On Second Thought
with Alan Spear
Most professionals belong to organizations dedicated to their professions, whether to gain certification or accreditation, or to keep up with ongoing trends and technologies. Organizations help build networks of people with similar interests, and we use those for problem-solving and employment searches and often find our most enduring professional friendships are built through them.
Participation in professional organizations has traditionally revolved around conferences or seminars put on by the organization during the year. In years past, some of these were boondoggles where more time was spent on the beach, the golf course or in the pool than in the actual meetings, but most groups have come to recognize that neither companies nor employees have the time, or the money, to spend on pleasure trips on work time. For some groups, meetings have become more focused on professional issues.
Professional organizations are usually incorporated, perhaps as a 501 (c) 6, and established as non-profits, but not as charities. They typically have by-laws, boards of directors, officers, committee structures, formal work groups, Websites, organized publications and staff and, over time, much of the focus is built toward maintaining the organization and on conference events for revenue generation. Such groups, especially when they lose their professional focus. tend to die off in time.
This story, though, is about a very different kind of organization; an organization that accomplishes its goals and has truly made a difference in supply chain security, but without the trappings of the more typical professional groups. That organization is the Pharmaceutical Cargo Security Coalition (PCSC). Let me share some information that sets this organization aside from others:
- PCSC annual budget — $0.00.
- Website costs — $0.00 (donated).
- Conference and venue costs — $0.00 (donated).
- Attendance fees — $0.00 (conferences are free).
- Administration — $0.00 (services donated by members).
- Alerts to members — $0.00.
- Number of members — More than 1,200.
PCSC has no board or formal committees, one officer, and no formal structure, but its accomplishments are outstanding. In 2006, security managers from Wyeth and Pfizer pharmaceutical companies called a meeting in New Jersey and 36 people attended. The concern was a perceived growth in the frequency and severity of theft of pharmaceuticals, especially scheduled deliveries, with potentially huge risks for the public and those companies whose product was being stolen. Once the product was out of the legitimate supply chain, how were these companies to know how it had been handled, whether it was still safe, and to whom it was being sold and distributed? The implications were enormous, and something needed to be done. At that meeting, it was decided to start a process of information sharing within the industry to fight against this rash of cargo crime. That was a tough decision. Pharmaceutical companies are highly competitive and the idea of sharing information was difficult to swallow, but they came to realize cargo theft was an overarching industry issue, in fact a national and global issue, and it was too big for any one company to handle alone.
Through that sharing of information, and especially intelligence, its annual conferences, daily alerts and broadcasts, and a building consensus on how to protect pharmaceutical cargo in the supply chain, PCSC and its members have drastically reduced the amount of pharmaceutical cargo theft in the United States. The statistics on major pharmaceutical cargo thefts speak for themselves:
- 2009 — 47 thefts with an average value of $4.2 million each for a total value of $197.4 million.
- 2010 — 45 thefts with an average value of $2 million each for a total value of $90 million.
- 2011 — 36 thefts with an average value of $585,000 each for a total value of $21.06 million.
- 2012 — 30 thefts with an average value of $168,219 for a total value of $5.04 million.
These figures represent a reduction in overall cargo lost to theft of 97.5 percent in just four years. They also represent a coalition of effort through PCSC, which now represents manufacturers, carriers, insurers, government, law enforcement, and an overall recognition that best security practices can, in fact, reduce the frequency and value of supply chain theft significantly; and it was all done without any formal structure at all.
PCSC helps its members, responds instantly to theft events, coordinates law enforcement and private investigators, gets information out immediately, and is frequently responsible for pulling together the resources necessary to recover cargo that was stolen and it’s all done with volunteers. The level of commitment is simply amazing, and the willingness of people from all sorts of organizations to come together in emergency situations, often working many hours on their own time (whether or not for their own companies or within their defined jurisdictions), is exemplary. Adding to that effort the major improvements in tracking technology, growing cooperation and sharing among manufacturers and carriers and added awareness by law enforcement and government agencies, and you have a powerful force for good, and it did not even have a name until 2009.
So, the next time you go to a conference that charges lots of money to attend, where much of the time is spent in recreation or listening to vendors trying to sell you something, ask yourself, “Is this group really doing what it is intended to do? Can they show results?” Then, think about the PCSC model: In this instance, for certain, simple is better.
Spear is TAPA America’s former chairman and U.S. director of cargo security loss control for AIG Global Marine. He may be reached by email.