4 Creative Ways to Add Innovation to the Supply Chain
Enterprises can sometimes move faster than manufacturers when it comes to unique designs and security needs.
How do you protect assets using video surveillance in an environment that doesn’t have access to continuous power or network transmissions, and is managed by third parties offsite from your location, and is possibly governed by another countries’ laws? Welcome to the world of supply chain security. This is one of the most difficult aspects a security enterprise has to deliver on because it involves so many partners in the security process. The big challenges unfold as the entire supply chain is mapped out and based upon the number of partners involved, and it can be an overwhelming task for even the most experienced security executives.
The transportation of goods continues to be one of the most critical infrastructures being protected. Most commercial and industrial business operations are heavily dependent upon a secure supply chain, but video surveillance is very difficult or impossible to utilize as part of the security master plan. With the advancements in surveillance technologies, new innovative solutions are being built, and many times it’s the security departments themselves coming up with the innovations, not the manufacturers.
So what innovations can you create to ease your enterprise’s way in the supply chain?
The innovations coming from security departments often involve taking different security components from different security manufacturers and mashing them together to solve a very specific operational need. The mash-up process is often put to use because some business operational problem is big enough that it must be solved quickly. The only way to do this is for the security department to build or assemble a prototype, test, perfect and deploy it. A security department with a creative staff can solve problems much faster than any manufacturer’s research and development team could do, and it is this type of innovation that is being applied in the supply chain security segment.
Power and Network Innovations
One example is power innovation and industrial uses of mini solar panels or containers being wrapped with solar film as a way to capture sunlight and convert it to small amounts of electricity to keep surveillance devices ready to power up when the sensors tell them to record and transmit. Networks are also innovating with devices being equipped with tri-band and quad-band mobile radio transmission devices. With these devices, different types of networks can be accessed based upon signal strength and geographic location. When connected to an on/off sensor switch, it allows them to conserve battery power until they need to transmit. The innovation challenges are that they are typically not made by one company and require the security department to be able to build the solution out of pieces from many companies.
Innovative Intermodal Partnerships
Most transportation routes, supporting the supply chain, use intermodal methods. This means that the cargo isn’t handled when it switches modes of transportation. For example when cargo goes from shipping to rail, the same container is used in both methods, which reduces the costs, time and opportunities of security risk of transporting assets used in the supply chain. But as intermodal transportation companies look to provide more value, they are creating innovative ways to provide tools to improve security for their customers. Examples can be seen with developing integrated security processes, which are customized to meet specific operating standards, set by the customer. Another example is integrating video surveillance tracking within the transportation carrier’s own premise, as evidence against a claim.
Covert Off-Premise Solutions
Most of the tools are limited to observing that assets have been accessed after sealing them for transportation. The ability to hold an individual or organization accountable is the key safeguard used at sending and receiving locations. These tools often are low-tech container seals and/or some type of environmental sensor device. These detection devices don’t address power and network issues, but do give some indication of changes along the transportation route. But when combined with covert surveillance, they can deliver improved results. This again requires the creative application of new innovations coming in the form of battery technologies, mobile networking and GPS. This is where covert surveillance techniques and technologies are thriving: they operate on very low power, and with the use of H.264, they can send data over very slow mobile networks.
Thinking Out Of The Box
When looking at supply chain security transportation, understand that it is the most difficult phase to deliver on because the assets are subject to the shipper or carrier’s security measures. In almost all supply chain security plans, the transportation partners need to be qualified, while staying in compliance, and in acceptance of the security expectations. A little out-of-the-box thinking on your part, however, can go a long way towards solving supply chain security problems.
About the Columnist:
Keven Marier is the founder and CEO of Connex International, Inc. He has a 20-year background in technology consulting, publishing and educating within the physical security technology and enterprise IT industries.