Manufacturing and Distribution Center Security

 In Blog Postings, Healthcare Security, Hospitality, Retail Security-Loss Prevention, Transportation

Manufacturing and distribution center security is often either minimal or easily circumvented by employees, and in some cases management knows that employees are degrading the security and yet they do nothing to stop it from happening.  Now let me be clear, it is not the intent of management to circumvent the security, or in that matter it is not the intent of the employees to do it either, it is often just the security culture that has become diminished over time.

Manufacturing and Distribution Center Security

Manufacturing facilities and distribution centers often are places that experience a high number of security losses due to theft. In many cases these types of facilities may have little or no security, and as mentioned above in some cases employees may regularly be circumventing the security measures that do exist.

The main issue with a manufacturing facility or a distribution center is that they will often contain lots of new merchandise in its original packaging, or even prior to packaging, something that is often highly-desirable to both proficient and novice thieves.

When an employee is rationalizing their actions to steal an item, they often will believe that the employer will not miss one item out of hundreds or thousands.  Often too they know that inventory may not be tracked properly or systems in place are so loose that there is an acceptable margin for errors on inventory.  It is often the culture that has become such that employees know the vulnerabilities and they exploit them.

The person or persons committing the theft and/or diversion can range from staff, vendors, visitors and even customers.  It really comes down to who has access to the products, so if your customers have unsupervised access to your manufacturing facility or warehouses, they too may be stealing right out from under your nose.

Another example of this is a manufacturing facility in the upper Midwest that we assessed several years ago.  Their actual security was above average, using card access and biometrics along with ample security cameras.  Their main security risk and vulnerability was the fact that on hot days they would open all exterior doors to the manufacturing and warehouse areas for ventilation.  So all of the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent over the years on security technology was rendered unless and ineffective as a result.

Finally, all manufacturing facilities, warehouses, and distribution centers all have something in common, and that is that truck drivers and other types of delivery service drivers can create a significant security risk. That is not to say that all drivers are a security risk, but they are often trusted to roam in what is normally a secure area, and they do so without the company knowing much about them.

Manufacturing and Distribution Center Security Vulnerabilities

A few of the often found vulnerabilities of a manufacturing facility or warehouse/distribution center is the fact that there are often loading dock doors that can be, and often are open and not staffed.

Open and non-staffed doors can be a vulnerability for unauthorized persons gaining access into, or authorized persons from exiting, these doors.  In other words, truck drivers will often find their way into a building to get in out of the weather, or just to observe the loading or unloading of their trailers.  In some cases they are not allowed inside and either wait in their trucks or a driver’s lounge.  However in many cases they can and do enter the building and can often be found walking around “killing time.”

Truck drivers, unless they are authorized to be within the manufacturing or warehouse area should not be allowed to have such access, and employees need to know how to manage unauthorized access.  If such management of the drivers is not in place there is nothing stopping them from possibly getting a hold of some products or inventory and taking those items to their truck cab.  We are not suggesting that all drivers are a security risk, only that the potential is there and your security program has to account for the possibility.

Employees on the other hand have been known to remove items from the facilities and stage them outside the building to be retrieved later after-hours, or if they can they will take the items to their cars during breaks.  If you do not think this happens your employees may be getting the best of you.

Often times employees will justify their theft of items because in their minds they are not getting paid enough, and/or the company will never miss one or two items now and then.  Neither is justification for theft, but employees will often feel otherwise.

When working with an agriculture wholesaler during an assessment, they claimed that their inventory was often short each month and they were not sure where the products were going to.  In this case it was discovered that some of their employees were stealing the products by taking them out of the building and concealing them in a vacant lot adjacent to the property, and coming back at night to retrieve their loot.  It was also found that the employees involved were selling the items online in direct competition with their employer.

Another example that we came across was where waste product was being diverted and sold by employees of a manufacturing facility.  In this case the items being stolen were actually working products and the only reason they were considered waste was because they did not pass the quality control inspection. So in this case an employee was taking out the trash and diverting it to their personal car, and then selling the products online at nearly the retail price.  Not bad for trash.

One additional vulnerability is the fact that staff that works in shipping and receiving can ship items to themselves or friends without management knowing it.  In these cases what is often found is that the employee committing the diversion has total control over shipping with no one checking their work, so in reality they can put anything into a box and print and apply a shipping label without drawing attention.

Manufacturing and Distribution Center Security Tips

There are numerous tips that an organization can implement when it comes to security measures, and listed below are some of those tips.

Truck Driver Security:

  • If your organization does not already offer it, consider providing a “driver lounge” for the truck drivers that does not have access to any secure or security sensitive areas.  This lounge area should have the amenities that the drivers might require, such as a restroom, telephones and possibly Wi-Fi if available.  In doing so you are resolving any need for the drivers to seek access to such services and equipment which might require them to enter a restricted area.
  • Never allow truck drivers to wander through your warehouse, manufacturing facility, storage areas or shipping or receiving areas unescorted.

 Building Exterior:

  • The trailer storage area should be fully-enclosed with the appropriate fencing materials that are suited for the proper level of security. This can be chain-link material that is sturdy, the proper height, and commercial grade.  There should be no space in which a person could crawl under the fencing materials, and the top of such fencing may need to include barbed wire as appropriate to interfere with the passing of materials over it, or anyone trying to climb over it. A minimum fence height of eight-feet is suggested.
  • Ensure that you have acceptable visibility in the areas on both sides of the fence so that no trash, clutter, weeds, landscaping or other items offers any areas of concealment inside or outside to the fence.
  • Dumpsters and recycle containers should be locked at all times.
  • Consider the practice of having a minimum of two employees to be present when trash is being taken out of the building.
  • Refuge/trash receptacles, such as “dumpsters” and recycling containers are recommended to be located away from the building, trailer storage areas, shipping/receiving, all parking, and so on so that employees or drivers cannot conceal stolen items in this area easily to be retrieved at some other time.
  • Security patrols should include the dumpster/recycling areas during times such as just prior to staff shifts changes. Security should be looking in and around these areas for the diversion of products or company property.

 Employee Parking Areas:

 The employee parking area, and any parking areas where drivers may temporarily store their personnel vehicles should be fenced, under CCTV surveillance,

  • Establish a policy and practice that forbids the parking of personal vehicles, those owned by anyone including the truck drivers, employees and visitors, from being driven into or parking in the shipping and receiving yard area for any reason.
  • Do not permit or facilitate employee or visitor parking near the warehouse shipping and/or receiving doors, or where loaded trailers are stored prior to shipments, or where loaded trailers are stored prior to unloading.

Facility Security Measures:

  • Keep the gate(s) to the exterior yard area, trailer parking areas, and the loading docks areas locked at times when the warehouse is closed.
  • A security video surveillance system should be installed and used in all areas, inside and outside, of the facility. This would include all parking areas, loading docks doors, shipping and receiving areas, and any area that is used for the design, manufacturing, packaging and storage of any company products.
  • A security CCTV system should always be used in those spaces where high valued products are stored.  The CCTV should be set to record who enters/leaves this space, and record where the employees goes in that space and what they handle.
  • Secure high value items (e.g. those items that are often considered very desirable, or have been known to be stolen in the past) in a secure room or cage area.
  • Access to any area where high value items are stored should be tightly controlled, and when possible an electronic access control system should be utilized.  When that is not possible, require that at least two employees be present whenever those areas are accessed.
  • Consider security checkpoints at the entrances to the trailer parking areas and loading dock areas so that all vehicles entering or exiting this area are required to be stopped and screened at the checkpoint for inspection prior to entering or leaving the site.

Loading Dock Security:

  • In the event that your company allows that the overhead doors do be open for any reason, consider using security gates to restrict ingress or egress to and from the building.
  • Have a policy that requires that the loading dock area be staffed at all times whenever a truck is being loaded or unloaded, or whenever any products are staged to be shipped.
  • Ensure that your shipping process is computerized and that all shipping labels are traceable to an existing order so that an employee cannot make unauthorized shipments to themselves or others.

The above tips are just a few of the dozens if not hundreds of potential security measures that a manufacturing facility, warehouse, or distribution center could consider as part of their security and loss prevention programs.  Since very few facilities are exactly the same, what may work for some may not work for others.  That being the case each facility needs to have a comprehensive security risk assessment conducted to determine the risks and vulnerabilities present, and then how to mitigate those issues.

The same security tips above can also be considered for smaller facilities as well, albeit on a much smaller level.  It really comes down to what works best for your organization or facility, and what is your desired outcome or goal.

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