Theft deterrence & detection – The unrecognized value of stretch wrapping
You’ve probably trained your receiving team well. When a shipment arrives they carefully count the items and check for damage, and any observed damage is documented with photos and noted when they sign the bill of lading. Your customers follow a similar process, and for most CPG (consumer packaged goods) products this is entirely adequate.
But in some cases it’s not. Certain products, based on regulatory controls or high value, require more. In these cases, stretch wrapping can provide additional security in the supply chain in two ways.
First is deterrence.
There are several things you can do to make your loads uninviting. The simplest is to unitize them well. When loads tip over or fall apart during their logistics and distribution journey the boxes can become disorganized or scattered. Boxes that are scattered around are subject to loss not only by opportunistic theft, but also damage and inadvertent misplacement.
Securely wrapped, cubed loads remove the chance of individual distribution units (like corrugated cases) floating around. They look complete and proper; they’re confident loads that don’t expect to be messed with.
Sometimes though you need to take another step to remove temptation – again thinking of products that are particularly enticing based on value or their inherent nature. In those cases, opaque stretch film can prevent logos or product descriptions from catching unwanted attention as products move through the distribution network. A load that is opaquely and securely wrapped is much less enticing.
Second is detection.
How do you know if an interior case is removed? Or if a load has been re-wrapped (for any reason, including damage or convenience in transit)?
Weighing the pallet load while stretch wrapping it is an effective method of detecting load changes. Check weighing a load and keeping records of the weight is an easy way to provide a solid level of supply chain security.
Printed stretch film offers a rarely used, but very effective, indicator which can’t be easily replicated en-route. Even random prints with infrequent impressions can serve to simultaneously boost your brand while making it immediately apparent to your customers’ receiving teams that something is amiss. When the presence of printed film is noted on shipping paperwork it may even alert recipients that haven’t grown accustomed to your sharp looking loads arriving in great condition (due to consistent containment force) with branded stretch film.
Additional techniques include common tracking tools that are applied to the outside of stretch film (and often come with pressure sensitive stickers for notation on the bill of lading) that record excessive shock or tipping. Running branded tape on case sealers provides unit level indication of tampering as well.
New technology to prevent supply chain substitution and fraud
Stretch wrapping is a common and simple way to deter and detect physical tampering of products between shipment and receipt. But as supply chains become more attenuated and complex, and as product claims are increasingly key in differentiating suppliers (e.g. organic certification), there are additional steps that companies are considering to guarantee authenticity.
Blockchain, the unique identifier and anti-fraud concept originally developed for Bitcoin, technology is one which is very early in development. Since it originated with Bitcoin, many of the early applications are in the field of FinTech (financial technology.) However, the supply chain field is the focus of numerous early applications and fascinating experimentation. These articles provide a preview of ways in which blockchain technology may impact supply chain, and, specifically, warehouse / shipping / receiving operations. Article 1 from Load Delivered | Article 2 from Wall Street Journal | Article 3 from Talking Logistics | It’s even spurring discussions such as this LinkedIn group “Blockchain for Logistics”
There’s exciting potential – but much remains theoretical, and supply chain systems will have to reach a critical mass for broad value to emerge.
In contrast to blockchain, there’s a technology which is less discussed and more technically advanced. In fact, DNA tagging is fully developed, patented, and deployed in the field. And the implications are incredible.
Applied DNA Sciences describes their SigNature® DNA process as follows:
Unique and powerful means to authenticate originality, verify provenance…With essentially infinite variability, individualized custom DNA sequences can be created and embedded into a range of host carriers such as ink, varnish, thread, laminates, and metal coatings. Highly secure, robust, durable, and cost-effective, SigNature DNA markers can be used as a forensic complement to barcodes, watermarks, holograms, RFIDs, microdots, or any other security platform….SigNature DNA markers are based on plant DNA. These engineered marks have not and cannot be broken. The conventional process used to sequence (“decode”) native DNA is not possible with the engineered mark. Additional layers of protection and complexity are added to the mark in a proprietary manner. This botanically engineered solution is shielded by a portfolio of 24 patents, 58 patent applications, and other intellectual property protection…The SigNature DNA platform has proven highly resistant to UV radiation, heat, cold, vibration, abrasion, and other extreme environmental conditions, and a single SigNature DNA mark will support at least ten authentications in its lifetime. Unsurpassed durability, accuracy, and assurance make SigNature DNA markers an ideal foundation or enhancement for any security effort.
What does this mean, how does it apply to supply chain security, and how is it pertinent to stretch wrapping?
Let’s take several random examples.
- DNA tags can be added to extruded material. A multinational with a global purchasing contract for materials (stretch film for instance) could stipulate confidentially that the manufacturer include a DNA tag in the approved formulation of film which corporate engineering accepts for global use. Although the material may be manufactured in different locations and distributed through different channels, it could periodically be checked at stretch wrappers in each facility to ensure that the film that’s specified and bought is the film that’s delivered
- Those same tags could be used to confirm products are wrapped in the original stretch film as they are received on the dock. (The testing, or assay, process is inexpensive and quick – normally results are available in 15 minutes or less.)
- Ensure that replacement parts for your stretch wrapping (or other) machine are genuine.
- And of course there are a number of easily envisioned applications for CPG products themselves and their primary packaging. One great example is the case study of a supplier of textiles to an international retailer who needed to prevent the illicit introduction of substandard fiber into finished goods.
The possibilities are, one can imagine, almost limitless. And the economics are compelling. The cost of tagging, particularly in volume, is immaterial for most applications.
Physical verification on the shipping & receiving dock
While some raw materials are delivered via rail head or in other bulk vehicles, pallets are shipped and received every day in countless quantities as efficient global supply chains grind along.
One commonality in many cases is the role of stretch wrapping – not only it’s primary functional goal of load containment, but secondary roles of deterring and detecting theft and pilferage.
As supply chains become a source of ever greater competitive advantage, the role of stretch wrapping will likely become more important in fraud prevention and detection. These evolving technologies will likely be important tools as that develops.
July 21, 2016