As the Curator at John Ball Zoo, Tim Sampson faced a significant challenge in ensuring the safety of both animals and zookeepers due to the manual process of managing staff keys for animal cages. The process was time-consuming, prone to errors, and put the animals at risk. Management had to manually account for staff keys that were placed in a dropbox at the end of each shift to ensure everyone had checked in safely. With 200 employees, this was a time-consuming and inefficient process.
Moreover, lost keys could be costly, and some staff members did not feel comfortable securing their keys on-site when not at work, according to Tim.
Tim and his management team realized they needed a better solution to solve these challenges. An automated system was needed that enabled staff members to easily check out and return their keys without additional oversight. They also needed a way for management to be notified when keys were returned, and most importantly when keys were not returned.
A web search turned up Keycafe, which stood out for its automated workflow and alerts, as well as its customizable time-based key permissions. Staff members are now required to scan their unique, identifying NFC badge to access the Keycafe system, ensuring that only authorized personnel have access to keys.
“The staff will check keys out and in at the start and end of each shift, with certain trained staff accessing specialized key groups when the schedule dictates it,” said Tim. The keys to animal cages are only accessible during preset time shifts, and an alert is sent out if keys are not returned on time, enhancing the safety of both staff and animals.
For a group of particularly dangerous animal cage keys, an alert is sent 15 minutes after pickup as zookeepers typically do not need access for longer than that. On emergency occasions when an animal needs urgent care outside of normal shifts, one-time bookings are used for an employee to gain access to the animal’s cage.
Since using Keycafe, the team at John Ball Zoo has not had anyone forget or lose keys, potentially saving tens of thousands of dollars to re-key the site. The team leaders also appreciate being alerted when all staff members have returned their keys and finished their day safely - without being physically present to monitor key returns.
For staff members, many of them now feel more comfortable securing their keys on site in the SmartBoxes and not being responsible for them when they are not at work. When starting and ending their day, the process for key pickup and dropoff is straightforward and quick, with little to no impact on their schedule.
Keycafe has provided John Ball Zoo with a secure and efficient solution for managing staff keys and ensuring team member safety at the end of each shift. The automated check-in and check-out process has improved the operational efficiency of the zoo, saving them time and money. As a curator, Tim Sampson and his team can now focus on their mission of inspiring guests to care about animals and the natural world, without worrying about the time-consuming process of manually managing staff keys.