By Breck Ellison
When people think of asset protection and life safety features at industrial sites or manufacturing facilities, most think in terms of fire alarms and surveillance cameras. But integrated security systems can also help a company’s bottom line in terms of boosting productivity, keeping an eye on margins, and even assessing the efficiency of vehicle and personnel flow on a factory floor.
There are challenges inherent in installing integrated systems in industrial settings, but first let’s look at ways it can boost a bottom line:
- Equipment protection: If an assembly line process goes off the rails, a surveillance camera can capture the moment and alert plant managers to stop and repair the line before too much damage is done to inventory. It also limits downtime.
- Minding margins: If a restaurant employee is observed consistently putting too much cheese on pizzas, over time the extra cost will cut into company margins. Surveillance cameras can alert management to waste, reducing costs and improving margins.
- Limiting liability: Surveillance cameras and modeling can help defray liability costs such as workers compensation claims. If, for instance, an employee is captured on camera operating a forklift carelessly before an accident causes an injury, the claim can be denied or reduced.
- Worker safety: Protecting your human resources is more important than ever thanks to a very tight labor market. If an employee is injured while operating a piece of machinery, the worker or a nearby coworker can hit an emergency button that automatically shuts down the machine. This integrated feature can limit the scope of injuries and ensure the worker can rejoin your team more quickly. A duress button in an interior office can also summon help if there is a medical emergency or violent outburst, both of which can be expensive and result in production downtime.
These uses are above and beyond the obvious protections that an integrated asset protection and life safety system affords workers, inventory, and facilities against fire, uncontrolled access, or intrusion by a person intent on violence.
Integrated Security Systems: The Challenges
Given the nature of many industrial or manufacturing sites — staggered shifts, production cycles, 24-hour operation — it can be challenging to outfit these facilities with fully integrated security systems.
Here’s a rundown on some of the challenges an integrator might face with such a job:
The majority of integrated systems must be retrofit as companies take advantage of improved technology or update their security, monitoring, and surveillance equipment. Since most factories can’t just shut down production for any given amount of time, installers, managers and plant leadership must decide well ahead of time when work can be done and for how long. Some factories or production facilities even require safety lessons before allowing in outside contractors to perform work. This means lead time and advanced coordination is important.
The time crunch can be compounded by the fact that many large industrial or manufacturing customers have multiple integrated needs. This means extra time needs to be spent designing an integrated system that meets all the access control, monitoring and surveillance needs of a manufacturer or industrial facility.
The variety of services needed also pose a challenge for integrators. While integrators will install specialized cameras to monitor, for example, assembly lines, more standard equipment needs to be installed in office, meeting, or common areas. This can include access control throughout the facility, duress alarms in the human resources office, and surveillance of the parking lot. That’s a lot of things to tie together when time and scheduling is an issue.
Determining what individuals or team members will be responsible for monitoring and maintaining the system can also pose a challenge. A human resources manager doesn’t know how to clean a camera, but members of a facility management crew might be able to. Given the integrated and technical nature of the security components, it is generally wise to have someone from the company’s IT team on board. Integrators can provide guidance on assembling this team, but it is ultimately up to the company how it wants to designate responsibility for various facets of the system.
Some employees may feel they are at the mercy of Big Brother when integrated systems that include surveillance cameras are installed. They need to be reminded that the system is not just there to spy on people; it can help protect workers and improve the company’s bottom line.
While retrofitting a range of integrated life safety and asset protection features into a modern industrial facility can be daunting, it can most certainly be done. Just remember that success lies in planning ahead, communicating needs and plans, and having a designated company representative that can help installers overcome challenges on the inside.
Breck Ellison is COO of Gallaher, an Alcoa, TN-based integrated security company specializing in asset protection and life safety. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.