A Rapidly Changing Realm

Proven security solutions are part of a daily balancing act

Many retail operators continue to face a daily balancing act of maintaining both an online and in-person presence. The coronavirus pandemic accelerated our adoption of online shopping, and the expectation now is that every retailer needs to be proficient in both arenas. This places a heightened emphasis on secure operations that ensure a seamless experience for the customer no matter where they pull out their credit card.

Retail managers thus need to prioritize security solutions that provide a clear return on investment by improving operational efficiency throughout their supply chain to optimize the customer experience.

At the center of retail security operations is inventory management. Product losses, or shrink, continue to be one of the biggest issues retailers tackle and many factor it into their overall budget. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, retail losses nationwide reached nearly $100 billion in 2022. This puts a premium on accurately accounting for all goods, which typically rests with individual employees and some version of a product scanner.

These devices are the cornerstone of retail operations and represent a pivotal bridge to fulfilling orders. They also are becoming increasingly more advanced and expensive, which represents a significant financial and security risk if they end up in the wrong hands.

Managers who closely monitor scanner usage, both in-store and in distribution centers, can see immediate dividends. Some of the largest retailers in the United States and overseas are implementing shared asset management lockers to safely store and charge their scanners.

Managers have greater visibility into which employee has checked out which scanner and through fault logging features, can tell if there’s an issue with a device that requires it to be removed from circulation. This can not only reduce time spent searching for a lost scanner but also eliminate the need for a manager to manually check them out, which saves time and resources, especially at the beginning or end of a shift.

The same concept of maintaining an audit trail of scanner usage can be applied to other shared devices like radios, tablets, and laptops. It can also be seen regarding retailers’ most basic security measure: keys. Like scanners, key cabinets can be utilized both in-store and in distribution centers to guarantee safe access to not only secured areas but expensive equipment also. Managers can monitor this usage remotely, which is especially important when dealing with multiple stores, distribution centers, or a combination of both.

One of the most prominent examples of this lies in fleet vehicles, which, for many retailers, are the lifeblood of distribution efforts. Their efficiency is connected to the customer experience and overall success of a business, especially as more consumers are expecting condensed shipping and delivery windows.

Managers can effectively monitor their fleet by assigning certain vehicles to certain drivers to ensure equal usage, which can cut down on maintenance costs by extending the fleet's life. Just like with asset management lockers, managers can also implement curfews so that when a vehicle and its key aren’t returned by a certain time, they’re notified to speed up finding that vehicle and its key.

When those vehicles are being loaded at distribution centers, there are additional safety and security measures that can be implemented to ensure efficiency. One international fashion retailer uses an iFob/Susie lock system in its centers that requires a vehicle to be immobilized before a dock door can be opened.

Once the merchandise has been loaded onto the truck, the trailer door must be closed, and the dock must be cleared of personnel and machinery before the lock can be disengaged to allow the driver to leave. This virtually eliminates accidents of trucks leaving before their trailer door is closed and safeguards against potential theft from unauthorized dock access.

As noted above, retail security is deeply rooted in operational logistics that extend from the distribution center to customer checkout.

In truth, the same key and asset management systems that impact those arenas can be used throughout a retailer’s footprint, including in facility management, commercial development, compliance, and engineering. Any of those departments can directly impact customers and executives need to consider security solutions that are scalable to all facets of their operation, especially as the retail landscape evolves and businesses enter another holiday season.

Retailers in the United States, and across the world, are discovering every day how key and asset management are vital tools in doing so while providing the highest level of customer service.

This article originally appeared in the November / December 2023 issue of Security Today.

About the Author

Brian Davidson is the regional sales manager at Traka.

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