Supply Chain Security: Is Your Company Complacent or Engaged?

Imminent terrorist attacks or no, your competitive advantage demands that you secure your company's supply chain


Consider the 10 critical steps listed below. Implementing them will move you across the line to becoming an engaged importer, one that has expended the energy, time and funds to: 1) make sure good legislation is passed; 2) provide input on new security fees to ensure they're appropriate for the programs for which they are collected; 3) develop viable contingency plans that can be deployed post another attack; and 4) do your part to protect your employees, your community and your nation.

Ten Key Actions for Securing Your Company's Supply Chain

1. Make a convincing case to your C-level executive team — Help them understand their role and obligation to improve your company's supply chain security and the need to dedicate capital and resources to achieving this goal. Gain their commitment to start today and set things in motion.

2. Establish a cross-functional security team — This team should be comprised of all levels and appropriate departments, have authority to oversee your company's activities to improve supply chain security, and meet regularly to evaluate evolving security risks. Some larger companies have hired a security manager to direct their security response programs.

3. Develop a corporate security plan — Consider all facets of your company and develop strategies and a game plan appropriate for the size and location of your organization and complexity of your supply chain. Evaluate the merits of sourcing items in multiple countries to mitigate risk, particularly if some of the origins are high-risk. Set high expectations for your factories and logistics service providers about maintaining adequate procedural and physical security while your cargo is in their possession. Improve the level of physical and procedural security at your offices, manufacturing facilities and distribution centers.

4. Become a C-TPAT member — Perform a supply chain security risk assessment and complete the application on your own or with professional assistance. Identify areas of vulnerability throughout your supply chain, starting at your factories, and take measures to reduce those areas of exposure.

5. Establish a contingency plan — Develop and implement a set of strategies to keep your business operating at the highest possible level in the event of another terrorist attack.

6. Establish security performance metrics — These metrics should cover critical activities in your business. Actively measure the performance of your company, factories and logistics service providers against the standards you've set.

7. Diversify port and airport usage — Implement a U.S. gateway diversification plan to mitigate the risk of importing cargo through a limited number of ports and airports in the event of an attack on America.

8. Increase your knowledge — Read industry publications and attend conferences so you'll keep up-to-date on new legislation that could affect your business. Learn about the best practices that other companies have put into place.

9. Make your voice heard — Contact federal legislators and officials. Explain the importance of drafting legislation that helps decrease risk without impeding international commerce and your business, in particular. Vigorously lobby for sound rather than "sound-bite" legislation instead of complaining after regulations take effect and put burdens on your business.

10. Become involved — Join a trade organization such as the National Industrial Transportation League, Waterfront Coalition, Retail Industry Leaders Association, American Association of Exporters and Importers, or other trade associations that have made security a key item on their agendas.

Your hands are not tied; you can take action. It's a matter of choice, so choose wisely. Become engaged for all of us.

About the Author: Starboard Alliance Company LLC, a supply and demand chain consulting firm owned by Monica Isbell, has performed security risk assessments and facilitated the C-TPAT application process for numerous importers and logistics service providers. Isbell can be reached at monica@starboardalliance.com.

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