By Brad Smith | Feb 05, 2018
Access control systems
Industry: Built Environment
Products: Access control systems.
"We protect the people who protect the nation's infrastructure, like nuclear arsenals and the airports," says Barnes, adding that the job is becoming more important all the time. He can't go into detail about many installations, but Isotec Security's customers include government facilities as well as banks and computing facilities.
The company's products, manufactured at its plant outside Denver, focus on controlling access to facilities. Among these products are "mantrap" interlocking safety doors and their control systems. A mantrap security door system includes two sets of interlocking doors so that one set of doors closes before the second set opens. The systems, which can be manually or automatically operated, often have a metal detector.
Isotec's systems are operated with "programmable logic controllers" with a variety of codes to operate the doors. The doors use magnetic locks designed to operate through 3 million cycles.
The Department of Homeland Security certified Isotec in 2012 as a qualified anti-terrorism technology provider under the 2002 act that created the department. Isotec's security doors are available for purchase through a General Services Administration contract.
Barnes, a self-described serial entrepreneur, acquired Isotec Security in 2008, his seventh company. It has grown from seven employees to 17 now and is in its third facility since the acquisition. Barnes' prior companies have included a gold exploration firm in Mexico ("the first time I made $1 million in a day") as well as software development, medical device, and energy firms.
Isotec is able to compete for new business because its overhead is low enough that the price of its equipment is easy to justify. Barnes says one guard at a bank might cost $50,000 a year while Isotec's mantrap security system would cost $52,000. "The ROI is one year," he says, with the added advantage that Isotec's system is built to standards set by the Homeland Security Administration and that Isotec has been vetted by the GSA.
The company's safety door technology can include metal detectors which automatically signal a door to open or lock if a weapon is detected. These detectors can spot metal as small as a razor blade or flash drive, which is valuable for correctional facilities or IT server farms, Barnes says.
Much of Isotec Security's technology is based on the work of Paul Labarile, who has been involved with the development of interlocking security doors nearly 30 years, Barnes says. Labarile continues to be a systems designer for Isotec Security.
Isotec partners with another firm, CEIA-USA, which supplies elliptical walk-through door frame metal detectors for Isotec's systems. The company has documented that bank robberies have been prevented by using these metal detector door systems.
Having an armed guard or technician watching for someone or something carrying weapons or explosives through a metal detector can be inefficient, Barnes says, and can cause long lines at places like airport security. "If someone has to put everything on a conveyor belt, then walk through a metal detector and then walk back to the belt and pick up their things, it takes time. We can remove [guards and technicians] and make it automated. We're working on that. We're trying to set up a pilot study on our automated process," he says.
Barnes expects to conduct such a study in 2018, possibly at an airport, for the company's metal detection system.
Challenges: Barnes wants to put a more intentional growth strategy in place. "We need to break out of our current sales pattern into market verticals, where we have done business almost by happenstance and not design. We need to evolve from a happenstance type of opportunity to actually going out and making our own opportunities."
Opportunities: Growth as security becomes more automated and efficient, says Barnes. "The ROI is so unbelievably high. With the size of our company, we can compete on price without worrying about it. We [have competed] about price and won and then were accused of trying to buy the business. We have a lower cost structure. [Larger competitors] have a lot of mouths to feed and we don't."
Needs: "We need visibility," says Barnes, "and we can get that through self-determination." The company has largely relied on outsiders to get leads for new business, he adds, but that is changing as Isotec is increasingly finding its own opportunities.