Advances in technology mean you are at greater risk than ever from criminals. Priyanka Jethwa looks at what you can do to stay safe.
From top of the range electronics to thousands of pounds’ worth of premium alcohol and tobacco, depots are the ultimate one-stop shop for criminals to target.
So, the last thing you want is to make it easy for them to trespass and enter your facility. This means implementing vigilant security measures and procedures is essential, to stop goods being damaged or stolen. Strong security in depots and their grounds became a hot topic after one of United Wholesale (Scotland)’s Glasgow depots suffered an armed robbery earlier this year, in which a group of three men escaped with a significant sum of cash.
Insurance will protect you to an extent from the costs of hazards, such as flooding and fire, but the potential loss of profit that could strike while your warehouse is closed following such a theft could prove very costly.
All wholesalers have some form of physical security measures in place. But are they the most up-to-date and cost-effective available?
This guide will explain how you can make sure your depot, surrounding grounds and vehicles all tick both boxes.
Firstly, though, are you getting the security basics right? The British Security Industry Association (BSIA), a trade organisation for the professional security industry in the UK, says that it is paramount for depots to understand what threats they might face and for staff to remain vigilant at all times.
James Kelly, chief executive officer at BSIA, states that one way to deter crime is to scrutinise your depot against the risk register – a risk management tool that can help businesses to identify day-to-day risks and the best ways to mitigate them.
Kelly also advises wholesalers that it can be worthwhile to enlist the help of credible security consultants, to adequately identify what should appear on your risk register. Having an outsider’s opinion can prove to be valuable in the long-term, he believes, as they may be able to identify key risk areas that a depot manager may overlook.
“Security consultants can provide independent, professional support to ensure that any security measures required by the client correspond to both existing and emerging threats,” Kelly adds.
Brendan Musgrove, managing director of specialist security-solutions provider Cordant Security, says that wholesalers should prioritise investing in CCTV that provides 360º coverage of all loading and receiving bays, as well as picking lines.
“In addition, they will need a fit-for-purpose access management system that covers all areas, whilst restricted access areas should be built into the system,” he adds. “High-value storage areas are also fundamental, to ensure that desirable and expensive goods are controlled.”
A spokesperson for Crown Protection Services, one of the UK’s largest suppliers of security solutions to the wholesale industry, says that another important feature in which wholesalers should be investing is security continuity.
“Having security continuity, which means being able to trace products physically and electronically across the site, is an important factor to consider,” he advises.
However, BSIA’s Kelly cautions that when procuring any security product or service, it is essential that consideration be given to quality and understanding, rather than merely initial purchase.
This means that wholesalers need to ensure that end-users – that is, staff who will be directly dealing with the equipment – have a thorough understanding of their security requirements, before making impulsive decisions.
Thus, wholesalers should be trying to build close relationships with security firms when purchasing, so that they fully understand what they are getting and how to use it to deter crime. This is particularly crucial, because those responsible for procurement often do not have the specialist skills to detect the risk in their company’s depot, grounds or fleet.
One of the biggest changes in security operations in the past five years has been advances in technology, explains Moosh Ben-Ari, project consultant at security consultancy ICTS Consult.
These have created more challenges for businesses in protecting their properties and physical assets, Ben-Ari explains.
He adds: “The use of drones, sensitive compact cameras and computerised systems to collect information has changed the threats and solutions.”
Noting this year’s incident at United Wholesale (Scotland), Ben-Ari says that the best possible plan to put in place in case a crime such as this occurs is to raise employees’ awareness by training them for a range of scenarios and installing physical and technological means of prevention, as well as the necessary tools.
Additionally, Ben-Ari urges wholesalers to take seriously the process of regularly carrying out adequate, site-specific, continuation training.
Cordant’s Musgrove agrees, saying that one of the biggest changes he’s seen has been the adoption of state-of-the-art electronic equipment, such as access systems, tracking devices and electronic document scanners to enhance personnel vetting procedures.
“We have seen the training of security officers for site-specific roles within the operation, supported by competent, experienced line managers,” he adds.
As theft continues to be the most common type of depot crime, screening employees before and after shifts has long been seen as a necessary precaution.
In last year’s commercial victimisation survey, the Home Office found that shoplifting remains the most common type of crime in wholesale and retail, accounting for two-thirds of all crimes.
Crown’s spokesperson suggests that random screening of staff remains the most effective method of preventing theft, as it sends a clear message to all employees that it is something the company takes seriously.
An imperative first step is browsing through candidates’ histories before employing them. Within the warehouse and distribution industry in general, employees move around from business to business for various reasons. As a result, Musgrove says that it is essential that an up-to-date vetting process is in place and that candidates are examined before any start date is given.
“We are aware of individuals that once suspected, simply move to another location, working for another agency,” he warns.
But to protect high-value areas of the warehouse, such as tobacco and alcohol rooms, more stringent security methods are required, such as installing special codes and 24/7 monitoring.
Recruiting trained guards is a tried-and-tested method you can use in-depot, as is having someone whose job it is to step in and take charge of a situation when criminal incidents takes place. Both could save you a lot of money and hassle.
Musgrove says that features such as SmokeCloak – which fills the protected area with an impenetrable cloud of fog within seconds of a break-in – are only effective ‘out-of-hours’, where there is no physical security presence. In places such as bonded warehouses and sensitive, secure areas, the criminal will likely have already gained vital information regarding the areas to be accessed and will probably be well prepared.
Thus, to ensure that your warehouse is truly crime-proof, the depot needs to be equipped to respond to threats in real-time. This is where having a guard could prove to be invaluable.
However, when hiring guards, there will always be a debate about the cost involved. Earlier this year, the BSIA published a white paper on the challenges of buying and selling security solutions. The paper noted that many companies saw guards as having no merit. With the planned increase in the National Living Wage, wholesalers may be unwilling to pay the extra costs of employing security guards.
But technologies by themselves may be insufficient when it comes to time-sensitive disturbances. The paper concludes: ‘[Technologies] are effective only when matched with the right personnel and a set of well-thought-out procedures that can handle incidents effectively and quickly.’
In addition to warehouse security, goods in transit are vulnerable, so deliveries need to be closely monitored.
Where possible, wholesalers can ensure that deliveries of high-value items such as tobacco and alcohol are made safely by using business protection staff and by carrying out covert vehicle escort/‘follows’.
Musgrove advises that wholesalers should then surveil any suspicious or high-profile transactions using analytical statistics that show the trends in loss.
Crown’s spokesperson adds: “For smaller value items, we offer a bespoke service where routes are pre-planned, vulnerable areas are identified and we make sure that we are employing teams of skilled drivers to carry out these operations.”
One of the most important security features that will need to be addressed in the next five to 10 years concerning vehicles will be tracking devices with cameras attached to monitor the exterior and interior, according to Crown.
“Driver recognition is commonplace and in the future, we believe that vehicles will be tracked in real-time, something that is already advancing with companies like Road Tech, which is an IT service for the haulage and logistics sectors,” its spokesperson adds.
In addition to the advancement in tech, the use of time deadlocks and drivers having personal protection GPS alarms on high-value deliveries is something wholesalers should be looking at as standard and in which they should therefore be starting to invest in early stages.
So what are the key take-home points, and the areas to keep an eye on?
“In the depot, it will be more important than ever to review and update processes, policies and procedures,” Musgrove says.
ICTS’ Ben-Ari reiterates his belief that the industry could potentially be looking to solutions that involve drones, although there is a potentially key drawback.
“They may assist day-to-day operations in widening the CCTV capabilities and providing a wider perspective for any security team securing a perimeter. But on the other hand, they pose a threat by being able to collect information before committing a crime,” he concludes.
So, whether the industry sees drones or not, it’s evident that if you want to ensure the safety of your building and stock, the way to stay ahead of the game is to get the basics right, ensure staff are always kept up to date, hire staff to aid the security operation and invest in new technologies – but with the knowledge and structure in place to get the best use out of them.