With the fundamental responsibility of resource allocation and movement of goods to meet every need that an organization might have, logistics is an essential element of managing the supply chain. For manufacturers, resellers, retailers and almost every other type of business, a well-managed logistics program is vital to the overall success of the enterprise.
Two areas of business functioning which are central to the discipline of logistics are warehousing and transportation of goods. For both of these, key management can help reduce risk, contain costs and optimize operations.
The ability to store goods temporarily or for longer term is a basic link in the supply chain. Merchandise must be organized, protected and fully accounted for throughout the time it is in the distribution center or warehousing facility. As a part of operations, facilities are often partitioned with controlled access to reduce the risk of theft or damage to goods. Controlled substances and items of high value may be placed in cages or rooms where a very limited group of personnel have authority to enter. Management offices, server or data storage closets, infrastructure and machinery may be in secure areas with limited access as well.
To secure and control the locked areas in a warehouse or distribution center, physical keys play a vital role. The number of keys could number in the dozens, or in the thousands, but each one represents a financial investment. Like the merchandise they protect, every key must be identified, secured and tracked on an ongoing basis. Each must be configured within the key control system so that only the personnel authorized to open that specific lock, cage or door have permission to remove that key from the cabinet.
If merchandise from a secured area disappears, a forklift is taken on a joyride or an office door is left open when it should be locked, the system enables management to view who last removed that specific key from the cabinet. If an individual who is not authorized to enter a specific area attempts to remove the key for that area, management can be instantly alerted. The use of a key control system also helps eliminate lost or missing keys, reducing the need for expensive rekeying.
Within the center itself, there is a large number of vehicles, forklifts, and other equipment used to move merchandise from place to place. The risk factors for these vehicles include employee use without prior authorization, or unauthorized operators misusing or even damaging these assets. Designating certain employees as authorized operators of specific vehicles helps provide an additional layer of security. Key control can also help management ensure that vehicles are properly rotated to ensure equal wear and tear. Additionally, the ability to track an individual key’s location from cabinet to cabinet can help staff locate a vehicle based on where the key was returned, an important factor for some larger distribution centers.
Beyond the perimeter of the facility, some organizations have their own fleets of trucks and other vehicles to transport merchandise from ports, railyards and other manufacturers to warehouses, and then to retail outlets or customers. These fleets have their own sets of keys which require protection and tracking.
Using key control systems, fleet managers can prevent unauthorized vehicle use, ensure a specialized vehicle is available when it is needed, track vehicle usage and status, schedule the use of trucks so that wear and tear is balanced, minimize key loss, log maintenance notes, and much more.
Key control enables the creation of an auditable trail for every key and the associated door, machine or vehicle - a powerful force against unauthorized usage, and an effective management tool to help contain and manage costs.
The best strategies for logistics relate to the management of goods and their movement between locations, with all the related workflows that enable and optimize those operations. At a time when distribution centers and logistics companies are increasingly required to reduce costs and improve efficiencies, key control is a basic and fundamental element of an overall risk management strategy.