If we learned nothing else from the Icelandic volcano eruption in 2010, we learned how a seemingly isolated event can - and did - have a drastic effect on worldwide logistics. When the volcano began spewing ash and consequentially grounding planes from scheduled transport, it not only affected shippers in Iceland but those in Western Europe with aftershocks felt around the globe, as goods typically shipped by plane had to find alternate means of transportation or were delayed in their sending. The fallout included European car manufacturers suspending production, Kenyan shippers throwing away upwards of 10 million flowers and hundreds of tons of perishable produce and an overall massive loss of money and time for countless corporations.
In our interconnected world, regardless of where a terrorist attack or catastrophic event takes place, it can throw off the global supply chain, driving up the price of goods and placing major delays on manufacturers. While natural disasters are unfortunately bound to happen without warning, theft and terrorism aimed at disrupting the supply chain can be prevented or avoided outright with the proper precautions. The supply chain helps support our way of life - making it a prime target for those with ill intent - and leaving no room for error when it comes to security.
More than a Metal Detector: Today's Security Checkpoint
The problem is, in recent years security has not been top of mind for the supply chain. Unfortunately, this has changed in light of increased threats of terrorism as well as new national and international regulations. Ports, rail stations, airports and international shippers have no choice but to devote time and resources to ensuring the vitality of the supply chain through enhanced security.
With the bar set, these responsibilities now fall on the operators of ports and rail systems - who often have little to no experience in security matters. In addition to the plethora of other responsibilities on their plate, they now have to ensure security and inspection operations are running efficiently, no small task since security is no longer limited to a metal detector and a guard.
To keep up with the aggressive and constantly evolving threats facing the supply chain, security checkpoints must integrate elements like radiation detection and high-speed scanning into existing operations. In addition to procuring the equipment, operators must also be fully versed in the technology - a concern when it comes to both time and money.
When authorities step back and take a look at the essentials needed, it is overwhelming to say the least. First, the right technology must be procured and installed - solutions that can effectively analyze cargo for potential threats and contraband, both conventional and radioactive. Next, a port or rail authority must determine the ideal location for the checkpoint, and oversee the construction of the location, both in terms of impact to the site and traffic optimization.
Once the technology is in place comes the tedious task of calibrating the technologies, and hiring and training the security operators. Protocols must also be put in place for what to do when a container is flagged.
When it comes down to it, setting up a modern, aggressive security checkpoint is no small task and forces authorities to focus their limited time towards running the checkpoint rather than on other critical business needs, jeopardizing their business and the cargo flowing through it.
Is Outsourcing the Answer?
Luckily, there is an alternative to trying to become a screening expert overnight. Increasingly, port, rail and customs authorities are taking advantage of a major trend in the security world: screening-as-a-service. Essentially, port and rail operators as well as international shippers and customs and border patrol authorities are forming partnerships with experienced security screening solutions providers, tasking these providers, not the operator, with establishing and running a security checkpoint.
With national security and economic prosperity relying on supply chain security - is an element as important as security worth outsourcing?
In a word, yes. For one thing, new government mandates are cracking down on how security checkpoints are run and what technology must be incorporated, requiring stringent training and precautions to be put in place.
Additionally, in today's threat landscape, radiation detection screening is no longer an optional technology. Radioactive materials shipped as contraband can disrupt the supply chain for days, if not longer, shutting down operations and leaving goods stopped in their tracks. Not only that, but radioactive materials are impossible to detect using conventional cargo screening technologies. By taking advantage of screening-as-a-service capabilities, supply chain operators are able to place the burden of finding these materials on the solutions providers - who have the experience and capabilities to efficiently detect and handle radioactive threats appropriately.
Arguably, one of the most difficult and time-consuming processes when setting up a security checkpoint is hiring and training operators. Having the right people in place can not only prevent an international incident from taking place but can also save the checkpoint millions of dollars in potential fines. With so many regulations and requirements in place, are rail and port operators prepared to be responsible for the skills of those tasked with making sure operations runs smoothly?
By utilizing cargo scanning-as-a-service, the hiring and training is taken completely out of the hands of operators and into the hands of solutions providers who have deep expertise in how to best train professionals on the ins-and-outs of analyzing scanned images and identifying potential threats or contraband.
The benefits of a well-designed and executed checkpoint cannot be overlooked either. When the checkpoint is set up to run efficiently, cargo is scanned quicker and with fewer roadblocks and throughput is increased on the whole. Goods are able to make it to their final destination quicker - the end goal for supply chain managers and a necessity when it comes to perishable items.
Screening-as-a-Service in Action
Outsourcing security isn't a far off notion either. In fact, it is already in practice by some of the largest port and border operations in the world.
Last year, Mexico's Tax and Customs Authority (SAT) signed over both their maritime and land security operations to a private sector security operator. Under the agreement, the solutions provider will implement a complete cargo security operation, including a comprehensive X-ray screening program, which incorporates technology, staffing, systems integration, and maintenance support at ports of entry, inland checkpoints and airports throughout Mexico. Via this third-party's expertise, the Mexican government's capabilities to interdict contraband and undeclared material will be greatly enhanced and will free up authorities to concentrate on broader enforcement issues.
The Ports Authority of Puerto Rico has also turned to cargo screening-as-a-service to oversee the more than 1.7 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) of cargo that cross through the Port of San Juan each year. By enlisting an outside specialist, the Ports Authority of Puerto Rico has increased throughput and decreased the upfront capital investment necessary for an undertaking of this size.
The global supply chain is vital to our way of life and even the smallest security issue can create a major kink in the chain. Detecting threats is not getting any easier; as technology evolves, smugglers and terrorists will adapt their tactics as well, requiring authorities to constantly maintain the most up to date methods and technology - taking time away from vital activities required to keep business operations running smoothly. Security screening-as-a-service provides a much-needed reprieve for operators who have been acting as a "jack of all trades" and leaves the ever-increasing security liability in the hands of the experts.
Source: Rapiscan Systems
Keywords: supply chain risk management, supply chain management, supply chain management IT, transportation management, international trade, 3PL, global logistics, third party logistics, port security screening, safety screening as a service
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