The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly every part of everyday life. Retail is arguably one of the sectors to be impacted most, with temporary closures of shops forcing even more consumers to turn online.
49% of global customers are shopping more online now than they did pre-COVID-19,[i] meaning that large warehouses and last-mile delivery facilities have seen a huge surge in items passing through them, with stockpiling of various essential goods and medicines also occurring to allow companies to cope with unexpected increases in demand or to combat supply issues.
As reported by the Financial Times, “every extra £1bn spent online requires almost an additional 900,000 sq ft of logistics space, according to property company CBRE.”[ii] Keeping goods secure in these kinds of vast facilities is no easy task. On any given day, a busy warehouse can contain many millions of pounds worth of merchandise, spanning hundreds of thousands of square feet of space. With around-the-clock operations, high turnover rates and seasonal and temporary workers coming and going at all times, a well-thought-out and layered physical security plan is essential to prevent losses from theft, property damage or violence.
Mitigating security risk
To effectively reduce security risks, start by answering the below questions to quickly assess the current security strategy at your facility.
- Does my plan deter unauthorised entry into the facility?
- Does my plan effectively prevent someone from taking merchandise off the premises?
- Are we able to prevent weapons from being brought into the building?
- Does my plan create a safe environment for employees?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, don’t worry, you’re not alone. But, you may need to reconsider your current strategy.
The reality is that most warehouse security strategies have traditionally consisted of separate alarm systems, video cameras and guards. The problem with these often-disparate systems is they can only detect break-ins, not internal theft.
Even before online retail ramped up dramatically during the pandemic, in 2019 the Centre for Retail Research reported that “retailers found large-scale fraud involving their warehouses and suppliers, costing £915mn”.[iii] These warehouses, especially if they contain electrical goods, jewellery or branded clothing, are particularly vulnerable to staff theft.
Video cameras lose their intimidation factor with employees, and uniformed guards are often not adequately trained to recognise the costliest types of inventory loss, which could take the form of mis-scanning items, misplaced merchandise, or goods in perfect condition being removed from the building in waste bins for collection later.
The good news is that technology has evolved to meet this threat head-on. When integrating multiple leading technologies you can solve a number of challenges, such as:
- eliminating unauthorised entry through credential verification and tailgate detection
- identifying and detecting weapons, with locking entry lanes to prevent access
- preventing inventory being removed from the premises using asset tracking
- reducing energy costs by integrating population data with other building management systems, such as HVAC
- reducing physical contact points with touchless entry and biometric screening
To illustrate, here is one example of an integrated system we installed for a well-known online fashion and cosmetic retailer, which proactively strengthens their warehouse security plan and protects their people and property.
Securing entry and exit points
The first step to reducing theft is deterring unauthorised access. To achieve this, entrance control turnstiles are essential.
This particular online retailer chose Fastlane turnstiles to secure a number of its global sites, two of the more recent ones being in the UK. The chosen entrance control system is designed to permit access only to authorised staff and visitors, ensuring that the goods and people within are protected.
The Glassgate 400 was installed at both UK sites, providing the highest level of security within the Fastlane range. Featuring 1.8m of laminated and toughened safety glass barriers, the Glassgate 400 acts as an imposing psychological barrier to deter intruders, as well as physically preventing them from gaining unauthorised access.
Screening and tracking movement
At the aforementioned sites, as well as preventing unauthorised entries, the Glassgate 400 was also integrated with a random person screening tool for staff stop and search purposes. Acting as a theft deterrent, this randomiser provides a totally unbiased and non-discriminatory method for randomly selecting people – employees or visitors – to screen as they exit or enter the building.
Should staff theft be a recurring issue, and the random screening tool not be deterrent enough, it’s also possible to integrate asset tagging readers with the turnstiles. If the system detects a tagged piece of stock being carried through without having been correctly checked-out, the turnstile gates lock to prevent exit.
When connected to an access control system, the turnstiles can also collect population data for monitoring the movement of people on and off the floor and for how long, leaving a digital footprint for each employee. This information can be of great use when determining where someone was during a specific time or incident.
It is also possible to integrate third-party weapons detection systems with Fastlane turnstiles, to ensure that even authorised individuals cannot bring weapons into a facility, with technology capable of detecting and locking out people carrying concealed weapons in clothing or bags.
Keeping inventory secure inside a distribution centre or warehouse can be a challenge. But, with well thought through integrated security solutions in place, you can make your space more secure, reduce costs and protect your employees and property.