At the Frontline: Kendall-Jackson security chief Shirley Pierini

Passing through the pristine landscapes of California’s wine country, it’s hard to imagine the complexities of keeping these valuable crops safe. Indeed, even some vineyard owners themselves are unaware of the threats that their businesses face.
 
It only took one incident, however, before Kendall-Jackson realized that they needed the help of an experienced security professional to help them safeguard their company’s image and products. Following a large theft by three employees of one its high-end wines in early 2008, Kendall-Jackson, which owns more than 15,000 acres of land in California alone, called upon Former ASIS International President and Chairman Shirley Pierini to help them formulate a comprehensive security plan to protect not only their product from vine to table, but also keep its employees safe.
 
Pierini, who has more than 25 years experience in corporate security management and law enforcement, subsequently sought the help of employees to learn what security deficiencies needed to be addressed.  
 
In this “At the Frontline,” Pierini discusses the policies she’s helped develop and implement to keep Kendall-Jackson and its associated properties safe. 
 
What are some unique challenges that you face being head of security for Kendall-Jackson wineries?
 
Security management is pretty much the same across the board, but with each of the industries that we all face, whether is finance or mortgage companies, every specific entity has its own niche, there are specificities to every line of work and that’s no exception with vineyards. The wine industry is a full line of supply chain security; it’s from the vineyards to the table. The product goes from protection of the grapes in the field and the machinery that helps to create that crop, to the crushings, to product contamination, to transportation, to warehousing and then step aside from that and we still have all of the same challenges of personnel security. Whether its owner (protection), workplace violence issues, theft within the workplace, those are all common grounds to every element of security that we apply.
 
How do secure your global supply chain and what are some of the solutions that you utilize?
 
Wineries and wine companies typically don’t have or haven’t had historically security, unless their big. One of the things that I have initiated for a solution is to put in an inventory process and that’s to account for bottles. A good example is mobile bottling. We have boutique wineries, we have 32 labels, so we don’t bring all the juice in to be bottled or stored in the cellars to one location, we sometimes have to send out a mobile bottling unit and that’s the higher end wine, the higher priced wine and so of course it’s more attractive to theft. So, what I’ve done is put in an inventory of the glass bottles that go into the mobile bottling unit. They are filled and sealed and then come out in cases. And, we inventory the glass going in, we inventory the full bottles coming out and they are shrink wrapped and sealed, put on a pallet and placed on a truck that transports it to a major distribution center. That process has near eliminated the shrinkage that we have on the high end of our boutique wineries.
 
How important is perimeter security in your industry and how do you safeguard your vineyards?
 
We don’t secure vineyards. With the vast amount of berries that we have and the crops that we harvest, a quarter of an acre doesn’t mean anything. It’s not cost effective, nor is it reasonable to think that you want to fence 15,000 acres. What we do is identify the equipment yards, the maintenance yards and look at what we have, the cost of it, the risk analysis, and the vulnerability assessments and protect the smaller areas. (In those areas) we’ll use typical perimeter fencing and access controls. So, we look at securing our farm equipment, securing our fuel and (making sure that only authorized personnel are given) access to ATVs. If I were to say there was one element of security that helps us in the vineyards its processes. Everything that we do must have a process in order to ensure we have accountability.
 
How do you protect the company’s proprietary information for external, as well as internal forces?
 
Keeping in mind that before I came to Kendall-Jackson, they hadn’t had a security (program) before… they haven’t always kept up with all the management throughout the company that they need to and that’s what we’re doing now, we’re putting those processes in place. I put five policies in place this year and one of them was we had to eliminate weapons in the workplace. Now that might sound strange because no one wants weapons to come into a office building, but what about weapons in the vineyard where we have small animals that will damage our crops. Wild boar, for example, will dig under the rootstalk of the vine and can destroy acres. That’s important because it takes five years from plant to yield to get a full yield from one vine. I had to consider that we needed the control of the dear eating the grapes, of the wild boar digging under the rootstalk, of the rattlesnakes and rabbits and so on that are present, but we didn’t want our employees doing it. We contract in now (with a pest control company), to have the predators eliminated because they’ll work with fish & game to get special permits to get the deer out of there. Do we kill them? No, we have other, more humane ways of dealing with them. We use noises, we use flashers, and we use all kinds of things that humanely deal with the wildlife.  
 
Are they’re any security technologies that you use that are unique to the wine industry?
 
The fact that Kendall-Jackson has stepped out to put a chief security officer in place is unique in and of itself. I’m trying to be innovative in getting the best security services I can, I have just replaced our contract security force. We’re spending the same amount of money and we’ve got better management, field management, better service and the officers have been vetted. There’s better background checks and there is better training. So, we’re doing more with less and I say that because we flat lined our budget and we still got better service for what we put out. I think over the last 13 months I’ve done eight investigations and that includes everything from equipment theft, to product theft and employee issues, so we’ve put processes in everyone of those places like cash handling. There was no specific way or timing for the proceeds at the tasting rooms to go into the bank, so I changed the cash handling process to tighten that up and better secure our assets.
 
What types of safeguards do you have in place to protect against product tampering?
 
That’s something that I’ve spent a great deal of time on because product contamination is always a worry. But I’ve done vulnerability assessments on five of our sites, including our bottling site. The way it’s organized, the juice comes in after the crushing, it comes into trucks, those trucks are sealed and it goes from the field to the processing plant where it’s put in oak barrels or stainless steel tanks. There are a couple of places the product could be tampered with, but we’ve not ever experienced that. We’ve not had an issue to date with product tampering. We did have a six-figure loss where a high-end wine was taken. (Three employees) took this wine out of the three years it was suppose to sit; they took it in the second year and sold on the Internet for half the price. So we we’re comprised with taste. It was a hit on the name because of the compromised wine, so we’ve changed that again with a process. We now have a better computer tracking system that can’t be manipulated as easy.     
 
Being such a large enterprise, what types of safety programs do you have in place to ensure personnel security?
 
We have safety programs that are specific to each of the facilities. For example, in the vineyards, each employee that drives an ATV must go through a training to drive that ATV and they must refresh that every year. People in the distribution center must go through forklift training. Employees are not allowed to drink on the job, but to avoid having a safety issue with someone drinking on the job; the owner provides free wine to every employee. When they go into tasting rooms, employees are not charged to taste the wine. That all goes back to safety, because there is no one at any position in the company that feels like they have to jeopardize their job by tasting the wine.
 
How do you utilize and integrate traditional security solutions into your organization?
 
We’ve implemented cameras into the distribution centers, but what I did was go out and look at all 14 (facilities) that we have right now and specifically looked at cameras and access controls, photo IDs to see who was getting in and how they were getting in. How are we identifying employees who should be there or shouldn’t be there? But again, looking at cameras specifically, because that’s what shows our products going in the trucks. I did that and I found that all but two of our locations are well (covered with cameras). We have now gone back and retrofitted (one of the facilities) with cameras, even though we intend on moving out of that location at the end of the year.

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