Delivering on IP Surveillance

Oct. 27, 2008
A global logistics company meets success with network video.

Mallory Alexander International Logistics provides integrated transportation solutions to companies ranging from 1-800-FLOWERS, to Nissan, to Boise Cascade. The company’s mammoth warehouse in Memphis, TN, encompasses more than 400,000 square feet and 62 docks. The number of employees and shifts fluctuates depending on business needs.

“Our president and COO had a vision, and that was understanding what kind of customers you want to attract,” said Douglas Durden, manager of safety, security and asset retention. “One of the primary things to take into consideration is, if you put product in our facility, what are the guarantees that it will be secure?”

The facility had a CCTV camera system, they it did not meet the needs of the future. The company needed to reassess the security posture of the warehouse.

Always Safety First
Before Mallory decided on its upgrades, the senior management, facilities, and IT personnel discussed exactly what they wanted the system to accomplish. How could it improve and enhance the existing environment, and what would it take to achieve those ends?

They determined that their system needed to be as flexible as their work environment was. They also determined that, although their primary goal was to find a very sophisticated new surveillance system, they had to review more standard security elements at the warehouse.

No matter how sophisticated the new system may be, if the simple things were not taken care of, its effectiveness would be compromised. The company immediately reviewed its emergency evacuation plans, fire extinguishers, security systems and monitoring agencies. “You have to go through the safety stage,” said Durden. “It doesn’t make any sense to put cameras in place when it’s not safe.”

They also evaluated basic physical security. Specifically, they saw a need to enhance security measures at the main entrance. Durden stressed the need for complementary protection strategies. For the entrance in question, that meant adding a physical barrier in addition to a camera to monitor it.

“If you come to the facility,” stated Durden, “and stand in front of a camera, the camera doesn’t necessarily stop you from what you’re going to do. It just means that someone is watching you. You need to complement that with a physical barrier. Now we are not only watching you, but you can’t go past a certain point even if you wanted to.”

Technology Plus People
When the other safety and security considerations had been taken care of, the decision was made to upgrade to a Milestone IP video surveillance system, which provides 24/7 monitoring and allows management to remotely view real-time images of warehouse activities through a built-in Web interface.

Once Milestone was brought on board, Durden discussed Mallory’s overall vision and expectations with them. Milestone, in turn, explained how they were going to meet those needs. Durden said they responded with “a lot of good suggestions.”

Mallory’s employees played a crucial role in the successful transition to a new technology. For Durden and the management staff, security is a shared responsibility. The cameras monitor the facility, but the people who work there are tasked with enforcing certain rules. This means being cognizant of established security procedures and reporting violations as necessary.

In a warehouse environment this often manifests itself in a requirement to challenge those who may wander past the safety perimeter and into the work area without wearing the requisite reflector vest. The prevailing philosophy is that a camera can monitor someone jumping on your dock, but it is not going to stop them.

“It’s giving (the employees) the authority to act,” said Durden.

Placing the Cameras
With the primary safety and security issues addressed, Durden and Milestone began examining the placement of cameras both inside and outside the facility. Where possible, Milestone supported Mallory’s cost containment efforts by using existing cameras during the installation phase. Others, however, were discarded because they had outlived their usefulness.

PTZ cameras were used predominantly outside the facility. “On the outside of the building you have fluctuation of movement,” said Durden. “Trucks coming in, people coming in. A lot of things are happening there. PTZ seemed to work better. It was economically smart. Instead of two or three cameras, you could use one PTZ and cover the same areas. Cameras can also be preset to focus on those areas I perceive to have potential problems, like monitoring the parking lots, especially after hours.”

Fixed cameras are used inside the warehouse, focused on specific, high-activity or high-interest areas. One such area is the visitor entrance. If an incident were to occur, it may be pertinent to know after the fact who came through the entrance during a specific time frame.

The entire installation took approximately five days and has been operational for about a year. But Durden stresses that it is an ongoing process. As business needs change, so do the requirements for security.

Not Just a Security Tool
The ability to observe what is going on in the warehouse via laptop from anywhere in the world provides an effective management tool. While Durden can watch for various protection concerns remotely during off shifts and weekends, he is quick to point out that the system is not exclusively a security tool. Facilities management uses it to monitor the shipping process and occasionally resolve disputes.

For example, if the warehouse finds a discrepancy in any of its shipments, customers want to know the cause and see the situation quickly rectified. Discrepancies can result from a number of things: a shipment may not actually have arrived, a shipment that arrived may not have been checked off on the manifest, or a shipment arrived, but was misplaced.

While the manifest itself provides one form of documentation, the playback from the video surveillance system can accurately pinpoint what happened. “It’s just another way of checking to ensure accountability,” said Durden. “So it’s not just about security, it’s also about accountability.”

The Milestone system can store images for several months, so past events can be instantly retrieved and displayed with just a few keystrokes. The information may be downloaded to CD if necessary.

Access to the system is limited to those who have legitimate need. If someone requires information regarding a particular incident, those individuals with authorization can review it for them. This is not an issue of trust, but rather a necessary control to ensure the integrity of the data.

Overall, Durden and his management counterparts are pleased with the Milestone system. “Customers benefit because they know their product is in a facility that’s secure, with smart security employees,” said Durden. “We can demonstrate that this technology is cutting edge.”

Eric Harne, CPP, is the principal consultant for Harne and Associates, a firm that specializes in security management communications. He has written extensively on a variety of issues in the security industry. Mr. Harne can be reached at [email protected].