Codelocks celebrates 30 years of innovation

Dominic Ryan operations director at Codelocks looks back at three decades of business

It all started from a flat in Red Lion Square, central London. Dorothea and Desmond Ryan taking calls in the fourth floor flat, running down five flights of stairs to the basement where the stock was stored. Then they’d take the orders around the block to the post office for dispatch.

The business rapidly took off, prompting a rental of a small unit at the back of the square which they rapidly outgrew culminating in an eventual relocation to Newbury in Berkshire where the company has been ever since.

Of course, surviving for 30 years in a rapidly changing world doesn’t happen by accident. Here are a few of the things that I believe have contributed to our continued success.

Family values

Though much has changed in the access control industry, I’m proud that Codelocks still has the same family values as when I first joined in the early 1990s, when there were just three of us servicing our core industry distributors. We still supply those distributors today.

The family has always been very hands-on with the running of the company, from operating the warehouse and talking to customers, to getting out and visiting sites. We try to impress the same ethos with our management team. We strive to be inclusive and value our people as individuals. Our business is built on respect and trust for one another, and we also want to see employees expand their roles as our business grows. 

Though we’re still pushing the boundaries with our latest Smart Locks, we never forget that we built our customer base by offering a wide range of practical solutions."

A strong product range

Though we’re still pushing the boundaries with our latest Smart Locks, we never forget that we built our customer base by offering a wide range of practical solutions. One of our early mechanical locks for example, the CL255 mortice latch, is still hugely popular, with its premium finish, and our 50 pence shaped thumb turn.

Another product that has outlived many of its competitors, is the CL5010 Heavy Duty Tubular Mortice Latch. To me this is the holy grail; an electronic lock with a solid mechanical foundation that provides access control without the expense of installing a hard-wired traditional system.

The CL5010 was a milestone on our electronic lock roadmap bridging the gap between mechanical and electronic locks. It enabled us to engage with new customers with ever smarter and more diverse requirements and has given us a reliable mechanical platform from which to deliver an electronic stand-alone solution.

An eye on the future

Whilst there is still a lot of demand for our traditional product lines, our ability to innovate as we develop new products and services is core to our success in new and existing markets. Our app and web-based access solutions for example, enables us to appeal to a wider audience, and customers are finding ever more interesting ways to utilise our technology to deliver services in ways we only dreamed of. Our KitLock by Codelocks locker locks, have been used to provide secure, flexible access to equipment in recording studios, to create VIP storage solutions at music festivals, and to enable sports fans to book and gain access to lockers at football stadiums from their smart phones.

Colin Campbell and Dominic Ryan

We are quick to react to changing circumstances in order to support our customers, too. In 2020 we released Clean by Codelocks – a photocatalytic coating that has been proven capable of eliminating the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus (COVID-19) within minutes. Not surprisingly, it’s been popular with businesses and organisations looking for an extra level of protection against Coronavirus – such as in education and healthcare environments, offices, shops, and restaurants.    

A great team

You don’t run a successful business for 30 years – and survive a world-wide pandemic – without having a great team. And there’s no doubt that one man in particular – Colin Campbell, who joined us in 2015 and is now managing director – has made a big contribution to our current success. 

One of Colin’s biggest challenges was to see us through the pandemic – and he’s done a great job. “The business was already in a good position to ride out some tough months, and we quickly put a plan together. We began by reassuring all staff that their jobs were safe. And we’re proud to say we lost no employees because of the pandemic,” explains Colin.

“We appreciate the importance of our supply chain and supported them by placing frequent orders, so they could easily manage their cashflow. Where there were Covid related production delays, we paid the factories early so they remained solvent. We also supported our customers by accepting flexible payments and smaller minimum order quantities and providing regular stock updates.”

One supplier commented: “Codelocks was one of very few suppliers to have 100% record of On Time in Full deliveries during the pandemic.” 

But what really helped us was that Colin (and the rest of the team) had already built a resilient business. We have strong financial management, great supplier relations, a loyal customer base and passionate workforce. 

Loyal customers

We wouldn’t be where we are today without our customers – both the locksmiths and installers that fit our products, and the clients that use them. We put our customers first. Our reputation for providing world class support and our expertise sets us apart. 

Jason Priest, for example, of the Oxford-based specialist locksmith J. Priest & Son, has been working with Codelocks throughout his 30-year career. Jason has worked with us on many projects including schools and colleges within Oxford University. He says: “Codelocks is a very professional company, and the development of its standalone smart lock prevents the need for continuous code changes on site. All other manufacturers only offer some of the features – or, if they offer all, only in conjunction with other smart products.”

Paul Pasquali, group operations manager of Porsche Centre Preston, loved the access control system we supplied for his luxury car dealership: “We needed an access control system that combined flexibility with the utmost peace of mind. The unique entry codes, design of the lock and the ability to control access at certain times is very beneficial to us, especially as the vehicles and equipment on site are of such high value. But equally important is the level of customer service. We’ve been really impressed with Codelocks – the follow up visits and advice have been first class.”

What’s next for Codelocks?

Over the next 30 years, we plan to continue our rapid product innovation program and grow and expand the business. Currently, we see a lot of opportunities in the rental sector. Our Smart Locks are ideal for customers who want to offer a short-term rental, and the Codelocks Connect platform that supports them has an open API – enabling customers to integrate our access solutions into their own online customer journeys. 

Partnerships are being formed using our technology to provide access control solutions to problems not dreamt of even a few years ago. Right now, we’re working on a raft of projects, including secure cycle storage, secure collection for building materials, click and collect takeaway food solutions and even ways to order and collect your holiday money.

I am proud to say that the company still has the same feel as when I first joined in the early 1990’s, with just three of us servicing our core industry distributors. From humble beginnings in a flat in central London, a worldwide company has evolved. In many ways, as a company we haven’t fallen far from that tree. We are still servicing the needs of our very first customers and we are still selling the original mechanical Codelocks that put us on the map, but now we are offering so much more. And Desmond and Dorothea have overseen our steady growth adding to the Codelocks’ product portfolio, and family of people who share our values. 

We love niche and slightly quirky projects and will continue to develop those alongside our core range. But whatever comes next, you can be sure that we’ll stick to our vision – to provide smarter access for everyone – and the core values that have got us to where we are today.

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