Keyed In

Paul Smith explains how digital technology is used to good effect in the management of keys.

Anyone who has worked in a dealership for any length of time will have heard the familiar question: “Where are the keys for that car?”  eTag, the key management software business I founded back in 2001, dedicated its research and development resources into honing a software-based answer to that age old question for any situation, in any dealership.

Our answer was to create software which integrates with market-leading key cabinets from Traka and supports the way dealerships actually work day-to-day. It also had to be possible to network it with modern Dealer Management Systems (DMS) so that when a new car arrived in a dealership it could be found on the key management system as soon as the DMS received its record.


Vehicle sales

To prove this you just need to look at a few in-dealership scenarios. A customer calls up enquiring about a specific car that they saw on your website that they would like to test drive. The salesman looks at eTag  on his PC, identifies the car has been moved to a different location and calls to make sure the vehicle is returned before the customer arrives, thereby avoiding losing the sale. Doing this just once per year should be worth at least £2, 000 each year to a dealership.


For dealerships operating in or close to London, you can tell who was driving that car in the congestion charge zone without paying. The same goes for staff liable to exceed speed limits or failing to pay for parking while one of your cars is offsite. Where that person is at fault you can charge them direct rather than conducting an undignified ‘witch hunt’ for the culprit or taking the hit to the dealership’s tight bottom-line. Just four incidents like this per year might cost the business up to £1,300.


Then there is the improved productivity and morale of your employees, especially technicians. It is reasonable to assume that each person could save 10 minutes per day not looking for keys, but instead finding the key and car’s exact location in milliseconds on their PC. If you multiply 10 minutes by the number of technicians and their retail labour rate, it is reasonable to assume savings in recovered productivity should easily top £25, 000 per year, even for the smallest dealership.

Driver efficiency

Digital tracking of keys can also police access to specific vehicles such as courtesy cars and demo stock, ensuring these cars are available for customers when they have booked them out.

The efficiency of drivers between locations can also be tracked. As dealership groups get larger and centralised preparation facilities or compounds become more common, moving stock between sites becomes a bigger feature of doing business. But it can also become a spiralling cost to the business if not managed carefully.

Digital tracking means you can find out when keys were picked up from one dealership and deposited in the key cabinet at the car’s destination. If it took more than the say 45 minutes you know this trip should take; there may be something wrong. Digital can build up a picture.


Finally there’s the saving from not losing sets of keys. A typical dealership will lose or misplace at least 10 sets of keys per year at £250 each. Very often a replacement key will be ordered from but never collected when the original has been found in a drawer or someone’s pocket. The saving can reach £2, 500 per year; but most save much more than that.