C. F. Lynch & Associates

How Secure Is Your DC?

By Clifford F. Lynch

DC Velocity, April, 2003

If you’re feeling insecure these days, you’re in good company. For most of us in a time of orange alerts, the prospects of terrorist attacks and workplace violence no longer seem so remote, and this state of high anxiety is prompting many – if not most – companies to review their security measures. Of course, no manager can eliminate all risks to a facility, its contents and its people. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to fling open the doors and invite in thieves and terrorists. Whether the bigger threat is posed by the enemy without or the enemy within, there are steps you can take to protect your distribution center.

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 of 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 view 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 shipping and receiving 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, be sure that every vehicle or person entering the property checks in with a live person or video system. It is important to see the individuals – not just hear their voices.

Ideally, closed circuit television 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 buildings 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 on hand.

If the facility handles unusually expensive or vulnerable products, these should be kept in caged areas within the building with access carefully monitored.

Bad Company

Securing a facility against outside intruders is relatively easy compared to protecting a facility from the enemy within. In many areas, distribution center 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 perform 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, administered by companies like Reid Psychological Systems and London House, 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 protecting your 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.



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