Home Opinion Why today’s clients demand sole sourcing

Why today’s clients demand sole sourcing

by Brian Sims
Chris Plimley

Chris Plimley

Chris Plimley states that Government and commercial buyers of Critical National Infrastructure protection solutions increasingly want to ‘single source’ in order to improve integration, drive up standards and reduce costs.

The trend towards sole sourcing was established long ago, built on a drive for lower costs, quicker lead times and accelerated innovation.

It began over 30 years ago in the car industry as vehicle makers the world over adopted the Japanese approach of building supplier keiretsu: close-knit networks of vendors that continuously learn, improve and prosper along with the organisation they are supplying.

In a programme often known as ‘vendor reduction’, they slashed the number of suppliers with whom they did business, awarded the survivors long-term contracts and encouraged their most important suppliers to manage the lower tiers.

They also persuaded top-tier suppliers to produce sub-systems instead of components, take responsibility for quality and costs and deliver ‘just in time’.

Too critical to play ‘squeeze the supplier’

I’ll return to the car companies later. For now, fast-forward 30 years and for many businesses and Governments such a Plan of Action didn’t yield the benefits they’d hoped for. Too often, ‘vendor reduction’ was misused by bullying buyers as a means of beating year-on-year price cuts out of suppliers rather than fostering the long-term partnerships the Japanese had in mind. We saw this play out most strikingly in the control wielded over their supply chain by the all-powerful supermarket retail giants.

Security, and the protection of Critical National Infrastructure, is literally too critical an area with which to play ‘squeeze the supplier’ like this. Fortunately, national Governments and global utility companies have realised that truism and are not playing fast and loose with their supplier relationships.

After all, according to a recent ComputerWorld blog, a frightening 70% of critical infrastructure organisations suffered security breaches in the last year, including water, oil, gas and electric utilities. An almost equally high 64% anticipate one or more serious attacks in the coming year.

The insider threat in Government agencies and big companies is a known problem with well-developed strategies to mitigate the situation, but globalisation and outsourcing have gone some way towards blurring the lines between insiders and external suppliers.

Partnering for mutual trust

Those strategies are less easily implemented with vendors, contractors and business partners. Partnering and engagement which fosters mutual trust is the best protection when outsiders are gaining privileged access to – or even creating the security protections for – critical infrastructure facilities.

Indeed, that’s the approach we are happily witnessing from our own customers for our highest security systems, both within Government and the commercial world. It’s their desire to contract with a single company for all of their security needs – both physical and electronic – and partner with us in an automotive-style, top tier supplier relationship that’s actively steering our own business strategy.

Driven by this customer demand, we’ve acquired the most respected high-security installer in the UK in Binns Fencing and the latest in CCTV and video content analysis with EyeLynx.

We’re combining that with collaborations with perimeter intrusion detection systems and electric fencing to be able to offer an holistic and fully-integrated security solution, through design and manufacture to supply and installation.

Benefits to the buyer

What are the benefits to a buyer, then, and for the security of the infrastructure they run?

First, it enables a more truly integrated security solution to be designed. By sharing in confidence with trusted suppliers the full extent of the vision for their Critical National Infrastructure facility and the security strategy, it enables the age-old security questions to be explored at the design stage, namely:

*What asset base are we trying to protect – physical, human, intellectual and/or even reputational?

*What risks do (or might) they face around potential damage, theft or sabotage?

*Who or what might pose these risks and how might they carry out their threats?

Second, sole customer-supplier interfaces are driving the development of increasingly higher standards and levels of security to cope with the evolving nature of the threat posed by global terrorism and organised crime.

Third, partner relationships are reducing overall lead times in the design and construction of Critical National Infrastructure.

Finally, the Holy Grail in this era of spiralling debt and hard-earned recovery following the credit crunch of the late 2000s – sole source partnering reduces costs.

Chris Plimley is Sales Manager for High Security Products at Zaun

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