."
  • "2 - We tend to try and find one or two lines and stick with those. This allows our technicians to focus on knowing one product and knowing it well, and also simplifies inventory and vendor relations."
  • "The more brands you sell/service the more it dilutes your expertise in any one."
  • "3. We like to keep our line card small so that we are truly experts in what we sell."
  • "Two - Because we like to standardize on a couple brands and try to be an expert on those."
  • "It is difficult enough to keep people trained and competent on 3 different systems."
  • "Adding more lines would be hard to keep up on the certifications and knowledge required to know the systems very well on both the technician and sales. These to be the to main systems in specification in the SLC market. Why not less? It is always good to have a leading brand, but also good to have a strong 2nd in the case you need to pursue a project that is spec'd something different."
  • "We only install one brand because it is too difficult to train technicians to properly install and service multiple different access systems. We already have multiple lines of products between video, access, A/V, VDF, wireless, etc. so we try to concentrate on one partner manufacturer with each line."

Some even clearly reported they would prefer to scale back existing offerings to a smaller, more manageable selection:

  • "Three. I actually think that may be one too many. It is impossible to have technicians who are trained experts on more than 2 platforms."
  • "4. I'd like it to be less but nothing fits the right price point or feature mix."
  • "Four, but I personally feel we should have only 2 products for standardization and familiarity."
  • "6 and that is too many to keep up with."
  • "We realize the truth behind 'A jack-of-all-trades is a master of none'."
  • "We sell three too many. We cannot afford to remain certified and train our techs on 5 systems."

Many Lines Supported, But No New Sales

Given the long service life of access systems (see: Lifespan of Electronic Access Control Systems) reaching into decades, many integrators find themselves supporting legacy systems they are not actively selling. Even when actively seeking to reduce the number of options they sell, integrators can find themselves supporting installed systems for many years afterward:

  • "We currently have 3 brands we install. We service a lot more than that."
  • "We sell two, but we service anything our customers have. So maybe 6 or 7."
  • "We service closer to 6 access control manufacturers though we do not actively sell all 6."
  • "We install 3 different brands right now and service 6 or more regularly. Most users can use a simple system to just open a door. Others who need more flexibility or integration require more."
  • "My company has sold many different systems over the years, and we still maintain over 5 different brands."
  • "We have the 1 main one we install, and 4 secondary ones that we support, but do not usually install. We try to keep the 1 mainstream to ease on the installers."
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