Chinese electronic lock manufacturers are globally renowned OEM partners. As quality improves, Chinese-made products are gaining a "lock" on the market.
Electronic locks come in the following two categories: access control and intercom. Access control lock players include manufacturers such as One Top, YLI, Behost, YGS and LCJ. "The quality of Chinese materials is getting much better," said Jason Cen, General Manager of YLI.
Qiu Yan, who works in Behost's purchasing department, listed the company's two main strategies: user-friendliness and added intelligence. Behost has developed ball-shaped locks for the handicapped and elderly. Induction locks are an example of greater intelligence; users gain entry via fingerprint or SMS.
Behost is also focusing on fingerprint and fire locks. The fingerprint version is embedded with a DIY function for home applications. It can also be used in hotels and offices. Mass production is set to begin in August. Meanwhile, the company's fire locks combine anti-theft and alarm locks. Design improvements are lowering false-alarm rates.
The company is also looking to enhance efficiency and save money through conservation efforts. Energy saving lamps installed in its facilities have reduced power consumption by 30 percent. Automation has also lowered staff levels from 120 to 73 despite the fact that monthly production increased from 8,000 locks to 13,000.
As the U.S. may ban electronic locks containing vinyl in 10 years, Behost is using other materials, said Derek Chiang, President of Behost. "We are also improving our packaging by using biodegradable pulp."
Then, YLI has developed a patented bolt lock that works in ultra-low temperatures; it comes with an energy saving design and photoelectric trigger. YLI also incorporates special features to protect wiring during installation and maintenance.
"Remanence and pull are two key points in lock quality," stressed Qiu. "There is no way to erase remanence completely, but we are taking steps to reduce it by shifting to use of different materials and improving circuits. Our products do not pass unless they have remanence levels of less than two kilograms. Pull (magnetic attraction) data is also tested and controlled."
"There are three factors that affect pull: materials, techniques and electroplating," said Cen, "Sometimes, the magnetic force seems strong, but it can wear out fast if the hand joint is distorted. Some manufacturers cannot even make smooth lock surfaces. At YLI, we test all our products for pull and to ensure that surfaces are not wavy. We also do electroplating to prevent distortion."
Since 80 percent of holding force is concentrated in the middle part of lock, the company has enlarged the middle magnet to ensure better performance, important in reducing false-alarm rates. "For many electronic lock providers, this is as high as 30 percent," said Cen.
In addition, age testing is used to evaluate voltage and temperature 500,000 times to ensure 100 percent compliance with standards. "Many problems," said Cen, "are caused by workers, who do not know how to fix the locks. Metal and wood doors require entirely different methods."
All YLI equipment is imported from Italy, Germany and Sweden. "Since we have the same equipment as overseas players," said Chen, "our quality is nearly the same. We have come up with our own CNC, die and life test equipment, and we are working with the same supplier that delivers miniature lines to Samsung and Siemens."
Meanwhile, Behost has implemented rules to govern its operations, including for vinyl insertion, workshops, temperature and time. Its printed circuit boards, for example, use surface mounting technology (SMT), automatic winding and computer numerical control (CNC). All materials meet the RoHS standard, and it is cooperating with a college in Guangzhou to enhance environmental protection.
"All our electronic locks are made of stainless steel, including even the screws and lock tongues. This is very different from many other players' products that use stainless iron and plastic or come with only a stainless steel surface," said Chiang. "If you do not use stainless steel, lock tongues get rusty in about three months and the locks, themselves, are easier to break." Behost, he pointed out, provides a 10-year warranty.
Sales and Marketing
Established in 2002, YLI sells products in more than 70 countries, and monthly production is 30,000 locks. In China, 60 percent to 70 percent of access control system manufacturers are YLI customers. In China, YLI has more than 1,000 customers with another more than 100 overseas, including 60 OEM partners. These are mostly access control system suppliers, system integrators and redistributors.
The company's best-selling product is its 600-pound electromagnetic lock. In Europe, said Cen, its triangle lock tongue is popular, while in North America, users prefer its thick lock tongue. Cen confessed that Chinese-made products still compete on cost; major competitors are Taiwanese players, which benefit from extensive overseas sales experience.
Behost's main products are electromagnetic, bolt and fire locks. Today, nearly 40 percent of its products are exported. At home in China, the company attends shows in nearly every major city. Overseas, Behost markets its products under two brands: FCP for the low to mid end and Behost for high-end markets. The latter is sold primarily in the U.S. and the Middle East. While the Korean market used to be dominated by VGSE, today, Behost is in the driver's seat. Customers include distributors, system integrators and end users.
Meanwhile, YLI is also teaming up with overseas partners at exhibitions in Dubai, Malaysia and Russia. In Romania, sales by one of its agents were twice what was expected. In fact, today, overseas markets account for 60 percent of total sales.