A short news item in my local newspaper caught my eye the other day. It was about the arrest of two drivers for an unnamed trucking company who were caught transporting drugs from Texas to New England in hidden compartments in their vehicle. This is not a new smuggling technique, nor is it an uncommon practice. But it reminded me that even the most scrupulously honest and careful company can be victimized by criminals who take advantage of the vast, interconnecting web of manufacturing, storage, transportation, and distribution activities that underpin regional and global supply chains.
Some of the ways you may come in contact with crime are obvious. In addition to the smuggling of drugs and other contraband—which have their own, often highly sophisticated international supply chains and logistics experts "on staff"—cargo theft is something that almost every logistics pro confronts at some time in his or her career. A widely cited estimate suggests that losses due to cargo theft cost some $30 billion annually in the United States alone.
Beyond that, there are many other criminal activities that affect supply chains around the world. We've published articles about some of them in Supply Chain Quarterly, including conflict minerals and product adulteration. Additional examples include the dumping and unsafe storage of chemicals, unsafe working conditions, the mistreatment of employees, and the use of child and forced labor.
Is your company buying materials and products from suppliers that break the law? It can be very difficult to know. Many tier one and tier two suppliers go out of their way to stop their customers from finding out exactly where materials, parts, and components come from and how they are produced. Still, it's in your best interests to know as much as you can and to work to prevent illegal practices—no matter where they may occur in your supply chain—that might taint your products and your company's good name.