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X-Ray Vision

15 June 2005

Screening every item that enters a high profile public sector organisation needed a security service to be specially designed by partners Amey and TNT Managed Services, as Amey’s Garrie Hunter and TNT’s Tim Robb explain

AS THE RISE IN GLOBAL TERRORISM has propelled security to the top of the UK business agenda, FMs and their suppliers have a crucial role to play in safeguarding employees, protecting premises and maintaining business continuity in the face of potentially catastrophic forces. Closed circuit television, security guards and ramped up signing-in procedures are familiar territory for most visitors to company head offices but with ‘front of house’ taken care of, it begs the question of who is watching the ‘back door’ in the mailroom and ‘goods in’ areas.

Increasingly, organisations are turning to offsite security screening for checking parcels, office supplies and other items entering a building for explosives or other harmful substances as a solution to guarding the potentially vulnerable mailroom gateway. FM experts Amey and outsourced office services suppliers, TNT Managed Services, have pioneered a bespoke screening operation at one of the UK’s first offsite screening facilities, in London.

“Every day millions of items of technical equipment, office furniture and stationery are passing through the doors of British commercial and public sector organisations and literally straight into the hands of employees without undergoing any kind of check at all,” explains Tim Robb, Divisional General Manager of TNT Managed Services. “Stationery and furniture are essential to the day-to-day functioning of any organisation but for those intent on doing harm these items could act as the vehicles for explosives and other dangerous devices. Some companies have sought to tackle this through ‘on-site’ security screening.

“Once a suspect device or substance is on the premises it poses a risk to the entire building and its employees – not to mention the cost and inconvenience of halting operations and evacuating an entire workforce whilst investigations are underway. Off-site security screening, on the other hand, offers arms-length protection, with someone else taking the risk on your behalf.”

In 2003 Amey approached TNT to develop the security screening element of a 30–year FM contract Amey had secured with a major public sector client. A joint TNT and Amey team set about the task and spent eight months devising a daily operation that could screen items entering the customer’s sites in London, from chairs and paper to bottled water and food.

The challenge, according to Amey’s Soft Services Manager Garrie Hunter, was “to develop a facility that both met our customer’s stringent security needs but also met the requirements from a service point of view. We had to consider every aspect of the service. Regular meetings involving ourselves, the customer and TNT were critical to the eventual success of this project. Customer approval was required at every level of the operation, down to inspecting the proposed site for the screening facility and the specifications for the type and make of scanning equipment used.”

Using a rigorous process designed by TNT to scrutinise international consignments being conveyed overseas by its air network, TNT and Amey crafted a tailor-made security solution that met Aviation Security Standards – an internationally recognised level of protection. Robb takes up the story: “We planned every stage of the operation meticulously and worked closely with Amey and their client to develop a solution that matched their requirements to the letter. This included a visit to one of our airport depots to see the aviation screening process in operation.”

With a solution planned out on paper, the team turned its attention to the logistics aspect of the operation. They spent a year consulting with the customer’s 50-plus regular suppliers and couriers, informing them of the new arrangements.

“There was a significant element of process reengineering,” explains Robb. “Suppliers who would normally have delivered directly to the customer would now have to deliver to our screening location, which meant adjusting delivery times and service level agreements. However, through good planning, good communication and flexibility we managed to develop an operation that delivers effective security, without hindering the day-to-day running of the premises.”

That communication was not confined to suppliers. The client’s 3,000 employees also had to be educated about of the new system. Hunter continued: “The client’s employees often deal with items from all over the world. Using a mixture of direct communication, specially convened workshops and the client’s own communication campaign we informed staff that all deliveries would in future have to go directly to the screening location – in effect changing the delivery address – and they needed to pass that message on to their own suppliers.”

One of the concerns raised by employees was whether the screening process would hinder urgently needed deliveries. “We addressed this by agreeing with TNT that the maximum length of time between the delivery of items to the screening location and their arrival at the customer’s premises would be three hours – a target that TNT has consistently met,” Hunter said.

In addition, the screening and logistics operation also had to take account of a scheduled consolidation of the client’s premises from four locations down to two. After a limited trial at one location in May 2004, the service went fully live in July. The operation sees ‘goods-in’ items delivered to the screening location, guarded by 24 hour security. Under the close scrutiny of surveillance cameras, items enter the secure building. A team of seven employees who have undergone strict security checks before being cleared to work for the TNT screening operation, prepare the pallets, parcels and packages for examination. An X-ray machine checks most items for explosive devices or their components, while hand-held scanners are used to check bigger items, and food and drink.

Once scanned, each item is bar-coded. An electronically generated inventory is then emailed to the customer’s location, alerting its staff to the imminent arrival of a delivery. The scanned items are loaded onto a sealed TNT vehicle and conveyed to the customer’s premises.

“The TNT team make between three and five deliveries every day,” said Robb, “Nothing enters the client’s premises without first being checked by us.”

A year on, the operation has been heralded a success, scanning up to 5,000 items every week. As Hunter concluded, “The brief was to provide an invisible service, an operation that would offer the client a high level of security but would be so smoothly integrated into their existing processes that it be unnoticeable, and it has proved to work very well indeed. Good communication has been important, particularly with those people involved in the day-to-day operation of the service.”

For TNT, too, good communication, together with thorough planning and a clear understanding of the brief, has been crucial. Robb commented: “We spent a lot of time getting the processes right. We held regular meetings with Amey and its client so by the time we launched the service it ran like clockwork. We have made some improvements to the operation. For example, we changed our methods of prealerting the customer from faxing to e-mailing simply because e-mail was quicker. We also highlight urgently needed, courier-delivered consignments with a different coloured bar code to the regular deliveries. This singles out those items that need to be with the client by a particular deadline, for example, pre-9am deliveries. It ensures they go on an earlier run to the customer and that the customer’s mailroom staff are alerted to the fact that they are on their way and need to be handed over as soon as possible. It speeds urgent items through the system without compromising safety.”

The client/supplier relationship has been cemented with a set of agreed key performance indicators, which TNT reports on a weekly and monthly basis. Amey and TNT are continuing to look at ways to enhance the service, including securing an end-to-end goods receipt process ensuring seamless tracking from delivery to scanner via TNT to the customers desktop. “At the moment there is a clear audit trail but it is held on several different documents – we would like to consolidate the information on to a single page so we can tell at a glance when an item arrived at the screening centre, when it was scanned, dispatched and safely delivered to the client’s premises,” explained Hunter.

The two companies are also looking to develop a streamlined parcel collection service from the customer’s premises, harnessing Amey’s expertise and TNT’s distribution network. For Amey, outsourcing the security screening function has proved to be an effective solution to providing the service and meeting the client’s requirements. According to Hunter, “Partnering with TNT has proved to be an effective solution to a unique problem, but it also brings added credibility to the operation. TNT already had access to suitable premises and, through its international delivery operations via the air network, it had expertise of security screening to a very high standard and a well-established set of processes.”

For TNT the thriving working relationship developed with Amey was the key to a successful outcome. Robb concludes; “There has been excellent collaborative work with Amey which has been crucial to the successful development of this service and has paved the way for further joint projects. Both parties were able to bring their own expertise to the table and resolve the logistical and communication challenges that arose as we worked through each stage of the project. It was also a first class learning experience which will stand us in good stead for the development of similar services, for which, in the current political climate, there may well be an increasing demand.”

....Tim Robb is Divisional General Manager of TNT Managed Services ( and Garrie Hunter is Soft Services Manager at Amey (

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