Stop, Thief! Five Ways to Protect Your Supply Chain

Today’s supply chain ecosystem is increasingly complicated. We rely on suppliers and buyers across the globe and use multiple transport modes, languages, currencies, and laws across borders.

As a result, your company can be exposed to unpredictable theft at any time. Here are some simple tips to help protect your shipments, customers, and industry stature.

1. Know your vulnerabilities. Cargo sitting still is cargo at risk. Understand the locations and times of the day, week, and year when your cargo is most vulnerable. Be alert during early-morning hours, when trucks and cargo are often left unattended, or when a driver is sleeping. Seaports, large industrial areas, production plants, manufacturing centers, electronics assembly lines, and pharmaceutical laboratories are all targets of thieves.

Food and beverage shipments are also highly targeted because they often lack any type of serial numbers or RFID tags hidden in packaging for tracking purposes. Precious metals are coveted by thieves who can make a quick resale transaction on the street.

2. Beef up security when thefts are more common. Monitor and avoid the risks associated with loads sitting idle over the weekend. The chances of a theft occurring over a holiday weekend are substantially higher than typical weekends.

Halloween to New Year’s Day is peak season for freight theft. The tight shipping schedules and possibly more relaxed security, along with increased shipments due to higher demand, are all contributing factors. Most cargo theft occurs within the first 150 to 200 miles of a shipment’s origin, so tracking during this window is critical.

3. Know thieves’ methods. Gone are the days of thugs using strong-arm tactics to carry out truck hijackings and break-ins. Today’s thieves stake out and target facilities, and monitor shipping hours, shift changes, and the busiest times—processes reliant on white-collar criminals.

Often, imposters posing as a legitimate carrier will pick up a shipper’s freight and hold it for ransom. Using the internet and company websites, it’s simple for criminals to create fictitious bills of lading and shipping documents.

4. Create written procedures and follow them. Adopt best practices for security and a culture of risk management, from carrier selection to employee selection. Educate your employees and shipping partners on the theft trends and have plans in place to proactively avoid cargo theft.

Create a manual of standard operating procedures that every employee should read, understand, and follow in the event a theft occurs.

5. Know the best protection. Some of the best remedies are easy and inexpensive, such as alarms, locks, and simple, off-the-shelf GPS tracking devices inserted into pallets or driver cabs.

It’s also important to adopt a company culture that emphasizes security and risk management. Vetting transportation partners, thoroughly selecting carriers, ensuring drivers are certified, and conducting employee background checks can have a cascading effect on the safety of your assets.

It’s imperative that everyone within the organization—including employees and shipping partners—is educated on the risks of moving goods and understands best practices to proactively prevent cargo theft.

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