Combating freight crime

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With the FBI estimating that worldwide freight crime costs several billions of pounds a year, the majority of companies are becoming increasingly concerned about the safety of their goods and drivers. One such firm is Walsh Western International (WWI), which has an operation in the UK and one in Tilburg in the Netherlands handling the distribution of IT products for Dell and other companies throughout the UK, mainland Europe and Scandinavia.

Dell PCs and processing units are assembled in Ireland. Orders taken from customers are processed and then shipped out. WWI is responsible for merging the peripheral products – these could be Samsung bags, Phillips monitors, and printers – that are required by individual customers.

The volumes here, where business or consumer, are something like 3,000 orders a day into the UK at this time of year. Those orders could consist of one box or 100. The average box count per order is just over three boxes, so we’re putting nearly 10,000 boxes through a day. In our peak times, the figure goes up to 5,000.

WWI managing director Phil Cocking (above) explains: “The customer buys the product from Dell; they send us a message saying ‘a system is coming through and it needs all these parts picking’; we pick them and tell the peripheral supplier that we’re picking their products; and they will bill Dell for it but we bill the peripheral supplier for storage, handling, receiving, and picking. So all the way through the supply chain, from start to finish, no customer order is complete until it arrives there.”

The 3PL currently operate more than 500 trucks throughout Europe and, due to the nature of the goods carried, instigated a series of measures that ensures security is a top priority at all times. These include:

All the vehicles are satellite-tracked by an independent monitoring facility.

The lorries travel in convoy when carrying high value goods, hi-tech products particularly.

If a one of the trucks gets a puncture, for instance, another one must remain with it.

Security guards will randomly follow in cars to eliminate the possibility of corrupt drivers and added security.

Once loaded, trailers become completely sealed and alarmed units. Any door movement or coupling/uncoupling from the cab will trigger the alarm.

All warehouse staff pass through an airport security style gate on entering and leaving the facility.

Lorry drivers have their own area away from the warehouse operation.

Cocking emphasises: “The security aspect is major – a massive issue. We spend about £1M a year just on security.”

He continues: “The good thing about the satellite tracking is that if you do have a hijacking, you can see on the Web to within 50yds where the vehicle is located. That system has worked very well. We’ve not had any serious problems with trucks between Ireland and the UK for some time.”

The tracking system, says Cocking, can also ring fence a particular route. If the vehicle deviates from that route for any reason an alarm will sound in the monitoring facility.

The monitoring centre is also supported by an Internet-based reporting service so that customers and suppliers, using a secure password to access the WWI website, can view the status of a shipment at any time on their computers.

However, Cocking says that central London is now becoming a “real issue” for companies dealing in high value goods. He explains: “Gangs are just robbing vans. We’ve tried the flying van scenario but they just follow it back to where it came from. The next day, they know it’s full of computers.”

WWI’s solution to this particular problem has been to go down the shared-user route, using a third-party carrier’s vehicle. “Our stuff gets mixed in with low value stuff,” says Cocking.

Fraud is another issue that WWI can come across. Cocking says: “People order products with credit cards, and give an address for delivery. Larger orders are ID-checked. Sometimes with businesses, the delivery van goes round the back to the receiving door and there might be some rogues waiting at the back door who know what the delivery is. The goods are taken in and immediately taken out of another door.”

If a customer agrees a delivery window but is out when the vehicle arrives then the order is returned to WWI’s warehouse, rather than left with a neighbour, for a new delivery time to be agreed.

Another initiative that the company undertakes is to ensure that its drivers keep on top of the security issue. “They have to be aware all the time, and we do this through education. We do crime awareness training for drivers, hold quarterly reviews with them, get feedback from them, and make sure they know what to do if there are incidents,” says Cocking.

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