In today’s economy, security has just as much to do with the bottom line as it does with protecting facilities. Most retail businesses have some type of security infrastructure in place and would like to leverage that investment. With the growth of digital video, that challenge can now be met.
Advances in video technology have expanded its capabilities from typical closed circuit television and video recording security applications to applications that can enhance virtually every aspect of a business - from security to operations to risk management.
Using video technology to help increase ROI and reduce operating risks
In the past, a video system was provided to be used mostly as a practical security tool to minimise loss from burglary, theft and inventory shrinkage. Today, video technology has been turned into an operations tool that can help retailers address productivity, logistics and workplace safety. It has also migrated into a risk management tool to help mitigate such issues as premise liability, workplace violence, drug usage and harassment. By moving into these areas, video technology has become an important way for companies to help reduce costs and reap an improved return on their investment.
Having digital video as the backbone of a video system gives retailers flexibility in how they leverage their investment. Today's video technology allows companies to take on as much or as little as their resources or core business goals demand. Digital video offers the capability to 'do it yourself' and monitor basic video locally. It also allows companies to activate the technology's network capability to perform remote video monitoring while still utilising internal personnel. Then, for more advanced operations and for companies who either cannot or select not to manage their own video services, there are service partners who can step in with experienced, trained personnel.
Virtually anyone in loss prevention is familiar with the term 'exception reporting'. It fundamentally means that incidents associated with increased chances of loss are filtered out from all of the other business activities or transactions. At its most basic level, the goal of exception reporting is to reduce the time it takes to identify where losses may be occurring so that they can be fixed in an efficient manner. Whether burglar alarm, access control or video surveillance, most security technologies have evolved to offer some level of exception reporting.
The real benefit, however, lies in exception reporting through integrated systems. Imagine a retailer whose point-of-sale reporting software is combined with video images of a fraudulent transaction. Or, a burglar alarm system that supplies data that a backdoor was opened at an unauthorised time combined with video showing who opened the door and what activity occurred.
Through a video technology called video auditing, exception reporting utilising integrated systems can be made even more valuable. Video auditing allows a business to identify its own criteria, or risk areas, and either utilises self-monitoring or a monitoring service to periodically monitor exception events and provide valuable feedback on exception activity.
In one example of a remote video auditing service in a retail facility, the customer was interested in verifying compliance with employee purchase policies, refunds, voids, smaller rand amount sales and backdoor openings. With that criteria identified, audit service professionals periodically monitored exception events and provided the district manager and loss prevention with valuable feedback on exception activity. Within a few months, shrink at the pilot store was reduced by more than 60%.
Compliance to safety and security policies/procedures
Addressing compliance issues is an important function of video technology whereby video clips can be linked to exception reports to provide visual documentation. Critical company policies or procedures can encompass any activity that is important to a specific business' core success.
For instance, in a point-of-sale environment it may be looking at cash refunds, excessive void activity, manually entered credit card transactions, unusual activity in departments with significant shortages, discount and markdown abuse, transactions that occur before store openings and after closings, and training issues that result in poor productivity or customer service. To look at these events, video auditing can be linked together with a store's video surveillance cameras, digital video recorders, point-of-sale exception software, electronic article surveillance system and its burglar alarm system. The skill lies in the ability to successfully integrate, or make disparate security and other business systems 'talk to each other', and to appropriately identify and trigger responses to critical events within a company's processes.
Reduction of physical guard services
Guard services are often seen as a necessary business expense as previously there have been few other options. Video technology now offers an alternative. Using a remote video monitoring service, stores can be periodically observed on a live basis - referred to as remote guard tour service. For instance, instead of having a guard present at all times during the day, a remote monitor can look into a location to help determine the current situation. Two-way voice capability can also be added, with specified messages to address employees, customers, or even loiterers.
Protection of assets and inventory
The issues that video technology can help address certainly are not mutually exclusive. The protection of assets and inventory closely relates to the issue of compliance to procedures and policies a retailer may put in place to protect assets and inventory.
One of the goals of all retailers is to control shrinkage, or loss - and video technology can help address specific critical control points. Utilising the example of video auditing services, a retailer that has high theft losses may have merchandise disappearing out the back door. Each time that back door opens, the retailer may wish to have a manager present since it would less likely be a theft. The opening of the back door can trigger an alarm event that can signal to the video recorder to begin recording so that the business can perform the appropriate verifications.
Video technology can have significant impact on employee productivity - not only from the aspect of those being observed but also those doing the observing. For employees, knowing they are being watched can significantly impact behaviour and improve compliance to company policies and procedures. Video auditing can help to identify where breakdowns occur and give managers at all levels the evidence they need to coach their staff. Studies have shown that monitoring combined with coaching significantly improves employee performance and retention. It can not only result in operational efficiencies, but improved employee safety.
At the management level, it offers the opportunity to identify training issues and resolve them before they become unmanageable. It also offers a way for management to identify and reward employees for doing their job correctly.
Compliance with quality assurance procedures
In no industry are quality assurance procedures more important than in the handling of food where the health of the public is at stake. Video technology in the form of video auditing can help improve compliance with quality assurance procedures throughout the food supply chain. From how raw food is handled to how final products are packaged, remote video auditing can incorporate food industry regulations, sanitation and food safety criteria.
Other quality assurance control points may include standards on how employees interact with customers, or if enough services or products are available to meet customer demand and much more. Video technology can be applied to help companies cost effectively identify exceptions to their procedures and then direct their resources to correcting the issues.
Developments in digital technology are rapidly impacting on how video and other security technologies are deployed. As video technology evolves, and as integration of previously disparate systems becomes increasingly viable, so potential business solutions expand from security into broader operational and risk management applications. An allied trend is improvement in telecommunications infrastructure making remote monitoring of video and other digital signals a viable reality, without impacting on existing IT networks.
Critical to the success of effective systems integration is the choice of the right partner to deliver the skills required for system design and set up, as well as to establish the most appropriate auditing, monitoring and reporting procedures to best leverage investment and maximise return on investment.
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