A Key Company in Security-Conscious Times

Lockmasters, Inc.
Written by Allison Dempsey

Enabling security professionals to protect valuables has been the goal of Lockmasters, Inc., since 1955, and the company—now the leading supplier of mechanical and electronic safe locks and tools in the United States—distributes a diverse variety of physical security products to all types of security professionals nationwide.

Servicing government and industrial security professionals, automotive and commercial locksmiths, and safe and safe deposit technicians with products and tools, Lockmasters also offers a full line of training courses that cover professional locksmithing, electronic and mechanical safe lock manipulation, opening and servicing, safe deposit box lock servicing, high security lock certifications, access control, and specialized GSA training for government and military personnel.

While Lockmasters itself was founded in 1955, the founders of the company had been working in the security industry for many years previously, inventing secure locks for the government along with instructing both industry and government on how to manipulate locks and protect against manipulation.

The foundation
“That education foundation built up the beginning of our company,” says Brian Henderson, Vice President of Marketing. “We started out focusing on training security professionals to service, maintain, and manage locks and safes and, at the same time, identifying how to provide these security professionals with the tools and equipment they needed to do their jobs more effectively. That got us into this space where we’re a distributor and an educator together.”

Education remains a key component of Lockmasters’ evolution and ongoing success to this day. “Part of what we do,” says Henderson, “is train people how to manipulate and defeat locks because as a technician or locksmith, you need to be able to do that to service your customer.”

As more sophisticated and secure locks are developed, Lockmasters can sell them to its clients, but conversely, the advanced technology makes it more difficult to service and maintain them.

“We’re involved on both sides. We help security professionals know the strategies, tips, and techniques to servicing these locks effectively, even when they’re high-security, and how to access the inside of a lock to either replace it or service it,” Henderson says. “The most common situations are when someone locks themselves out or the lock fails, especially when you’re dealing with combination locks, safes, and door security.”

Lockmasters offers a professional locksmithing course geared toward teaching the servicing, techniques, and tools of the trade to people who want to become a locksmith or an industrial locksmith. This two-week class is hands-on all day in Lockmasters’ facility. A second five-day class provides instruction in door and door hardware installation. There is also a mechanical and electronic safe-locks class; a servicing and manipulation class; and other one-day certification classes on certain types of locks.

Innovative offerings
Lockmasters has expanded since its beginnings to cover all aspects of security products, from automotive and commercial locksmithing to safe locks and safe tools. The company also provides door hardware, government LKM10K secure locks, and specialty doors that are soundproof (STC) and RF (radio-frequency) proof.

“Our founder invented the very first manipulation-proof lock back in 1949,” says Henderson. “That technology still influences lock design today.”

As part of its ongoing evolution, the company has also moved into manufacturing, providing high-security locks, made in the USA, and egress or exit solutions that are specific to the needs of the government, providing exceptional ADA compliance. “The manufacturing aspect means we can build these products ourselves, which is helpful to our government,” says Henderson.

On the distribution side, locksmiths are becoming broader in scope, and some security professionals and facility managers must support many different aspects of physical security, resulting in companies needing access to a range of products, whether commercial, automotive, safes, or door hardware, says Henderson.

“As a result, our clients are getting into multiple areas of the business, including the hardware aspect, like having to put new electronic locks, mechanical locks, exit devices, door operators, or hinges on doors,” he adds. “We represent over 145 different manufacturers, which allows our customers to come to one place to get that breadth of product and the tools needed for those different specialties of the work performed by locksmiths, facility management, safe technicians, and other security officers.” Lockmasters gives its partners the ability to access anything they need from one supplier.

Security secrets
Of course, keeping trade security secrets secret is a vital requirement to the locksmithing business, and to prevent techniques, equipment, and tools from falling into the wrong hands, Lockmasters validates all customers to ensure they are legitimate security professionals before selling to them. In short, the general public cannot come to its website and place orders.

“In some cases, we have products on our website that the general public can’t even see,” Henderson explains. “They’re some of the tools our partners would use in the field and the general public doesn’t need to see those. Security professionals can access certain tools that not just anybody on the street can.”

The company provides nine different categories of physical security products in addition to its education, including automotive, door hardware, electronic access control, government-specific products and tools, safes, safe locks, and locksmithing tools and supplies.

“We have a lot of Ilco product, one of the largest manufacturers in the automotive space,” says Henderson. “In the door hardware space, we carry everything you would see around a door, whether it’s hinges, door strikes, or door operators, and everything from the top three manufacturers of door hardware: Allegion, Assa Abloy, and dormakaba.”

The company is also a full-line distributor of American Security—one of the largest safe manufacturers—and offers a convenient East Coast distribution point.

End-to-end service
Lockmasters prides itself on its customer service, where it strives to stand apart. “We not only carry product in all these different categories, but we have people on staff who are experts in the field,” Henderson says. “People who work here are trained locksmiths, safe technicians, and automotive specialists.”

Lockmasters has a background of actually working in the field dealing with the kinds of problems customers might run into. “We use that knowledge to help them solve problems they encounter and develop some specialized tools,” he says.

There are several tools Lockmasters has developed itself—certain opening tools and rigs for drilling safes—that the company saw were needed in the field but didn’t yet exist. “When a customer calls, they’re talking to someone who understands not just the product, but also the industry. We’re available not just before the sale, but also after the sale,” Henderson notes, meaning if a customer runs into trouble installing or programming a product, Lockmasters’ experts walk them through it step-by-step.

“Our customer service team is good at what they do and are there to serve our partners. We’re from the industry, we understand it, and we know that a locksmith is out there to provide peace of mind for their customer. The customer wants to be secure and ensure that their home, business, and valuables are protected.”

On the grow
As the company has evolved and its reputation in the industry has grown, so has its need for expansion, not only in product lines but geographic footprint as well. Along with its two locations in Kentucky and Maryland, with the purchase of JLM it has now added three additional warehouses in Michigan, North Carolina, and Texas, enabling it to service customers in those areas more quickly.

“For our partners, we’ll ship product we have in stock the same day it’s ordered, and we currently have one-day ground service to customers in the 13 states around Kentucky and Maryland,” Henderson says. “As we expand into these new locations, we’ll be able to provide that one-day delivery service to customers there as well. That’s part of our geographic growth: to provide that level of quick delivery to partners in more areas.”

This growth is considered a great accomplishment, he adds. Even surmounting some challenges during the inflationary times of the last few years, Lockmasters has flourished with continued year-over-year growth in sales.

“Being able to acquire additional companies, such as TimeMaster in 2022, Allied last year, and JLM this year, we’re continuing to grow and expand,” Henderson says. “These acquisitions serve to expand our business and the offerings for our partners.”

The company also boasts a state-of-the-art education facility, offering a world-class curriculum in Kentucky with a second facility in Maryland. Dedicated 100 percent to training, this facility has multiple classrooms specifically set up for different types of training, whether government classes, locksmithing classes, doors, door hardware, and automotive classes. Understandably, of only two companies in the United States approved to do GSA certifications for government and military customers, Lockmasters is one.

Bringing finesse
Of course, education is vital to bringing in the younger generation as some long-time employees will continue to retire in the coming years. Like all trades, locksmithing is also working to encourage more women to step into the arena. “The number of women in the classes has been increasing,” Henderson says. “It’s fabulous to see the expansion of locksmithing.”

A lot of the work in this industry requires finesse, he adds; a lot of work-by-feel, especially when trying to manipulate a lock. There’s not so much brute strength, but instead, the learning of the techniques and tricks of defeating or manipulating the mechanisms.

“It’s something anybody can pick up,” says Henderson. “The general age in the trade industry has been going up, but this is an area where we’ve continued to see more people coming in even at younger ages, so the trade is continuing to grow and develop. Running these classes, we see those trends and we see we’re still filling up the classes. Interest continues to grow, which is exciting for us.”

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