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Author's profile photo Raymond Adams

Terrorism and the Chemicals Industry

Last week’s CISUG event was simply the best event with most diverse speakers that we have ever compiled.  8 different customers presented on a variety of topics, ranging from human resources transformations to an APO implimentation that replaced a best of breed solution.  So what was the Department of Homeland Security doing on our property? 

Several months ago, we were approached by the DHS to visit them in Washington DC to discuss CFATS, the new Chemicals Facilities Anti-Terrorism Standards.  I had downloaded the lite reading material from their website and really did not think that we played much of a role.  However, after the meeting, I had a very different impression of the role that all of us play in the chemicals industry, and it reminded me of my choice to become a chemical engineer in the first place.  (Topic for future blog:  why would a guy from Vermont, known more for making maple syrup than for its vast chemicals industry, choose a chemical engineering profession?).

The DHS story goes like this:  three guys in a garage in NYC, 2 blocks from Madison Square Garden, Broadway and numerous other venues, placed an order for cylinders of chlorine, paid for it with a credit card, and were able to get an on-time delivery.  The consequences could have been catastrophic – in this case, the 3 guys were NYPD under-cover agents.  DHS understands the theft and physical plant security angles – they can handle the bigger picture topics.  However, at this time, they cannot prevent, nor have any knowledge of, the order to cash environment. 

So, let’s assume that at least 85 of the top 100 chemical companies run SAP for its ERP backbone (the number is actually higher than 85%).  There are about 200 tier 1 facilities as defined by DHS based upon the chemicals manufactured, used or stored on the respective sites.  Applying flawed logic, at least 170 of these sites most likely are running SAP.  So what is my responsibility?  Somehow, we need to ensure that we provide a mechanism for tier 1 sites (sites handling highly toxic or explosive compounds) to ensure that their most basic process of order capture/placement is rock-solid with the necessary security checks.  The guys in a garage never should have been able to place an order with a chemical company and pay by a credit card.

 I understand that there are many compounds available through hardware stores that can do damage – the typical fertilizers and some oxydizers and other stuff that can  be easily combined to do wreak havoc.  However, we have a responsibility (regardless of what ERP system you running, and regardless of whether or not you are subject to CFATS), to ensure that we know to whom we are selling our products.

And that’s what DHS was doing in Newtown Square last week, and that’s why I was in Washington DC several months ago.  We hope to establish a closer working relationship with DHS to help them understand the role that we play and the role that we can play in helping to protect against terrorists getting their hands on products with ill-intent.  I will be looking for volunteers to help define scenarios and solutions, specifically for Tier 1 facilities.  So don’t be surprised if you get a phone call from SAP, or better yet from DHS…

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      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Hello Adams, Blog is really thought-feeding.
      Author's profile photo Kenneth Moore
      Kenneth Moore