Are your DCs secure?

by Dave Luton


Security concerns in warehousing are as old as the need to store and ship goods. While there are some recent wrinkles such as the need to comply with CTPAT, the basic principles of protecting goods and warehouse staff have been around a long time. Those concerns can be classified within three general areas: Internal threat, External threat and Stealth mode threats.

Inside jobs
Internal threats are important because if your internal security is not sufficient, then the potential for losses from other types of theft or security breach increase greatly. Internal security starts at the hiring stage with the need for police and background checks. In the US, employee checks often include drug testing. In Canada, our human rights laws have limited this. The logic behind such testing is a person who has an expensive habit is potentially more prone to try and find an unauthorized source of income. As well, some US companies are excluding people with poor credit scores for the same reason.

With employees, the main protection against internal theft is access control. It reduces opportunities for collusion with regular external visitors like truck drivers. Some common, simple steps to prevent internal theft include:

• Rotate work schedules to reduce collusion opportunities;

• Keep employee parking away from the warehouse;

• Limit employee access to a front door so employees can be observed entering and exiting the building;

• Use mirrors to eliminate blind spots;

• Check the garbage occasionally to prevent unauthorized disposals;

• Eliminate bushes and foliage next to the warehouse;

• Use vehicle seals that can’t be resealed once closed;

• Use personalized packing tape and opaque stretchwrap; and

• Ensure you have an effective inventory accuracy program and follow up if there are discrepancies.

Personnel safety is also a concern, particularly for warehouses with multiple shifts. For example, using some window coverings that reduce heat gain from sunlight have an additional benefit of allowing people inside a warehouse to look outside but prevent people outside looking in. This also reduces risk of smash and grab theft.

Often a key human factor is discipline—the ability to follow processes and procedural standards designed to minimize risks. We highlight the advantages of technology to minimize theft risk—everything from security cameras to sophisticated alarm systems. These are only as good as their weakest link; if people leave doors open to go for a smoke or cool a building at night even the most sophisticated system can be defeated. Talking about security to strangers also can expose facilities to risks.

From the outside
External theft can be caused by various techniques ranging from brute force to unauthorized entry. An example of brute force is when a stolen vehicle is used to smash through a loading dock door and steal before police can respond. One way to safeguard against this is using vertical dock levelers that add security behind the loading dock door because they stow vertically.

Unauthorized access is another external threat that can be reduced by having a proper access control system. As part of your strategy, design your facility so that authorized visitors are limited to designated peripheral areas. Examples of good design include:

Have a secondary egress control point inside the building entrances where truck drivers report; Have a truck driver washroom by this point; In general, the objective is to not allow truck drivers off the loading dock or away from closely controlled areas around the shipping/receiving offices. Ensure your returns are moved from the loading dock staging area promptly and have processing far away from the loading dock.

Theft by stealth involves neutralizing security systems or accessing computer systems to commit fraud. I will use as an example the traditional methods used to neutralize security systems. Historically, it was common to cut the phone lines and to jam backup cell phone alarm systems. With internet or satellite backup access cheaply available now, these methods aren’t as effective as they once were.

Another technique is to set off an alarm and wait until for the police to leave after finding nothing, then move in. In some cases, this is done several times so people turn off the alarm, believing it’s faulty. In warehouses equipped with motion sensors, some thieves use a cat to set off the alarm. Even laser-equipped perimeter sensors can be defeated by use of night vision goggles.

With the exception of very high value merchandise, any security system can be defeated with time and enough resources. Your objective is to make it difficult enough that the bad guys seek a softer target. MM&D

Dave Luton ( is a consultant in the greater Toronto area.