By Clifford F. Lynch
DC Velocity, June, 2011
Lately we seem to have been plagued with an increasing number of cargo
thefts; and many of these, including the theft of entire trailer loads, have
occurred on distribution center property. Often, the mysterious disappearances
are from what are thought to be secure facilities; but in many other cases, they
are from warehouses that do not have even the basic security precautions in
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.
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 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.
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