Industrial warehouses are more than just a place where inventory is received and shipped. They are complex business operations that employ systems and technology to be efficient and accountable. Quality employees and product tracking methods are essential to a productive department but there are ways to further increase profitability and auditing the plant security systems can pay a handsome return. The key is to know where every product is at all times by closing the security loop through improved inventory management.

By increasing security in the warehouse in a few, specific areas the company can reduce customer risk and reduce fulfillment errors by increasing accuracy in both shipping and receiving activities. Better security also means reduced fulfillment errors, increased picking accuracy, and customer satisfaction. These improvements increase profitability, efficiency, and reduce insurance claims when high-value items go missing.

Organization of operations includes simple things like better lighting, moving high-value items to areas where there are more people, and keeping work areas neat so that missing items can be spotted immediately. Create an environment of passive monitoring by using RFID proximity alarms, for example, to warn employees that unauthorized visitors are trying to leave guest areas. Changing locks regularly or using keypads will render lost or shared keys useless.

Tracking technologies like RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and bar codes allow the warehouse manager to create reports that show individual items shipped which can then be compared with inventory. Some RFID systems will allow a continuous inventory count by simply driving or walking the aisles with a reader so that employees picking orders are updating the inventory database in real time. Integrated technologies can track employee movements and inventory discrepancies so that shrinkage can be immediately discovered, virtually eliminating errors and theft.

Segmenting the warehouse with improvements to layout and implementing physical access controls creates work cells. This is important especially in busy operations because employees cannot always monitor unsecured inventory. If possible, separate shipping and receiving areas so drivers cannot wander between the two departments. Restrict all non-employee access to the warehouse using gates and high-speed dock doors. Inventory access can be restricted by using tool cribs, rack caging, and gates on bays or aisles that contain high-value goods. Allow only a high-ranking employee to enter restricted areas or have access to all areas to limit exposure to different workers.

Further segmenting can be accomplished by securing high-value goods immediately on arrival or “where it sits” with perimeter fencing to keep unnecessary workers and visitors away while it is being processed. Secure outgoing shipments with security cages to prevent “helpful” drivers from assisting with loading and taking incorrect items. These examples show that security can be improved with simple adjustments to procedure and policy and your business can gain a competitive edge.