SJUK Exclusive: An ideal solution for the retail supply chain

February 23, 2022


Marcey Tweedie, Marketing Specialist at Morse Watchmans explains how key control enhances security in the retail supply chain.

The retail supply chain is just one industry that has faced major disruption due to the global labour shortages caused by COVID-19. Numerous retail suppliers, distribution centers, shopping centres and individual shops find it difficult to stay open when employees are calling in sick or have left their jobs. Staffing shortages cause vulnerabilities in accountability and security checkpoints for inventories and products which increases opportunities for theft. Staffing shortages also cause products to remain stagnant on ships and delayed in distribution centers because of the lack of port workers and truck drivers due to COVID-19 illness or job attrition.

When products arrive at retail destinations, shelf-stockers and shop managers are often out sick. As a result, retail shelves can be inadequately stocked which causes more outbreaks of desperate criminal activity including shoplifting, smash-and-grab robberies, armed intrusions and the newest criminal trend –organised “flash mob” theft rings in broad daylight; these leave shop managers short on everything from laundry detergent to toilet paper.

According to a 2021 crime survey by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), a trade association for UK retailers representing around 70% of the UK retail industry: “The overall cost of crime, taking into account both losses and crime prevention costs for retail, has risen year on year and now stands at £2.5 billion, up from £2.2 billion last year. This includes crime prevention spending of £1.2 billion and losses to crime of £1.3 billion, of which customer theft makes up £935 million.”

Retail operations must take every possible action to follow and adhere to a robust master security plan to sustain business operations, prevent loss and maximise profitability. Video surveillance cameras and access control systems are often used by retail operations. So are security guards. Although there’s no true replacement for staff, for retail operations with loyal and honest employees an electronic key control system can serve as your newest security guard when added to a master security plan.

Securing retail operations

Hundreds of physical keys are used in retail outlets, malls and distribution centers to secure numerous access points to buildings. Key control systems add accountability to retail operations, protect against break-ins and theft and provide asset management for valuable inventory items. A key control system provides that extra barrier of security and accountability to ensure that inventory and keys to restricted areas of buildings do not end up in the wrong hands.

Electronic key management systems can either be standalone or networked. Standalone systems are ideal for smaller retail enterprises and networked key management systems are ideal for retail distribution centers, malls or retail outlets campus settings. Key control systems that reside on a server can also be networked with many access control systems for even greater security. The networked systems also allow keys to be returned to any cabinet located on site.

The key control software allows physical keys to be assigned only to authorised individuals. Security administrators can instantly find where all the keys are, who has them out and when and where they are returned. Retail enterprises benefit from a more streamlined workflow when keys are no longer misplaced, lost or used by unauthorised individuals. Automatic prompts remind employees to return keys at the end of their work shifts so they are ready for the employees on the next shift. When a key is late being returned, an alarm sends an alert to a system administrator who can instantly identify who has it.

Bespoke solutions

Key control systems are customisable according to specific needs. You can select from key modules, locker modules to store smaller assets and card modules to secure and manage access cards or credit cards. There are numerous areas within the retail supply chain that can be secured with key management systems – let’s explore some of them:

Distribution warehouses Retail merchandise moves around warehouses all the time, creating plenty of opportunities for operations vulnerabilities and theft. Warehouses and distribution centers have a multitude of doors, offices, cages, moving mechanical equipment and storage areas, many of which use locks and keys to gain access. A key control system tracks all keys and allows only the employees authorised to open specific locks, cages or doors to remove and use them.

Transport and vehicle fleets – Retail warehousing and distribution involves a fleet of vehicles and forklifts needed to transport merchandise. Authorised operators who are designated to use keys to specific vehicles adds a layer of security to prevent unauthorised operators. Key control systems equipped with fleet management software help to ensure that all vehicles are optimised for usage.

Mechanical rooms Mechanical rooms contain critical operations infrastructure that must be protected from sabotage and damage. Criminals can break in and tamper with lighting, making it easier for theft rings to conduct shoplifting sprees. Tools such as heavy flashlights, boxcutter blades, crow bars, hammers and wrenches can be used as weapons and need to be locked away.

Computer server rooms Besides merchandise and inventory theft, data breaches can financially devastate retail operations. Retail operations hold of wealth of sensitive data on computer servers including financial records and employment and payroll records. Whilst antivirus software protects against malware, it is imperative to protect server rooms so cybercriminals cannot physically access an IP port or steal computer hardware.

Vestibules, atriums and delivery doors Any point of entry to a retail centre or shop is an obvious location for criminals to break in. Delivery doors and vestibule doors are often kept propped open when employees take breaks outside or when retail stock is getting unloaded. Whenever there is such activity, thieves can seize the opportunity to slip inside, especially after dark. Keys to all entryway doors should be assigned to and dispensed to specific employees for specific purposes at specific times.

Security gates For retail outlets, security gates prevent anyone from entering before and after hours. The keys to these gates need to be secured so it is impossible for anyone to get their hands on them to make copies. These keys can be stored within the key control system and programmed to be dispensed to authorised employees with a passcode.

Cash drawers and high-end merchandise Keeping higher priced items under lock and key reduces the risk of shoplifting. Locker modules within the key control system are ideal to store items after hours, such as fine jewellery and small electronics. Cash drawers can also be secured. Audit reports will show who accessed the system at any time needed.

Retail inventory stock rooms Stock rooms contain valuable items that entice dishonest employees or vendors to shoplift. Department stores can benefit by implementing a stock room schedule with limited access available during limited hours. A key control system allows administrators to program users who are authorised to have a key to the stock room on a certain day at a certain time. Not only is management notified with an alert if unauthorised individuals attempt to remove a key, if items do go missing, the key control system will reveal the culprit within an audit report.

Employee lockers – When starting a shift, employees arrive with mobile phones, car keys, wallets and other valuables. A key control system with locker modules will give employees peace of mind knowing that their items are secured.  

For the retail industry, key control keeps employees and authorised vendors accountable for their tasks and actions and provides a safer and more secure environment. Key control technology, which has been used for decades, is proven to protect assets and maximise profitability for the entire retail supply chain.

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This article was originally published in the February edition of Security Journal UK. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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