Best Access Control System for Warehouses (& 4 Key Considerations)

James McKellar April 26, 2022 13 min read

In most peoples’ minds, a warehouse is often a dusty room full of boxes, pallets and mice, that is patrolled by one security guard a few days away from retiring. This is an outdated stereotype and a movie trope that is a fair or accurate representation of the modern industry at all. 

Warehouses can be fully automated, inventories can be scanned in a matter of seconds and item counts can be done in minutes not hours. Forklifts and delivery vehicles can quickly and easily access the warehouse and reduce their downtime using a range of different technologies and equipment. 

We have seen technology move forward in all areas of business and our lives within the last few years, and things that we had only dreamt of or thought about in sci-fi novels are now a reality.

As we alluded to above, warehouses are often seen as archaic, but innovators such as Amazon are rewriting what it means to be a ‘warehouse’ and a business that deals in inventory storage and logistics. 

In this guide, we are going to be looking at access control systems in warehouses that can keep the whole business organised, improve logistics and reduce security threats. 

We will be covering the basics of access control for warehouses, some of the best types of access control, benefits, features and help you find the perfect warehouse access control solution for your business.


In sum, we'll cover: 

  • Access Control for Warehouses Features
  • Warehouses Access Control Basics
  • Types of Warehouse Access Control
  • Benefits of Warehouses Access Control
  • How to Find the Best Warehouses Access Control System
  • Warehouses Access Control Cost
  • Deciding on the Best Warehouses Access Control System

Short on time? Download our Nortech Access Control Comparison


Key Components of Access Control for Warehouses

Access control as a whole can be a huge part of a warehouse’s security system and also a great way to manage your location and staff effectively. 

Each system has its own features, usages and benefits, so with that in mind, we will be broadly covering warehouse access control as a whole to highlight some of the key features of these security systems.

Safe Working Environment 

A warehouse can be organised in a lot of ways, but just because something is organised does not always make it safe, albeit helpful to avoid certain situations.

With an access control system a warehouse can be managed in multiple ways, from who is getting entry into the building, when people have accessed the warehouse and limiting external threats and intruders. 

Creating a safer working environment is one of many components that make up an access control system for a warehouse. Pairing an access control system with CCTV for example, keeps your warehouse even more secure and helps both technologies work most effectively and more efficiently. 

Administration in Seconds

As we have alluded to above, using access control systems for warehouses can have a lot of secondary and tertiary features aside from the obvious people or vehicle entry or exit. For instance, within a warehouse setting an access control system could help admin tasks in a range of ways.

Having quick and simple ways to conduct administrative tasks and actions can save a lot of staff time that can be used on different tasks and provide more focus in other areas of the business.

From a user standpoint, they will be able to gain entry and exit from the warehouse a lot easier. 

Emergency Protocols 

Warehouses can be subject to a lot of additional hazards and potential dangers than other places, and depending on what the warehouse is storing there can be a lot of factors to consider. 

With this being said, having an access control system in the warehouse would create an environment that is much more secure and safe in the event of an emergency.

For example, the system can unlock all doors and exits, or tell the system manager how many people are in the warehouse/building.

Warehouse Management 

Having additional, and simple ways to manage your warehouse are important in all aspects of the business and can impact everyone within the warehouse. Installing an access control system in the warehouse will allow for a wide range of benefits.

From knowing who is currently in the warehouse, the movements of your staff and vehicles to helping with altercations and limiting internal and external threats, your warehouse can be managed a lot more effectively with an access control system in place.

Norpass PDF Comparison

 

How Does Access Control for Warehouses Work?

Access control can allow warehouses to have much better efficiency, security and protection from internal and external issues. 

It is hard to summarise quickly as access control for warehouses can come in many different forms; The overarching concept is the same, allowing for people or vehicles to gain entry and exit using pre-approval, such as an issued key fob, or their vehicle's number plate.

Warehouses can have a number of different groups of people, inventory and vehicles to keep track of, so having an access control system can create much smoother warehouse management and organisation. Paired with other technologies it can be even more effective.

Let's explore some of the different access control types that can be deployed in a warehouse, this is not a definitive list, but is some of the most commonly used types.

 

Types of Warehouses Access Control 

When it comes to warehouse security, it can be hard to know what the best solution is for your business and locations. With the sheer variety of options available it can be a little tough to work out. 

In this section, we are going to be looking at two different core areas of access control, primarily focusing on the scan range, which could be looked at as people access control vs vehicle access control too. 

Short Range Access Control

 

Proximity Card Access Control

Depending on the warehouse type and size deploying proximity card access control could be a viable solution that is low cost and high reward.

The majority of people have probably used a form of card access control within the last few years and not even realised it. 

The majority of hotels now use some form of access control, and the most widely used is card access control, despite being referred to as your room key, it is actually an access control credential that is programmed to open your door.

In the context of a warehouse, card access control could be used to open doors, gates, barriers, and even hangers. Anything that can effectively be open and locked can be used within an access control system.

 

Key Fob Access Control 

Warehouses can benefit from a wide array of access control systems, one of the most commonly used ones in the industry today is Key fob access control.

Key fobs present a simple and effective way for people (or vehicles) to gain access to a door, gate or barrier. They effectively tap their credential (key fob) against the reader and are granted or denied access based on pre-determined eligibility. 

As a rule of thumb, key fobs are used for people access control but can be effectively used in vehicle access control measures too. Just due to their read range they often favour pedestrians as opposed to a driver in a vehicle. 

Mid-Long Range Access Control 

 

Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR)

As the name suggests, Automatic Number Plate Recognition or ANPR is a form of access control that is automated and allows for pre-authorised vehicles to gain quick entry through a gate, barrier, shutters, or warehouse doors.

Once the system is installed, an outward facing camera will scan upcoming vehicle licence plates and either allow or deny entry depending on their status. So all of the warehouse vehicles can be pre-entered into the system making for a quick and easy approach to the entrance or exit.

Automatic Number Plate Recognition is often used in a lot of different settings such as private car parks and for head offices with a lot of vehicles coming in and out. Often there is a call box to allow for guests or other vehicles to manually call security and gain access too.

 

Forklift or Vehicle Access Control (RFID)

Warehouses can benefit from installing RFID tags into their vehicles, be that delivery trucks, forklifts or other company vehicles. There are a lot of ways radio frequency identification technology can be utilised within a warehouse setting.

An example of how RFID technology can be used within an access control setting is having the tags mounted or embedded into the vehicles which can be read as the vehicle approaches a reader. This can be either mid or long range, depending on the technology used. 

In context, this could allow the vehicle to open a gate or barrier as it approaches to create a secure, contactless and speedy way to get in and out of a warehouse and property.

The Future of Access Control for Warehouses

As we have looked at above, there are a lot of different options for a warehouse whether it’s vehicle access control, people access control or a combination of both. 

One of the most likely areas to boom (albeit already booming), is Radio Frequency Identification or RFID. Newer technologies such as RFID have been used more and more in recent years to make warehouses much more efficient and effective places of work.

Moving forward into the future of warehouse management, security and organisation, we may find more solutions and adapt the ones that are already effective.

It is hard to say where the industry is going, and a lot of people believe that fully automated warehouses are on the horizon, if not already being tested in parts of the world.

It is likely we see a lot of new methods to improve the efficiency, security and management of warehouses in the coming years.

Access control is a huge step forwards alongside RFID (which can be part of an access control system, or separate) there are some interesting developments on the horizon and being deployed in the industry. 

 

Benefits of Access Control System for Warehouses

Access control can be used in a variety of different settings and benefit a lot of different business types from gyms to retail locations to warehouses. 

In this section, we are going to focus on access control as a whole as every system has its own benefits and elements that may be more advantageous to one business than another. We will break down these benefits into three key sections, general benefits, security benefits and user benefits.

Obviously, this is just a handful of benefits that cover broadly the whole concept of access control and do not dig into the individual systems, some of which are much more effective for a warehouse, for instance. 

General Benefits of Warehouses Access Control

Keep the Warehouse Secure - access control systems can have a range of features that keep your warehouse and properties secure and safe from threats both internal and external.

To put this into context, something like anti-passback stops two people coming through on the same ID or credential by not allowing re-scanning within a set window.  

Improve Your Image - regardless of what your warehouse stores and how it is utilised, it is always a good idea to make your warehouse look more secure and that you have high security technology in place.

Whether it's from an internal or external security standpoint, your warehouse will look much more secure and professional.

Ability to Pair - one of the best parts about warehouse access control systems is their ability to pair well with just about any other security system.

A lot of the time, CCTV cameras are used in unison with access control measures to create a much more secure environment. 

Security Benefits of Warehouses Access Control

Protect Your Warehouse - installing an access control system has a whole host of its own security benefits, from pairing with other security technology to tracking entrance and exit times.

All this additional information and control will allow for a much safer warehouse and working environment. 

Minimise External Threats - access control systems are much less likely to be compromised than a traditional lock and key setup and are a form of digital lock that cannot be picked or affected by a copied key or alike.

Limit Internal Theft - having a tighter rein on your warehouse (and even your stock with RFID tags) allows for a better idea of what your staff and users are doing and where they are. This can help create shortlists of suspects if something goes missing or there is a stock discrepancy. 

User Benefits of Warehouses Access Control

Save Time - having any form of access control will help your business save a huge amount of time as you will not have to spend time reaching for keys and manually unlocking doors.

Credentials can be easily copied if someone loses theirs, as opposed to a lock and key where the lock may have to be changed due to potential for someone to find a lost key.

Keyless Entry - in addition to the above benefit, having access control installed creates a keyless entry system for your business.

If, for example, you have RFID technology, you may not even need a credential as it will be within the vehicle or your ID badge. 

Short Learning Curve - due to the simplicity of the systems, there will be an incredibly short learning curve allowing staff and users to understand the concept almost instantly, depending on the technology type.

 

What Do You Look For in the Best Access Control for Warehouses?

In terms of looking out for the best things in an access control system, the concept is completely moot as what is important to one business, or warehouse, in this instance, may not be as important to another one. 

With the above being said however, there are certainly some things you can consider when looking at different access control systems for your warehouse.

Let’s explore some of the most important things to remember when choosing a warehouse access control system. 

  • Viable - determining the best system for your warehouse can be tricky but when you know the nuances between the different systems you can determine which is right for you. For example, a small company with one forklift would not benefit from RFID tags in the warehouse.
  • Suits Your Needs - finding an access control system that works for you is critical for your warehouse security and management. Not every system is going to fit your situation, so doing the research for the best solution for you is important. 

  • Cost Effective - this does not mean the cheapest solution, this means the best value for money for your warehouse. A more expensive system may generate a ton more benefits for a larger warehouse such as Amazon, but would not generate the same ROI for a smaller company.

  • Flexible - due to the versatility of the different access control systems there are definitely some benefits and usages for picking one system over another. Having flexibility in your access control system allows for a plethora of benefits and features that can improve your business and warehouse.

Cost of Access Control Systems for Warehouses

There are a range of factors that can affect the overall cost of access control systems for a warehouse, and each business will have their own costs to factor in. 

With this being said, we are able to summarise some core examples of factors that would affect the end price of installing an access control system within a warehouse.

Below are some factors that come into play, these are not the full list but gives you a better idea of what kind of things affect pricing and costs.

  • Size of the Warehouse  

  • Warehouse Location (i.e. City Centre or Remote)

  • Likelihood of External Threats

  • Potential Severity of Internal Threats or Lost Inventory 

  • Number of Entrances or Exits Needed to be Fitted (Entry and Exit Points)

  • Type or Types of Access Control System to be Installed

  • Current Systems Deployed

  • Level of Complexity (How Hard It Will Be to Install)

  • Chosen Access Control System (Model/Brand)

  • Installation Rates in the Region (I.e. London = higher costs)

  • Company Size and Budget Allocation 

As we mentioned, this is just some examples of what can impact your end price. 

Speculative Warehouses Access Control Example

Being able to accurately put a price on an access control system for a warehouse is almost impossible without knowing answers to some of the above factors. 

An example of what it could cost to install access control in a warehouse could be similar to the below. Please note this is just for contextualisation and may not be representative of your warehouse’s costs.

 

Per External Door Warehouse Access Control Cost - £800 per door

 

RFID Fitting - (One Per Forklift) - £250 x5 Vehicles 

 

Maintenance (Infrequent) - £300 per annum maintenance contract

 

Repair (Per Visit) - £80-120 per visit 

 

Keycard Issue (One Per Staff Member) - £5 per staff member

 

Additional Costs - Replacement parts, readers and controllers anywhere from £120 - £400 depending on what needs to be fixed

 

Choose the Right Access Control System for Warehouses

Answering the question ‘What is the best access control system for a warehouse?’ is almost impossible and if you asked 100 different people you would probably get a plethora of answers. 

There is no short answer to that question as there are so many situations and factors that could affect what system is best for a warehouse. We have discussed just a few examples in this article but have by no means covered them all.

If you are interested in learning which form of access control is best for your warehouse, get in touch with our expert team who will be more than happy to talk you through your options and the different systems that might benefit your business.

Here at Nortech, we have been heavily involved in the UK security industry for over 30 years and have seen a lot of technologies used in a lot of innovative ways, there is no one size fits all solution, even if you’re in the same business.

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Why Should You Trust Us?

It seems that people and vehicle access control is an incredibly complex world using hard to understand technology, yet it impacts so many of the environments we interact with on a daily basis.

We are here to fill in the disconnect. We'll break down access control, the benefits, and drawbacks as well, including expert insight based on over 30 years experience in the industry operating as an independent British company. Our goal is to give you ALL the information so you know what's right for you.

Please consider subscribing or adding to the conversation in the comments below. We appreciate you taking the time to visit our resource centre.

James McKellar

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