When TAPA seeks a glowing example of a global logistics provider that has completely embraced the value of its Security Standards, it need look no further than DHL Express.

It embarked on its TAPA Facility Security Requirements (FSR) certification programme over 17 years ago, with its Penang Gateway in Malaysia becoming the first certified facility in 2001, followed in quick succession by more sites in Asia Pacific, including Taipei and Shanghai. This month, the company’s Birmingham Service Centre in the UK became the 300th DHL Express location to be awarded TAPA FSR certification. It joins DHL Express’s global network of TAPA FSR accredited facilities, which now spans an impressive 82 countries.

Thorsten Neumann, Chairman of TAPA EMEA, was one of the first to recognise this outstanding commitment to the Association’s supply chain Security Standards, commenting: “We congratulate DHL Express and its Global Security team on this outstanding achievement and for their commitment to the TAPA Security Standards. They clearly recognise our Facility Security Requirements as the leading supply chain security standard and the most effective way to protect their customers’ goods. More and more customers are asking their logistics partners if their facilities are TAPA certified because it is the security benchmark they trust. This is why the level of TAPA certifications in the EMEA region is at its highest-ever level in our 20-year history and growing every month. We expect to see more companies following the example set by DHL Express.”             

Spearheading the company’s risk management strategy is Adrian Whelan, Senior Vice President, Head of Global Security, based at the DHL Express Global Head Office in Singapore. Operating in more than 220 countries, DHL Express claims to be the most international company in the world, moving millions of shipments every day. This presents no mean security challenge and it is one the company rises to with the support and expertise of its sizeable global security team, “all of whom are committed to ensuring the highest levels of security for our people and our customers’ shipments,” Adrian states.

In such a fast-moving and dynamic operational environment, the highest level of security is absolutely paramount to the company’s success, and it is why DHL Express has adopted TAPA’s FSR at the heart of its global security strategy.  

“Security has always been a top priority for DHL Express and we have had our own internal security standards for many years. We realised that it was important for us to have our own security standards independently verified and certified, mainly for our customers, so that they knew their valuable shipments were in very safe hands, as it were, with us,” he says. “TAPA’s FSR was an obvious solution and we embraced it very early on. Certification also became a source of pride for our facility managers, as well as our people working in the particular facilities. We display our FSR Certificates prominently for our customers and people alike to see.”

According to Adrian Whelan, it is ‘critically important’ for a company with such a big global network to be able to implement one global supply chain security standard across many facilities: “We operate a very extensive global network with our own global standards and operating procedures. The TAPA FSR is really important as it is the same everywhere. It allows us to implement our own global standards and be certified based on the FSR global standard, both of which complement one another. Our customers want the same high levels of security across the DHL Express network, so the FSR proves that a facility in country A is as secure as one in Country B.”

Over the last 17 years, DHL Express has also played an important role in the development of TAPA’s Security Standards through its contributions as part of the review process, which now takes place every three years. Adrian says: “The most obvious change was the move towards 100% compliance. In the earlier days, we could attain certification without 100% compliance so the move towards 100% fulfilment of the Requirements was a significant change.

“The FSR Standard should always be updated and be in line with new technology and advancements in security. The consultation process is therefore critically important from that perspective. Whenever the FSR is changed, it should be for the better and any changes that require additional expenditure should be very carefully evaluated to ensure they add value to the business. We need FSR to stay current and pragmatic and those designing the Standard need to understand that it is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach that works. Our business model is significantly different to many others in logistics, so the FSR Standard must be relevant and applicable to the various operators and business models that exist.”

In all respects, he finds TAPA EMEA extremely supportive, adding: “We are an active member of TAPA globally and in EMEA in particular. We receive training, valuable updates and, of course, participate in the excellent TAPA conferences, which we have tried to support over the years.”

But, it’s not only the DHL Express Global Security team which benefits from its wholehearted commitment to TAPA. Being ‘best-in-class’ for supply chain security is part of its core commercial proposition. 

“Our sales people use the TAPA Standard to ‘sell security’ as it is such an important aspect of our business. We view security as a competitive advantage and our customers tell us that security is critically important to them. We see detailed security requirements in every RFQ, so when we can reply to say that we are the global leader with 300 TAPA certified sites, it means a lot,” he says.

Asked how DHL Express measures return on investment from its adoption of the TAPA FSR Standard, he adds: “This is always quite difficult to answer. How do you measure things that don’t occur? We do measure shipment losses and, as I said before, we have been told by many people that our loss rates are negligible. How do you measure a relative lack of incidents and the like? We know that our facilities are secure, providing a safe working environment for our people and our customers’ shipments. I would defer to my commercial colleagues for them to comment on the number of times security in DHL Express is referenced when we retain and gain business. My colleagues responsible for Claims payments will also attest to the fact that claims attributable to security issues are again negligible.”

What then would be his message to heads of Global Security in other companies who might argue that adopting the TAPA FSR Standard across their networks costs too much to implement, or who say they don’t have a budget to do so or see no customer demand for it? “I would turn the question around and ask them how many shipments do they lose, how many attacks have they had and how many customers have they lost? They need to listen to their customers. It is all about the customer and their needs. If they look at how DHL Express has operated in recent years, they can determine for themselves if they see security in DHL Express as a positive factor or not. They can also speak with our customers, who most definitely value shipping with a secure service provider. Security is not a ‘nice to have’. It is a ‘must have’ both from a customer and regulatory perspective. From our own experience, our shipment loss rate is probably the lowest in the business and we do not lose customers as a result of poor security. In fact, we retain and gain customers because we have great security.”

So, having achieved the significant milestone of 300 TAPA FSR certified facilities, what’s next for DHL Express when it comes to TAPA’s Security Standards?   

Adrian comments: “There is always room to grow and improve. It is part of our journey to go from Good to Great. We are fortunate to be expanding our business in line with our growth, and security is an integral part of our growth. As new facilities are developed and designed, we do so in accordance with our own internal security requirements, which are very much aligned to the TAPA Standards. It is not about numbers per se but rather ensuring that we are always putting our customers at the centre of everything we do. They want and deserve the highest levels of security. We are committed to providing them with that as well as ensuring our people are safe and secure at work.”

What about the Association’s Trucking Security Requirements (TSR) and does he support the thinking behind TAPA’s new Parking Security Requirements? “Our focus to-date has been very much on the Facility Security Requirements. Our business model differs from many other logistics companies in so much as we do not stage cargo at all, and our shipments are constantly on the move in order to meet our customers’ time-definite requirements. As a result, the security requirements differ, as do the risks. All of our vehicles have minimum security requirements and the TSR is a certification we shall be exploring further in due course. And, yes, even though, for operational reasons, we do not really park our vehicles for any lengthy periods of time, we absolutely support the need for more secure parking.”

As someone who knows TAPA so well, if he was able to ask the Association to do three things over the next two years, what would they be? Adrian states clearly: “Add value. Listen to your members. Continue with the excellent contribution in securing the supply chain.”

If more TAPA members follow the example of DHL Express, that ‘contribution’ can step up to a new level.