Combating theft and corruption

Eighteen wheeler

When one looks at the logistics environment over the last 25 years it is with absolute amazement that you realise that in certain areas not much has changed and yet in certain other areas we have had such dramatic changes that many of the players in the industry are still finding it difficult to adapt.

One of these areas, pertinent to the African continent and more particular the South African environment, is the security link in the supply chain. Many reasons can probably be identified for this dramatic change in the necessity for tremendous increases in the security measures taken to secure warehouses, transport, cargo, etc.

But the one common element that lies at the root of most of the links in the logistics chain is the socio-economic welfare of the staff working in our companies. This in itself is a completely separate discussion and will probably have so many different opinions on what the reasons are, but the bottom line remains that the more people struggle the greater the temptation for people to get caught up in irregularities.

There are many areas of concern but the theft and corruption in the retail, wholesale and distribution environment is where I would like to focus attention. To bring this a little closer to home this is how this specifically sits within the African environment.

The African continent is sitting at 46% when it comes to loss of property, physical assets and in-stock items. The obvious question is: how do we fight this when we are aware that theft within the supply chain is a multi million rand industry and in many cases extremely well organised.

The most important aspect of securing your supply chain starts with your staff. I have been amazed over the last 25 years at the lack; in general, in the logistics environment of effort spent in the recruitment of staff, especially when it comes to lower level staff members. I am well aware of the financial pressures within the logistics environment that often leads to finding the cheapest solution rather than the best solution.

The reason why I am placing particular focus on staff is due to the fact that in my 25 years experience in logistics it is blatantly apparent that, when it comes to the organised/syndicate operations within the various logistics environments, information regarding theft is always fed from within the organisation to these perpetrators.

Typically in the logistics environment outsourced staff and/or labour play a very important role and again I am generalising here but in many instances the organisation relies on outsourced staff and/or labour to fulfil certain lower level job functions. In most instances the organisations do not have a very clear understanding of how the outsourced labour actually is recruited and what measures are used to ensure that the outsourced staff and/or labour is screened and monitored on a regular basis.

Without going into detail, as far as what will be a proper recruitment process, I recommend that the following elements should be part of your process, whether it is your organisations own staff or outsourced labour.

  • Proper aptitude tests.
  • Background, financial and criminal tests (AFIS checks). Be careful of just SAPS checks as the SAPS are behind as far as processing of records are concerned.
  • Polygraphs and/or similar tests, not only pre-employment but on a regular ongoing basis.
  • Reference checks.
  • Proper one-on-one interviewing.

If one looks at a typical logistics company, the operation will look something like this:

  • Stock planning
  • Receiving
  • Order taking
  • Picking
  • Dispatching
  • Loading
  • Transport
  • Delivery
  • Reverse logistics

Without going into details for each of these elements, outsourced staff and/or labour will feature in each of these elements in some form. With this in mind and keeping in mind the fact that in many instances these are either contractually bound or for a specific period of employment, another element of uncertainty is added here.

What I have found in my own organisation, and after spending time studying many of our clients operations, is that where organisations are spending time on the employment process, the benefit in the long term is enormous as far as a secure supply chain is concerned. However, I need to reiterate that it is important to ensure that the rest of the security functions in the logistics process are in place and that there is an on-going measure on outsourced staff and/or labour.

It is important to note, at this stage, that when I refer to the recruitment process this includes both outsourced staff and/or labour and an organisations own permanent staff.

There is no magic wand that will make the logistics environment safe and secure overnight, however there is certainly merit in setting a sound foundation by employing the best staff, following a sound recruitment process and ensuring the highest level of integrity among staff on a continuous basis.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Gerhard van Zyl


PULL QUOTE: There is no magic wand that will make the logistics environment safe and secure overnight, however there is certainly merit in setting a sound foundation.



Handing bars of gold up a ladder Man holding currency notes with a businessman in the background
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