Six Years Later Supply Chains Still Not Secure

This week marked the sixth anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and The Pentagon and although a number of things have changed, I still feel the supply chains of the world are not secure enough to prevent similar and even more catastrophic attacks from occuring.

I say this because the efforts to date have focussed more on the parties involved in supply chain activities than the products themselves and keeping them secure while in transit and verifying them during loading, unloading and border crossings. The land border crossing initiatives in North America rely on certifying the shipper, the driver and a correct barcode on the paperwork before allowing shipment to cross. Don’t get me wrong, these activities are important and must be done, but they are not enough.

Should the contents of a cross border load change during loading, unloading, crossdocking or enroute than a potentially hazardous event could be planned and executed. In my view, it is a travesty that six years after the largest terrorist wake-up call in history, that programs for product verification during the shipping processes mentioned above have not been introduced on a widespread basis.

In examining the reasons for this I can’t find one legitimate reason other than the general lack of leadership, will, focus and dedication for introduction and implementation. The technologies are there, the supporting systems are there, but there seems to be resistance from the various silos of government agencies which are involved in the transportation and border crossing processes from all countries involved.

In fact, the business world has developed EPC or Electronic Product Code (RFID) technology standards that could be leveraged to support this process and at the same time as introducing greater security, also provide greater operational efficiencies and cost savings in the supply chain.

I’m sad to say that if this issue has not been addressed in the six long years that have passed from that fateful day, then the only thing that appears likely to push this forward again is another attack. And this thought is daunting not only in it’s human implications, but also does not bode well for an integrated business function/ security imbedded solution. What is likely to happen in such a scenario is the immediate closure of borders and imposition of high security, high cost and inefficient “security only” solutions that will add costs to the system, not leverage the technologies available to create the synergistic combined security/efficiency solutions which take additional time and co-ordination to implement.

I sincerely hope I’m wrong in this belief, but only future events will tell the tale as to whether we are forced to utilize knee jerk, reactive high security solutions or develop the political will, business leadership and education necessary to develop an integrated and efficient proactive solution now while we have the luxury of time to act.

Jeff Ashcroft

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