Is Your Manufacturing Plant Secure?

With the new Food Safety Act, it's time to perform a physical security checkup.

By Frank Pisciotta and Bill Ramsey

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Organizations should expect from any consultant at least five years of experience dealing with food manufacturing security programs, conducting risk assessments, implementing security programs and executing security system engineering and design. Managers should also consider requiring professional security certifications such as Certified Protection Professional (CPP), Physical Security Professional (PSP) or the Certified Security Consultant (CSC).

When the time comes to evaluate and purchase security systems, failing to properly design access control, intrusion detection and closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance can result in wasted funds, ineffective security and even potential liability.

Installing a security system should be approached no less systematically than building a new facility and should include drawings and properly structured specifications. Buyers of security products are frequently left hungering for critical components such as record drawings, training and systems that operate in a way that meet the specific needs of the plants in which they are installed.

In fact, it is not uncommon for organizations to "turn off" systems for many different reasons since they can be disruptive to business and often result in unnecessary police response after hours.

Food plant managers who purchase physical security systems can avoid failures by following these steps:

  • Risk analysis: Conduct a proper risk analysis to ensure the design basis of any physical security improvement considered for your plant. Start with the potential problems you are trying to fix. Often vendors want to begin by talking about how security systems should be employed, which is a tactical (and not strategic) approach. It's putting the cart before the horse.
  • Specify requirements: Identify requirements for security improvements and insist your consultant carefully selects products that meet those specific requirements. There are new products being launched on a weekly basis that makes it a full-time job to keep up. For example, if you are installing a security camera and require facial recognition from the video, you will need technology that is capable of achieving a high image resolution. Using a standard resolution camera, the field of view of the camera can be no wider than 16 ft. to achieve facial recognition with standard video. By simply picking camera locations without any consideration as to how much real estate the camera is going to view is inviting less than satisfactory results once cameras are installed.
  • Internal review:  Ensure specifications and drawings are reviewed and approved, at minimum, on two separate occasions as the project matures to ensure that the implementation of physical security measures will not unduly interfere with operations. Management involved in this review process should include: maintenance, quality, safety, human resources and information technology.
  • Rely on your consultant: If competitive bidding will be used, the consultant-designer should assist the plant in identifying qualified representatives of the security products being considered.
  • Comparison shopping: A technical and commercial comparison of vendors' bid submissions should be conducted to identify the best solution for the plant. Purchasing on low bid alone is never recommended.
  • Ongoing support: While the system is being installed, the designer should be providing support such as reviewing vendor submittals, responding to requests for information and conducting periodic reviews of the system throughout installation to ensure compliance with specifications and drawings.
  • Benchmarking: The final step before a system is accepted and the warranty begins is a complete end-to-end test to ensure: all devices work properly, programming has been finalized to meet plant requirements, training has been properly conducted and drawings have been submitted.

These simple vetting techniques and procedures can ensure that food & beverage manufacturing facilities meet emerging regulatory requirements, as well as protect the corporate brand and provide a reasonable level of security against criminal and terrorist attacks.

Preparing for unknowns is a priority in all phases of business, and food defense is certainly no exception. Don't wait until crime happens. Changes to our lifestyles over the past decade should illuminate the importance of proactive food defense in your organization.

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