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Hide and Seek

July 19, 2012
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As the U.K. parliament grills the head of the security company hired to provide services to the London Olympic Games, we get a reminder of just how difficult and expensive security can be. The price of failures thus far has not been catastrophic, except to a career or two.

Meanwhile in the U.S., the deadline for 100 percent scanning of containers at foreign ports has passed and is raising concerns over heightened risk. The fact that the multi-layer approach to threat assessment has appeared to work well isn’t stopping those who are calling for scanning all U.S.-bound containers at foreign ports.

The numbers for compliance being thrown around are massive. One report says the U.S. receives goods from 700 foreign ports. Requiring scanners at all of those ports will add a tremendous cost which will be passed along to port users and, ultimately, to consumers. But beyond that, there are issues of sovereignty. Can the U.S. impose its security requirements on ports in a foreign country?

What if the foreign countries want a reciprocal arrangement – requiring all shipments leaving the U.S. to be scanned?

While we’re multiplying the 700 ports times the estimated number of scanners and tallying up the price, there are other costs that are much more difficult to calculate.

What is the cost of slowing or disrupting the flow of commerce?

How much trade is at risk if the price of doing business with the U.S. erodes margins to near zero?

Supply chain visibility can help and provide benefits at the same time. Information technology that extends a clear view of all of the players and all of the activities along the supply chain makes it harder to hide and easier to find the bad actors. It also helps identify process improvements and areas for cost reduction.

We can’t abandon our efforts to screen and scan and use other security measures, but our supply chains can achieve a double benefit of being more secure and more efficient if all of the supply chain partners participate in good information gathering and communication.

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