Charlotte team wins first-ever C-TPAT Location of the Year Award


Charlotte CTPAT Award

Charlotte, N.C.— A year-long emphasis on continuous improvement and employee training helped A. O. Smith’s Charlotte, N.C., plant to earn the company’s first C-TPAT Location of the Year Award recently. 

The award is presented by A. O. Smith’s Trade Compliance group to the plant that achieves the highest Customs-Trade Partnership against Terrorism (C-TPAT) audit scores during the year along with a score for the intangibles of their facility programs. 

A. O. Smith first secured C-TPAT certification from U.S. Customs and Border Protection in January 2004.  It earned Level III certification, the highest status offered to an importing company, in May 2008.  C-TPAT Tier III is given to a limited number of companies that have comprehensive programs in place to secure their facilities and supply chain from terrorists, smuggling, and narcotics.  A company must pass a thorough inspection by Customs and Border Protection and be recommended to the C-TPAT Director to achieve Tier III status.

The Location of the Year awards program is part of A. O. Smith’s C-TPAT continuous improvement effort, according to Jim Smith, director of trade compliance for A. O. Smith.  Every year, the Trade Compliance team meets with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the team must demonstrate it is taking actions to further improve program compliance.

“We think this awards program is unique, we have not heard of any other companies that are doing anything similar,” Smith said. 

In addition to totaling the audit and intangibles scores, the Trade Compliance Group determines if any of the plants have an “8-D” violation for not complying with C-TPAT requirements.  Violations result in the deduction of points.

“It was really close,” Smith observed.  “None of the top three finishers had any 8-Ds; it came down to the intangibles.  Charlotte has been trying real hard as shown by their audit scores over the last two years.”

“A lot of it was their willingness to work with us,” Jonathan Bellamy, trade compliance analyst, noted.  “They ask a lot of questions, they take our suggestions for continuous improvement actions.”

“We are always looking to improve,” Byron Mason, production manager and C-TPAT team lead in Charlotte, said.  “The training we get from the trade compliance group is really in-depth and helps expand plant security.”

Among the continuous improvement actions last year was the installation of surveillance cameras and reinforcing the gates leading into two of the warehouses on the Charlotte property, Michael Washington, team lead in distribution and the C-TPAT assistant team leader, explained. 

The Charlotte team also stressed the importance of C-TPAT and plant security throughout the year.  “We discussed this at all of our communications meetings,” Washington said.  “We reiterated that no one is allowed into the facility without the proper identification.  We related plant security to current events involving unauthorized personnel on company grounds in work places across the U.S. and their potential consequences.”

The training took root, as Smith related an incident that took place during one of the unannounced C-TPAT audits.  “We were trying to sneak into the plant yard and asked a guy we saw if he could let us in.  He told us that we would have to go to the main entrance and show proper ID to be let in.  Turned out, he was a temporary employee, showing that everybody had gotten the message.”

Much of the foundation for Charlotte’s C-TPAT program was created by Washington and Aubrey Livsie, who retired last year as materials supervisor and C-TPAT lead in Charlotte.

Customs and Border Protection takes the C-TPAT program seriously, as evidenced by the four revalidation audits they conducted at A. O. Smith facilities last year.  The plants selected for audits were Stratford and Fergus, Ontario, Juarez, Mexico, and Ashland City, Tenn.

“You have to think about these issues every day,” Smith pointed out.  “There are a lot of benefits, especially to employees, by having good on-site security.”