News Archive

Lean Means Business

by msecadm4921

With clients such as Halfords, Jessops, Vodafone, Homebase, 3 (UK), and Dolcis, Unipart Security Solutions seem until now to have kept a fairly low profile. We re-visited Jim Gannon who heads up Cowley-based Unipart Security Solutions to see what services they offer that differentiates them from their competitors.

Jim, previously a member of the Thames Valley Police Fraud Squad and No 5 Regional Crime Squad, has been with the Unipart Group for more than 22 years. What is immediately apparent is the strength of his team. Drawn from police and military as well as commercial backgrounds, Jim has under his management a front line team of 12 security advisers and between them they have over 250 years experience of working in security environments. The name Unipart will be familiar to many from its name in the automotive field and the turning of Unipart Group from part of a publicly owned company into a global logistics enterprise. It’s a British success story. Unipart turned itself around from an early history dogged by all the problems associated with having been part of British Leyland.


These days Unipart employs more than 10,000 people and turns over £1.2bn. It is a multi-faceted operation embraces a range of diverse activities in the rail, leisure and marine and even conference sectors, besides its traditional place in the automotive parts field, but the news concerning its new security service relates to Unipart’s track record in its core business of logistics.


The Unipart story is one of continual change through developing the company’s capabilities and knowledge. Nowhere is this more evident than in Unipart’s development from the after-market division of British Leyland to the fourth largest third party logistics provider in the UK. This progress is all connected to its ability to manage the entire supply chain and work in deep, trusted long-term partnerships with clients. As part of the logistics service, Unipart has provided a variety of specialised security functions both in terms of manned security and electronic protection for its clients. These services have centred on facilities such as large warehouse buildings and distribution sites and comprise a protective ‘envelope’ for those different elements in the end-to-end supply chain network. Unipart has developed its capacity in this area for over 20 years, so what’s new at this point?


Well, the difference today is that this integrated security service – which benefits from the company’s experience of implementing a ‘Lean’ approach to its business operations and customer service – is no longer restricted to Unipart’s existing logistics clients. Unipart has been expanding its security operation by establishing Unipart Security Solutions to offer the same level and range of solutions in the wider market, enabling other customers who have not previously had the opportunity to profit from the same advantages of Unipart’s approach to security. In practical terms, these gains stem from an approach that is based on Unipart’s understanding of a clients’ business and the market they operate in. This understanding is then combined with experience in Lean enterprise, a business system for organising and managing product development, operations, suppliers and customer relations. The use of lean principles, practices and tools is designed to create identifiable customer value.


Many of the key principles of Lean thinking were pioneered by car-maker Henry Ford and Toyota later adapted Ford’s principles to produce its own wide variety of products at lower volumes and with many fewer defects than its competitors. The principles of Lean can be applied as a means of producing goods and delivering services that create value for the customer with the minimum amount of waste and maximum degree of quality.


So how does all this translate into a better standard of security from Unipart? "We looked at the Lean principles to see how they apply to us and could be directly enacted in our business by really listening and deeply understanding our clients’ business, market and plans," said Jim Gannon. "We examined how to use our 20 years experience of Lean to tailor security solutions to precisely meet our clients’ needs. And thirdly, we believe that by continuously improving processes and proactively suggesting ideas to add value and differentiation to our clients’ business and products, we can also make a significant difference to their own level of service, efficiency, loss reduction and profitability. All of this thinking has been refined into a concept that has been adopted as the Security the Unipart Way."


"By working in partnership with our customers in this unique manner, the traditional functions of security in terms of manned guarding, electronic systems including CCTV and remote surveillance, and internal investigative capabilities, can be more effectively tailored to their specific needs. Our approach to security is based on protecting what is important to the client, achieving the appropriate level of security resilience to the level of risk." Jim feels that doing business and doing security go hand in hand. "Achieving alignment between the security function and the business operation requires not only to widen the remit to cover the management of more risks but fundamentally to recognise and change the way security works." "Unipart Security Solutions’ [USS] style is focused upon realistic risk reductions and crime prevention, deterrence, detection and effective response. The philosophy is all about applying the appropriate controls to manage potential security threats at individual sites without turning them into fortresses that adversely affect or hinder other aspects of our clients’ daily business activities. Moreover, we are not imposing a ‘shrink wrap’ or ‘one size fits all’ answer. Instead, the Lean principles applied are designed instead to individualise each application using our customer ‘diagnostics’."


Putting more flesh on the type of security services USS provides, manned security presence is complemented by a remote CCTV monitoring centre based at Unipart’s national headquarters in Cowley, Oxford. The third specialist arm comprises a team of investigative staff trained in areas such as internal fraud detection.


Part of the Lean thinking approach that has been applied within the Security the Unipart Way concept involves the specialist training of employees. An internal programme includes a five-step process designed to equip them with the necessary operational skills, demonstrable levels of competence, and a uniformity of understanding that can be deployed in turn to benefit our clients. The depth of our training process extends from an induction stage to taking each staff member to a level where they can if required provide training to new colleagues joining the organisation. The "Unipart Way" empowers every employee to improve and streamline their part of the business. It has proved so successful that companies come from around the world come to learn the principles that have changed Unipart from British Leyland’s part supplier into a world leader in logistics and end-to-end supply chain networks. With their list of well known clients growing on almost a daily basis, Unipart Security Solutions seem destined to have a much higher market profile in the months ahead and Jim is optimistic about the company’s future. "There is no doubt that our message is spreading across the market place and that our Lean approach to security will pay long-term dividends to us and our clients.”

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