Logistics companies, importers and transportation providers need to constantly work to better secure their supply chains to avoid complacency, a state that increases the risk of cargo theft or even terrorist attacks, a major investigator said Wednesday.
Barry Brandman, Danbee Investigations CEO and president, said companies need to enlist senior management in security processes, establish a culture devoted to improvement, design checks and balances, utilize technology and audit safeguards. Even members of the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism — a key Customs and Border Protection’s program for trusted links in the supply chain — have to remain diligent, Brandman told an audience of nearly 1,200 at the agency’s annual C-TPAT conference.
“Those companies that we have seen over the year that have major security catastrophes are the ones that have lost sight of being innovative,” Brandman said at the three-day event in National Harbor, Md.
Senior management must be made aware of the importance of working to constantly improve supply chain security, and the benefits go beyond just preventing loss of cargo and the smuggling of weapons.
“If you don’t have senior executives firmly behind the program, you are always going to be battling upstream,” Brandman said.
Those companies that can prove to Customs that their security processes are effective can join the C-TPAT program. Membership equates to faster Customs clearance, as C-TPAT importers are 3 ½ times less likely to have their shipments examined by the agency and seven times less likely to see their cargo through an extensive examination, said Kevin McAleenan, acting assistant commissioner in Customs’ Office of Field Operations. The C-TPAT program has nearly 10,500 members, and importer participants ship about half of U.S. imported merchandise by value.
More shippers are also requiring logistics firms and transportation providers to be part of the program, which is an incentive to get the C-Suite behind security processes, Brandman said.
“If you don’t have (C-TPAT certification) and another major competitor does, there is a good chance you will lose that customer over time,” Brandman said.
Companies also need to create a culture in which “good enough” is never enough, and the aim shouldn’t be to pass C-TPAT validations but to create a “world-class security program” that incidentally meets the agency’s requirements.
Brandman urged companies to never rely on their first line of supply chain defense because first walls will always fail. Companies should look to casinos in that there are checks of each member of the gambling floor, with the dealer being watched by the section boss, who is under the gaze of the pit boss, who in turn is being scrutinized by the casino manager. All parties are watched via the “eye in the sky,” or the video network.
“People know the risk is so overwhelming high that they don’t even try” to steal, he said.
Brandman has helped implement a similar level of scrutiny within several Mexican companies that ship to the United States. U.S.-bound cargo is kept physically separate from domestic shipments and tagged differently electronically. The facilities have 24-hour video coverage, and both logistics and security personnel use lasers to measure the shipments for irregularities before they are loaded onto trucks. Each truck is embedded with a GPS unit that provides a “bing,” or tracking signal, at least every 12 minutes. Once at the border, another layer of security personnel checks the cargo again and is monitored via live video.
Despite the prevalence of video cameras in logistics facilities, Brandman said roughly 60 percent of the sites he inspects don’t use their feeds correctly. Aside from making sure the video cameras provide quality feeds and are targeted on the right areas of the facility, he said companies should also consider buying wireless backup communication devices and decoy antenna.
Lastly, companies should pay special attention to their safeguards, and the most relied upon one are security guards. Such personnel are often underpaid, making the highly susceptible to bribes, and their employers regularly fail to provide background checks.