The challenges of securing Moveable Assets

As South Africa’s Infrastructure radically changes to catch up with the rest of the world, we are faced with a new type of thief


As South Africa’s Infrastructure radically changes to catch up with the rest of the world, we are faced with a new type of thief, The “I don’t know what this is , but it looks expensive “ type of thief. We have spoken about Yellow machines (Front end loaders and graders) being taken for illegal mining and also about the increase in Hijackings and movement across borders. However, no one is speaking about the moveable items 

Of late I have noticed a lot of companies turning to Tracking and Telematics companies for solutions to track and recover their moveable items. There are so many good and really bad solutions we would need an entire edition all about just that, but we are looking at items that the insurance companies are starting to frown about, like Generators, road and portable plant machinery and the new kid on the block, fibre splicing machines.

Let’s take a quick look at the obvious of machines. Generators, come in all sizes and are in great demand amongst our sticky fingered friends. Construction vehicles are being taken for the tools and generators that are left on the back of the vehicles whilst park or driven around. Its obvious why they take them. The likes of the pawn shops are quick to throw a few bucks at the seller for the tools, and if the generator works then there is a quick R800 in your pocket. The larger machines are being taken for orders across the borders and its not hard to get them across.

Just prove that you own it and its across. The industry has yet to provide us with a sure fire way to identify the Larger generators and provider a similar system of checking if its stolen by means of a serial number check or similar. I did cover the fact that it is essential to Microdot your machinery in a previous edition.

They actually have a yellow machinery dotting kit that also includes UV identification stencils for spraying on the side of the machinery to aid in the identification of the machine. But you ask yourself the question, what does that help? Well in short, the Insurance Crime Bureau in South Africa is starting to make headway in the training of the essential Police personal at border posts. I have witnessed firsthand how the SAICB shares their passion with willing members. So it is not all a lost cause.

Portable road compactors and compressors fall into the above category but are not always first choice in the thieves choice of shopping item. The items are heavy and awkward to move. The demand for the items is by request and there are a selected few people that will take them. Again you ask, how do I know its stolen? Well if you by it off the back of a bakkie, it probably is stolen.

The most interesting item of late that is getting stolen are the Fibre Splicing machines used by the infrastructure technicians when installing our long awaited fibre to the home installs. Its a very interesting piece of machinery in that it joins 2 ends of fibre by means of fusion. Well thats the extent of my knowledge of what they do. However these machines are worth hundreds of thousands of Rands and the theft of these machines is on the increase. I recently spoke to Zach from IC Logistix in Randburg Johannesburg about these machines.

The majority of the machines in South Africa are imported from Japan and are specialised machines of varying sizes, and prices. Now when we look at the machines they are small in size but not every Tom, Dick or Harry can operate one, or repair one. The care that needs to be taken in the calibration stage is intense. I watched Chris gently removing the casing and working on the circuit boards inside the machine. It was explained to me that if you touch the wring part of in the wrong place without being earthed you can cause some damage. So what solution did they choose for tracking and recovery of this machine? Well there were 2 options tested.

GPS and Radio Frequency tracking devices. The GPS devices worked, but only if they had permanent power. The accuracy of the signal was limited to the fact that it was encased in a steel housing. The RF device however was also tested and over a longer distance you could pick up a signal to aid in the recovery of the device. GPS needs power to work and RF uses a separate battery which is only used when the unit is activated. So the obvious choice is indeed the RF one.

Intellidrive Vehicle Tracking was employed to provide a third party RF tracking device to IC Logistix. It wasn’t long before they received their first call out to recover the Machine. This took about 3 hours from point of theft to recovery. “It was frustrating to say the least” commented the ground crew member on scene after recovering the device in a storm water drain. “We started off about a kilometre away and worked our way closer to the signal until we were right on top of it.” Our sticky fingered friends had no idea that the machine they threw into the drain was as valuable as it was. Clearly they had no idea.

I suppose the same can be said for the freight that gets carried as well. A lot of carriers carry single large high value loads that get stolen. Obviously it isn’t going to work for a bottle of coke, but it could work for high value boxes of clothing, cleaning products or televisions. I know there are televisions that have RF tracking and RFID units installed into them to allow the purchaser to be able to secure the Television and allow it to be tracked.

Let’s get real here, the way that technology is moving we can incorporate Telematics units into nearly everything. Telematics companies and tracking companies are soon able to provide a full range of options to track everything, and I mean everything.

Our country is faced with increasing poverty and opportunistic crime. The demand for fast moving machinery and moveable items across our borders is increasing. South Africa is becoming the Pick and Pay to the other countries when it comes to trucks Bakkies and Machinery. As an asset manager or business owner it is becoming more and more evident that insurance companies are getting fed up with the constant claims for stolen items and are starting to increase premiums to cover their losses. It would be my suggestion that recovery devices are bought and installed into all moveable items.

“It is Easier to repair an item than to buy a new one” quoted one of the service providers who owns and has had 7 machines stolen from him in the past year alone. “ I really can’t afford the cost of a new machine and I am slowly getting to the place where the insurance premiums are killing me”. The only solution is to look at putting devices into those machines that are in this bracket.

As Always, Stay Safe and Keep Tracking

Tony Dobson, security specialist

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