Five-step Plan Proposed for Improved Supply Chain Security

Regulation, targeting and collaboration are key, says APL security chief

Regulation, targeting and collaboration are key, says APL security chief

Singapore  July 10, 2006  A leading supply chain security expert has called on like-minded countries to work together to find the best way to make international trade more secure and outlined practical steps that would help achieve this goal.

"The supply chain is a complex web of cultures, languages and interests," said Earl Agron, vice president of security for global container carrier APL, speaking to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Symposium on Total Supply Chain Security. "In this regard, joint planning and communication are key."

Agron told the high-level audience of government, military and industry leaders in Singapore that the five key steps that would help improve supply chain security included:

  • A concentrated focus on public-private sector collaboration;

  • More information for the effective targeting of suspect containers;

  • An intelligent regulatory framework; balancing security with trade flow;

  • Improved non-intrusive container inspection technology;

  • Development of long-term security technology solutions through the collaboration of supply chain stakeholders.
Government's primary responsibility is to protect the citizenry, said Agron, a 25-year APL veteran with an extensive background in equipment logistics and container terminal operations. However, the private sector owns and operates much of the supply chain infrastructure that could fall prey to terrorist attack. "Understanding where roles and responsibilities overlap is critical," said Agron.

Agron made an oft-repeated point that a balance must be struck between the need to secure the supply chain without bringing global trade to a halt. He also renewed his call for harmonized global regulations that could strengthen weak links in the supply chain.

The biggest challenge in supply chain security, said Agron, was knowing "what's in the box," referring to the millions of cargo containers constantly circling the globe. More information on who is shipping and receiving cargo and where it was loaded can, for example, help U.S. Customs & Border Protection officials target suspect containers that require inspection.

Agron also urged for the more effective deployment of radiation portals and gamma ray detection equipment to screen containers. But he cautioned that new security technologies must be developed collaboratively by supply chain stakeholders.

"There is an avalanche of technology solutions looking for a problem to solve," said Agron. "We need to pause and find the right technology in a more systematic way."

Agron added that there must be an emphasis on the cost-effectiveness of solutions. "The industry must spend wisely and not put in place measures that promise much but are ineffective and costly," he concluded.

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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.