News Archive

Retailers IP

by msecadm4921

From the February 2006 issue.

Retailer MFI went for IP (Internet Protocol) video to manage security and business processes at its home delivery centres. The furniture company reckoned to have saved £110,000 yearly on guarding at two sites.

Nicholas Stephenson is MFI Group Security Manager, a member of ASIS and previously head of security for GuinnessUDV at their manufacturing and distribution sites in Jamaica. He reports: “Here in the UK the norm is not gun crime as in America or the Caribbean; we have more problems with break-ins and vandalism at night-time, internal and external theft and fraud, safety issues in the workplace.” London-based Nicholas has six regional security managers in the field, three admin personnel at head office, 20 in-house security officers and a number of contract security staff based at the factories and primary distribution sites. Each regional manager has multiple site and function responsibilities (manufacturing, distribution, retail, trade etc.) and all have access to the IP video surveillance system from Milestone. Pacific Group Ltd has installed the new system. The first installation in 2004 was at a computer engineering office and warehouse site, followed by credit control offices, both in Northampton. Systems were then installed in 2005 at two of the retailer’s HDCs (Home Delivery Centres), 24-hour operations in Warrington and Glasgow. The system will be rolled out to other sites over time.

Alarm alerts

Part of the team based in Northampton is using the Milestone XProtect Central for monitoring all four sites. If there are any alarm activations or alerts, staff can see what is going on and call their key-holding response teams if needed.
MFI use Group 4 Securicor (G4S) for night-time response. Managers do not have to be called out in the night to unlock and investigate an alarm, with the contract guards trained to handle such events. Nicholas says: “With the Milestone system, we can react fast but verify that there is a valid reason – no false alarm situations.”

What they say

Paul Tyler, Sales Manager at Pacific Group Ltd, says: “XProtect Central allows MFI to view multiple sites, up to 30 cameras per site, from one location on the network. They now have a central security office with a monitor wall of all the site cameras so when monitored sites close for the day, coverage goes to the central monitoring point so the first man in and last man out are always protected, as are the goods and property at night. The monitoring people on 24 hour shifts ensure that all sites are protected round the clock. They’ve got full control and overview.” Pacific Group is a certified Milestone partner who installs and supports all of MFI’s computer systems. Besides live viewing, images are recorded onto the Milestone database 24-hours for searching and export of evidence. A motion detection function only records when there’s activity and flexible scheduling allows setting up defined times, instances and zones for the recording. Paul says: “At the first site there are optics on different bays within the warehouse. One area’s got three static Panasonic cameras and a PTZ, the other area has four static cameras to give adequate coverage.” MFI also have the security system installed in the computer engineering facility in Northampton, plus another office block near there. Nicholas says: “There we are protecting our computer equipment and in the office environment protecting our people. The last one out at night always calls our security desk at Northampton to let them know they are leaving so they can monitor their departure. This definitely provides a greater sense of safety. People do feel more secure at work now. My job is not just protection of our stock: it’s very much the protection of our own people, visitors and customers – whoever comes onto our sites."

Gate control

Paul says: “Where we need people recognition, we’ve put up Panasonic wide angle lens cameras at the gatehouses that pick up faces and vehicle licence registrations. People have personal IDs and access codes to punch in to a wall station if they’re an MFI employee. If they are registered as authorized, the system triggers the barrier to raise and let them through." The installer integrated the IP software and the barrier so the gate can be opened via the software. The camera recording is triggered to start as soon as there is motion in the gate area – when a vehicle or a person approaches. Authorised persons enter a code and the barrier raises automatically, closing behind them. A visitor without a code to punch in would press the intercom button: inside the HDC the visitor’s image pops up on the computer screen at their office desk. This lets them see and talk via the intercom to say ‘come on in’ – or not. Whether they have responsibility to check the gates during the day or night, they can go about their other work as the system alerts them when there is activity in those areas by opening a window on their screen with the video of what is happening at the gates. Nicholas adds: “Using the system, we’ve been able to remove the need for physically manning the gatehouses during the day. We save £55,000 in annual expenses because Milestone now handles the monitoring virtually.”

Observe key areas

The IP system gives MFI the ability to observe key areas, such as the receiving, returns and loading bays where the goods are loaded onto the trucks for delivery to the customers’ homes. The cameras’ recordings show what was loaded and when. This assists MFI with improving quality in the delivery process. Nicholas says: "It helps resolve issues, like if a customer calls to report they have not received their kitchen. The manager of that distribution centre can go into the Milestone system and see that the boxes went on to the truck that day. This happened just recently: the driver said an item was not delivered because it was not on his truck, but when we searched the system and found the evidence, we could clearly see the item being loaded. When we presented this to the driver, he suddenly ‘remembered’ that he had in fact delivered it to the previous customer by mistake! He went back to retrieve it, and delivered it to the right customer, keeping the customer satisfied." In the old days, received deliveries would just get unloaded at night and put somewhere. If there were damages, there was no recourse to prove it wasn’t by MFI. Now the retailer can review the unloading process and see exactly what condition exists inside the trailers when they are backed up to delivery bays. Nicholas says: “We had one supplier’s truck come in and hit the gate by the fence. We saw him on the video get out to look at his trailer and the gate, get back in his truck, deliver his goods and drive off! The video evidence got the supplier to pay for repairing that damage – just one of the many benefits of the surveillance.” Any external suppliers now know that how they load items on trailers at their end is very important, because MFI are watching it being unloaded at the sites, and they can see inside the trailers if there are any fallen items or damages.

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