Tightening Supply Chain Security

Theft, terrorist activities, or cargo loss can happen on ocean vessels, at ports, in airports, at loading docks, or in transit. Don’t leave your inventory and equipment vulnerable. Here are 10 tips for tightening security along your supply chain, from Chris Corrado, vice president customer support, APL Logistics.

1. Participate in the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT). It’s statistically impossible for U.S. Customs officials to inspect all the containers coming into the United States. As a result, programs such as C-TPAT—where companies voluntarily assess their own security procedures and enhance them according to strict guidelines—will go a long way toward making the supply chain more secure. It also could make it easier for your shipments to move quickly. Shore up your domestic logistics facilities carefully, making sure that they are fenced, locked, and monitored by qualified security personnel. Limit access to them with strict screening procedures.

2. Tighten your supply chain hiring practices. The security of your supply chain is only as good as the individuals who work within it, which is why you can’t afford to take shortcuts when it comes to screening potential employees. Conduct thorough background checks.

3. Know your suppliers and vendors. The economically sound practice of sourcing from suppliers half a world away can make it difficult to form a close acquaintance with them. Tighter security, however, requires that you know more about your suppliers than the fact that their products and prices work best for you. For example, do you know where they’re sourcing from, who their suppliers are, or how closely they supervise your shipment before delivering it toport?

4. Be precise. “More or less” isn’t an acceptable measure in today’s supply chain environment. Being exact when weighing, measuring, and counting inventory—and sharing that information throughout the supply chain—makes it more difficult for shipments to be tampered with. Any variation in those measurements could be an indication that some criminal or terrorist intervention has taken place.

5. Watch the clock. The more down-to-the-minute your supply chain is, the less opportunity terrorists have to divert and modify a container or truck to suit their purposes. Some forward-thinking companies already are refusing to accept shipments that are atypically late.

6. Single-source your supply chain management. You can still work with multiple transportation, warehousing, and logistics providers. All of them, however, should be integrated under the watchful eye of a single source, regardless of whether it is an in-house logistics department or a qualified third-party logistics provider. Seeing the big picture is essential in terms of understanding the nuances of your supply chain, because security gaps are less likely when control is centralized.

7. Early is best. In the past, companies tended to capture and enter bills of lading at various points in the supply chain process. It’s becoming increasingly important, however, to do so at the earliest possible stage. If you have ocean shipments, for example, this means taking care of administrative responsibilities when containers are loaded, sealed, and verified against the purchase order.

8. Set firm limits. One of the best ways to identify suspicious activity within your logistics facilities is to know who belongs where. By assigning specific employees to specific areas of a facility—and being familiar with those assignments—you make it more difficult for an intruder to blend into the crowd and carry out any unlawful business.

9. Consider team drivers. Using team drivers has always been useful for maximizing equipment efficiency during long over-the-road hauls. But it’s also beneficial in that you don’t have to leave a shipment unattended while drivers take breaks.

10. Beef up your systems. Supply chain systems have always been a wise investment. But eventually they will be an imperative one—especially when it comes to shipment tracking and tracing. If you don’t already have web-enabled processes, now is a good time to look into getting them, or at the very least outsourcing them.