Printer Friendly

Nissan and the security zone.


It may not be the Maginot Line, but the Tennessee-California line at Nissan carries some significance of its own. This imaginary line at the Nissan Motor Manufacturing Corporation U.S.A. in Smyrna, TN, represents the point at which the vehicles manufactured there become the property--and the security concern--of the sister company in charge of sales, Nissan Motor Company in U.S.A., which is based in California.

This unique situation came about in 1980 when Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. announced its decision to establish a US manufacturing plant 15 miles southeast of Nashville. The plant now manufactures 1,000 vehicles a day, which are considered the property of the Tennessee plant until they are completed (thus crossing the line) and ready to be shipped to dealers. With more than half the US population within 500 miles of the Tennessee manufacturing facility, cars and trucks move quickly and economically to sales showrooms. The vehicles are also considered to be within a foreign trade zone until they leave Nissan grounds, which means Nissan in Tennessee must comply with federal customs regulations.

"It's like being inside a customs area in any international airport," explains Wess Smith, manager of safety, medical, and security for Nissan. "We have to follow stricter security requirements than an ordinary manufacturing facility does because we are a trade zone."

Before the facility was even constructed, a core group of 400 employees went to Japan to learn how Nissan builds vehicles, and Smith and his security staff were housed in a satellite trailer on the property to plan a security program that would not only protect company assets but also satisfy strict federal regulations. These requirements cover officer training and selection, physical security of the facility, and the type of equipment used. According to Smith, "We spent months developing the program on paper and reviewing changes and additions with the US Customs Service. Once it was completed, we had the task of ensuring the program was in place as we built the plant." The program called for setting up the security force as a two-man team of one manager and one section manager, with the remaining 43 or so security officers supplied by CPP, now Pinkerton's.

"We also have the program development and management responsibility for the security operations for our sister company--Nissan Motor Company in U.S.A.," notes Smith. "Essentially we have the same security control operation, so it isn't a `we-them' type of operation."

Part of the obligation of being a foreign trade zone entails elaborate procedures for tracking materials brought into the plant. Like other security people, Smith and Peter Briers, section manager of security and fire protection, are concerned with the protection of these assets. Therefore, the security section is an integral part of the computerized tracking system used at Nissan.

"We are like a foreign port," Smith says. "We need to know what comes in and out and keep control at all times."

Gate 9 on the property is the main material supply gate. Security officers at this location monitor all deliveries by contractors and suppliers who bring materials into the plant areas. The details on deliveries are entered by security personnel on a mainframe computer. This information is then transmitted to the production control section to tell employees in that section the material is on-site. Smith explains, "A security officer may clear a vehicle and note it has a production item from Japan, for example. It is logged into the computer as being on-site and in the foreign trade zone and production is notified that the material is available."

The item may be used in the production operation and then have duty paid on it according to how it leaves the zone. "If it leaves as part of a finished product, the duty is different than if it leaves as a service part of scrap," Briers says. "If material is scrapped, security officers escort it off Nissan property to a professional scrapping company to ensure compliance." Sometimes vehicles, such as the ones used on-site for testing, have to be scrapped. It is again security's responsibility to ensure they are properly destroyed before the vehicle is removed from inventory."

Complying with federal customs regulations is a primary security concern at Nissan. Customs officials were in permanent residence at Nissan from 1981 when operations started to May 1986 when regulations changed. "Now," says Briers, "we only require periodic audit inspections that don't require on-site residency."

An added benefit to strict compliance to US Customs regulations is an atmosphere of federal law enforcement. Smith believes this atmosphere, in addition to the well-trained security staff and high caliber of employees, accounts for the low percentage of employee theft at Nissan. Less than 1 percent of all materials that have come in since the company opened are unaccounted for, and not one vehicle that has been manufactured in eight years is missing. Briers says, "For security, these extremely low numbers mean fewer patrols to check on high-cost components. We do not need to monitor for potential employee theft as many other automotive plants do."

In addition, the foreign trade zone--and its accompanying stringent security regulations and penalties--has led to little trouble with drugs in the workplace. Employees go through drug screening as part of the preemployment process, and an employee assistance program is available. Smith elaborates, "I am not going to be naive and say all our employees are perfect. However, drug use on the job is not a major concern here."

ONE OF THE MOST TECHNICALLY advanced automotive facilities in the world, Nissan also has a state-of-the art approach to training and managing its employees, including the security staff. Long before work on the facility was completed, Nissan began hiring a work force. With the help of Tennessee's Industrial Training Service, more than 100,000 applications were screened to pick the most promising prospects. The state contributed $7.4 million to help teach Tennesseans basic automotive skills, and Nissan spent another $54.6 million for additional training. Technicians who were selected received from 16 to 360 hours of preemployment training.

The approach to training at Nissan is multifaceted. The $4 million Nissan Training Center is equipped with a duplicate of almost every kind of machine found in the plant, enabling employees to learn at their own speed and to experiment before working on on-line equipment. Prospective employees must undergo preemployment training to see if they are capable of doing the job. The number of hours of preemployment training varies depending on the job, but the minimum is about 40 hours and can increase for a skilled maintenance technician.

As part of that preemployment training, security officers conduct a four-hour program on safety requirements and fire prevention. They show how to find and use fire extinguishers and where to evacuate in case of an emergency.

Once an employee is hired, he or she is scheduled for approximately 80 hours a year of additional training. At times employees are sent to Japan for training on new models and equipment.

Though the security staff is primarily contract, Smith and Briers are quick to point out they are considered part of the Nissan family. They are screened by Pinkerton's according to specifications outlined by Nissan, and they participate in the total security program. Smith states, "My experience with contract officers is that if you pay them a good wage, train them well, and treat them like people, you will have a good security force." However, Nissan goes a little further and has them participate in company-sponsored training and security-related public relations functions. This family approach must work because Nissan experiences a turnover rate of only 2.6 percent for contract officers at this site.

Participative management is another aspect of working for Nissan in Smryna. This simplified bureaucracy gives employees the responsibility and authority to inspect their own work and even stop the production line if a problem comes up. There are only five levels of management in Nissan, which the company feels facilitates communication between employees and management. Security officers have three levels of management--the site commander (a captain), lieutenants, and sergeants--to supervise the activities on the various posts throughout the facility.

The company also offers involvement circles, which are small groups of employees who meet an hour a week to solve problems concerned with quality, safety, and productivity. Participation in the circles is voluntary, and all circle leaders and facilitators receive 20 hours of training in solving problems, enhancing listening skills, conducting effective meetings, and building teams. Circles are led by the supervisor whose work group members make up the circle. A facilitator from another work area serves as a group process consultant and assistant to the circle leader.

Currently, 55 involvement circles operate in all seven divisions of the company and include both administrative and production personnel. These circles have implemented solutions to some 200 problems, including an alternate sunroof sealing procedure that eliminates an installation problem; the simplification of the computer library system; and a safe, faster method of moving metal stampings on a tandem press line.

FIRE PREVENTION IS ON THE TOP OF the list for training and for security officers. This highly automated plant has 351 robots that, along with other duties, spot and arc weld. When welding is combined with the other activities involved in manufacturing a vehicle, the fire potential is enormous.

According to Briers, five to 10 small fires occur every month. "It's part of the manufacturing process," he says. "That is why we are keen to make sure people know what to do about it. So far we have had no major industrial fires."

Preventing fires is a tremendous undertaking. The facility has 3.4 million sq.ft. in three plants--trim and chassis; paint; and body, frame, and stamping--and an administrative building. The site also includes a storage area for finished vehicles, a vehicle test track, the training center, and a fitness center for employees. The E-shaped main facility stretches over two thirds of a mile on its longest side and is open 24 hours a day, with two primary shifts and a maintenance shift in between.

How to combat fire hazards in this minicity? The answer for Nissan is volunteer fire brigades. Each shift in each plant has a volunteer fire brigade with a coordinator, and security officers train the brigades. Fire prevention classes are held four or five times a week on an ongoing basis.

"Normally an employee would use an extinguisher at a workstation to put out a fire," Smith notes. "However, if an employee spots a larger fire, we have trained them to call the emergency hot line number, which is staffed by our force." A central maintenance fire brigade also operates an in-plant fire engine for emergencies, and security calls on them as first backup to the plant brigade.

In case of an emergency such as a major fire, the public address system would announce an evacuation. Each plant in the facility has work groups composed of 10 to 30 people, and these groups have designated meeting areas outside the plant in case of evacuation. An evacuation route is posted at workstations showing the work groups where to meet. Once all employees have left the facility, they are counted by their supervisors, and security circulates outside the building, making sure everyone is there. In the meantime, security officers conduct a building search to make sure no one is left inside.

"We look at security as a service function at Nissan," Briers explains. "We take care of company property; we take care of the employee's property. The main emphasis of our job is not to catch someone doing something wrong but to prevent those things from occurring. We feel that comes from education, training, and making sure the security department is involved with the employees."

This service attitude includes training the security officers in CPR and other kinds of rescue techniques so they can respond to crises anywhere in the plant. Nissan has a doctor at the plant four hours a day; two registered nurses are on duty during the day shift and one registered nurse at night. The facility also has an in-plant ambulance.

ACCORDING TO SMITH, ANOTHER primary responsibility of security at Nissan is keeping track of people--employees, visitors, suppliers, and contractors--at all times. With more than 3,000 employees, access control is essential.

A major part of the security plan Smith and the security staff drew up is an elaborate access card system. Employees are issued identification cards they can use if they want to identify themselves as employees outside the company. More important from a security standpoint is that each identification card is also a proximity card. For example, Nissan's card access system has approximately 90 different security classifications that indicate what area or areas an employee may enter.

"In some cases," Smith says, "a security officer has to accompany an individual so she or he can gain access. For example, some individuals may have to be escorted into a certain area of the computer room or some executive room."

All 782 acres of the Nissan site are fenced in, and employees enter by their own vehicles into the employee parking lot. The parking lot is monitored by closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras and is near the central security station. The station is the nerve center for security and handles all radio traffic and fire and security alarms, as well as containing 24 CCTV monitors that survey the entire Nissan area. Access control cards are also issued at this location. Portions of the central station are glass-enclosed so officers can view potential problems and see employees entering and leaving the facility.

Plant employees must pass through turnstiles on their way to and from the manufacturing facility. Access cards are used to enter the turnstiles, which are also monitored by CCTV.

Visitors, contractors, and suppliers are given color-coded badges to enter Nissan. The colors specify which one of the three plants they will be entering.

The first person visitors see when they enter Nissan's front lobby is a security officer. The officer makes certain all visitors sign in and are given the appropriate visitor access card. No one is allowed to enter the Nissan complex without first being cleared by security. The officer in the front lobby also maintains the switchboard and handles incoming calls. Any materials or supplier samples that are brought through the front lobby are also recorded by this security officer.

In conjunction with Nissan's employee communications section, security coordinates the public tour program, normally scheduled every Tuesday and Thursday, three times a day. Electric trams, driven by security officers, provide visitors with a look at the production process. The officers describe the manufacturing process as the trams weave their way through the three plants. Smith explains, "We carefully check out the people who are going to tour the Nissan facility for security risks. Visitors have to call in advance and check in with us when they get here. We feel this is another one of the services to Nissan and its employees that security can provide."

As part of the tour confirmation, visitors are told pictures can only be taken inside the plant with special permission of that plant manager. Since very little design work for Nissan is done at this facility, industrial espionage has not been a major concern. However, Nissan does have proprietary processes in the plant that security is responsible for protecting.

In addition to access control, procedures are set in place to monitor what employees and contractors take in and out of the facility. If anyone takes a nonproduction item such as a slide projector outside the company, that person has to get a material gate pass. Contractors who come on-site need site passes for their vehicles. They also need tool lists, which are lists of the equipment they are bringing on-site. Briers explains, "We keep a copy of the tool list so we can make sure contractors are leaving with just their own tools. The same policy goes for someone who brings personal items like typewriters on-site. We don't really want them to, but if somebody for one reason or another brings a personal piece of equipment to work, we would record it."

Nissan's security measures will be challenged in the next few years when the company creates 2,000 new jobs and increases annual production capacity to 440,000 vehicles in 1992. The expansion will add an additional 1.2 million sq. ft. to the existing facility.

"We will have a lot of traffic with contractors and suppliers coming in and out, so we have to take steps to enhance our present security program," Smith states. "We intend to train more officers in our access control procedures--signing people in and out, site passes, tool lists--and keep the training ongoing."

Briers adds, "We will increase the number of officers we have but not in direct proportion to the increase in the plant. Security is not bringing a new product on board; manufacturing is. We basically will keep the security procedures we have now and add just a few more officers.

"We also plan to strengthen the officers' expertise by doing more cross-training. Cross-training helps by improving morale since they feel more involved and helps because the officers have a broader base of experience."

Smith sums up: "The strongest part of our security program here is planning and preventing. We ask: `What programs can we put in place to make sure that certain events don't happen?' We don't wait for an incident to happen before we do something about it."

Many factors set this facility--and its security--apart, such as its status as a foreign trade zone and its incorporation of Nissan's ideals of participative management and providing security services at its best. The progressive security team at Nissan is up to the challenges it faces, however. Its future, and that of the Nissan facility in Tennessee, seems bright.

PHOTO : A technically advanced automotive facility, Nissan also has a state-of-the-art approach to

PHOTO : training and managing its employees.

PHOTO : At Nissan, 351 robots spot and arc weld.

Terry Abrams is senior editor/writer at Security Management.
COPYRIGHT 1989 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Abrams, Terry
Publication:Security Management
Date:Aug 1, 1989
Previous Article:The public perspective.
Next Article:The private perspective.

Related Articles
Nissan's way.
Nissan Picks Japanese Team to Design, Construct New Global and Domestic Headquarters in Yokohama City.
Ron Bouchard to hit the road; Part of dealership headed to Lancaster.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters