The industry continues to be plagued of cargo thefts; and many of these, including the theft of entire trailer loads, have occurred on distribution center property. The mysterious disappearances are becoming more sophisticated, and often from what are thought to be secure facilities. In many other cases however, they are from warehouses that do not have even the basic security precautions in place, giving the thieves an easy target.

The securing of a distribution center can be difficult and expensive, but the operator who chooses not to deal with it is simply acting irresponsibly, particularly if the company is a logistics service provider and is handling the products of others. While no manager can totally eliminate the risks to a facility, its contents, and/or its employees, there are steps that can be taken to minimize risk as much as possible. Worley for example, has taken major steps to protect its customers’ and its own interests. (Some of these are described in the whitepaper, Meet the Driver, on this website.)

Security begins at the property line. Ideally, a distribution center is a totally fenced environment with guard service to check all vehicles and persons entering or leaving the property. When this is not possible, there should be adequate lighting and a network of closed circuit television cameras that will provide a clear of the perimeter of all buildings. Cameras should be monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There should be no parking against the building except in the receiving and shipping areas. It does little good to have a clear line of sight around a building when it is blocked by cars and trucks.

When there is no guard, every vehicle or person entering the property should check in with a live person or video system. It is important to see the individuals – not just hear their voices.

Ideally, closed circuit cameras will be used inside the facility, as well. Beyond that, all building doors, including those to the offices should be locked. There are any number of key card and PIN number systems that will ensure that only those who are authorized to enter the building can do so. Truck drivers, of course, will not have the necessary identification and/or information, and should be allowed entry through a limited number of doors that open into a confined area. Here they should be registered and given only limited access to the facility.

No receiving or shipping door should be left open at any time unless an appropriate distribution center employee is present. If the facility handles unusually expensive or vulnerable products, these should be kept in caged areas within the building with access carefully monitored.

Securing a facility against outside intruders is relatively easy compared to protecting a facility from the enemy within, however. In many areas, distribution labor is scarce; and companies are forced to hire personnel they might otherwise reject. New employees should be screened carefully. A surprising number of companies do not provide background checks because of the expense involved. Yet this expense is negligible if it prevents even one problem; and this is quite likely, considering that 40 percent of all warehouse thefts are committed by employees. Every prospective employee should have both a drug test and a background check; and in today’s environment, integrity testing is strongly recommended, as well. These tests screen for honesty, attitudes toward customer service, risk of drug and alcohol use, and more. The tests are in full compliance with all federal and state discrimination laws.

Finally, managers should be trained to recognize unusual or dangerous behavior. Deterioration in attendance, work habits and relationships all are warning signs and should be dealt with appropriately. There is no fail-safe method for protection of property, products and personnel; but a well – implemented and managed security program, thoughtful and careful hiring practices, management training, and good common sense will go a long way toward minimizing risks.

Written By: Clifford F. Lynch