Ted Talks: A century of Schlage – celebrating the spirit of innovation

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Ted Talks: A century of Schlage – celebrating the spirit of innovation

By Ted_Roberts

Monday, April 23, 2018

Schlage History - Walter Schlage - Founder

Ted reflects upon the many technological and stylistic advancements that have made Schlage what it is today – and the man who started it all.

 

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Ted Roberts - Schlage History

Schlage didn’t invent the lock. But founder, innovator and visionary Walter Schlage certainly perfected it in ways no one could have imagined when he founded the company in 1920. From his first patent in 1909 – a door lock that could also turn the lights on and off – through the decades of innovation that followed, Schlage literally reinvented the door lock as well as the category of door hardware.

 

One of the first things a visitor notices when entering parent-company Allegion’s headquarters is a wall with 826 patent certificates proudly displayed. It stands as a testament to the lasting commitment to problem solving, customer security and satisfaction, and a spirit of innovation that has stood the test of time.

 

Who better than Ted Roberts, Allegion’s Style and Design Chief, to speak to this spirit? Ted reflects upon the many technological and stylistic advancements that have made Schlage what it is today – and the man who started it all.

Q&A with Ted Roberts

Q. Where did Schlage begin and where is the company now?

A. “The company has been around for a long time and has quite the history. It all started with Walter Schlage, an immigrant lock maker, who brought some very original ideas with him to America which then became patents and the foundation of Schlage. Dynamic, interesting and creative, Walter was what you’d call a “tinkerer.” His very simple goal, when you boil it all down, was to solve problems.

“That’s really our goal today. Whether we’re talking engineering challenges, keeping up with the latest style trends or making our door hardware easy to install and use, everything we do is designed to afford our homeowners the best possible experience. It’s no surprise, with this kind of heritage, that people expect a lot from us. We want to exceed those expectations.”

Ted Talks - Walter Schlage - Schlage History

Q. Where do you see things going?

A. “I don’t see our mission changing in the future, this perfect harmony of style and function. I see us continuing the melding of aesthetics, innovative product features, reliability and performance that continues to delight our customers. We have some big shoes to fill. We take that responsibility – to our heritage and to our customers – very seriously.”

Q. What are some of the specific innovations Walter – and Schlage – are known for?

A. “With over 800 North American patents alone, there are a lot of them. Walter was really the grandfather of the smart lock. His first patent was for a lock that turned on your house lights when you entered. It’s so ironic how that very first innovation was the precursor to the entire generation of smart locks we’re introducing as we speak.

“Another that’s relevant today is Walter’s process of attaching glass to metal to create a glass door knob. They’re popular again today and are prominently featured in some of our newest collections. Taking something old and making it new again while remaining faithful to its origins – that’s a great example of true timelessness. And that goes for the products we make as well as our company as a whole.”

“Walter also improved the cylindrical lock by adding his push-button innovation. which is still in use today. Again, we started with Walter’s desire to make life easier for people and that continues today with the products we make.”

Ted Talks - Walter Schlage - Smart Lock

Q. What has changed the most with the company over the years?

A. “In a word, scope. The more we’ve looked at keeping the promises we’ve made to our homeowners over the years, the more new designs, styles, products and technologies have been explored.

“We’ve grown so much as a company and as innovators. Mechanical and electronic locks. Exit devices. Card readers. Biometric interfaces. Door hardware. I don’t even think Walter Schlage could have envisioned what his homegrown company would one day become.”

Q. What do you think Walter Schlage would say if he saw you now?

A. “On one hand, I imagine he would be in awe of the size of the company, today’s technology and, like I said, the sheer scope of the products the brands create. I also think he would still want to tinker with everything – see what’s going on inside and what makes today’s products tick.

“But he’d find a lot of familiar ground too, just in the way we approach our jobs and our commitment to security, safety and product performance. He’d also recognize in us a certain familiar entrepreneurial spirit and our company-wide desire to always look for and achieve the next best thing.”

Q. In your role as Style and Design Chief, how does this sense of history impact you, personally, in your day-to-day duties?

A. “I think I can speak for all of us when I say we feel like torch-bearers in a sense. Technologies change. Needs change. Styles certainly change–and then change back. We have to be in tune with that, just as Walter was in assessing his own customers’ needs way back when.

“That’s really our goal today. Whether we’re talking engineering challenges, keeping up with the latest style trends or making our door hardware easy to install and use, everything we do is designed to afford our homeowners the best possible experience. It’s no surprise, with this kind of heritage, that people expect a lot from us. We want to exceed those expectations.”

Ted Talks - Schlage History

“As a designer following in his footsteps, I’m constantly aware that design is more than appearance – it’s a harmony of function as well as style, with each enhancing the other. Walter’s example guides us, as a company, to continue to look at what we do, holistically focusing on our customer and his or her positive experience with our products.

 

“For me, personally, I want us to continue our mission of keeping people safe and secure where they live, work and visit. We’re designing products that people rely on, so we need to get it right. If Walter saw us today, I would want him to recognize and appreciate that and feel as much pride as we do in making it happen. And, maybe a little selfishly, I’d like him to be impressed with our passion for design.”

From humble beginnings and the singular vision of a “tinkerer” to a global company and brand, Schlage has been and continues to be a testament to innovation and style. For more on how Schlage’s century-old heritage contributes to opening up a world of possibilities, visit Schlage.com.
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