3 Ways ERP Can Prevent Copper Theft

Posted by Gerry Poe


Copper Thefts Threaten U.S. Critical Infrastructure. Intelligence Assessment (Unclassified) Prepared by the FBI Criminal Intelligence Section September 15, 2008

Security management is going down to the wire to stop copper theft; all the way to the copper strands in telephone and building wiring, plumbing and electrical conduit.

The thief’s paradise which gave them a free hand to steal without accountability may soon be over using enterprise technologies to control manufacturing policies and standards for copper lotting and serialization.

The Problem:

Copper wire has been stolen in mass for almost two decades. I am reminded of the news about power companies and construction sites losing copper wire from the fields they were installing at home sites and power distribution centers? I know of an instance where a company was deploying new test equipment which included dozens of heavy gauge wire spools that were stolen in the middle of the night. The cost was enormous and project delays cost the company months of production.

Three things you can do to help:

  1. Utilize lot and serial tracking. These tools will help identify and enable sourcing of materials from manufacturer to the end customer.
  2. Institute systems of on-line inquiry enabling recall systems to locate and find the owner and prevent profitable exchanges.
  3. Store documents in retrieval systems linking reclamation centers, owners and authorities.

Enterprise Resource Planning software technology, already available, can be used as tools-of-the-trade to mitigate theft. Laser or other imprinting systems attach serial numbers or lot numbers on wire strands; then using those numbering systems, tracking from the purchase of raw materials through finished goods is available. You might call this cradle-to-grave tracking.

Cases on Point:

  • Medical devices and food and beverage industries have used lot and serial tracking for decades. Food recalls are the most prevalent and well known.
  • The arms manufacturers use serial numbers for tracking sales, crimes, and recalls. Police ballistics and crime lab detectives use these to tie bullets to weapons.
  • The automotive industry uses a detail serial number called a VIN (vehicle identification number) to categorize and specify a model of a car. Auto theft, even if radically altered, retail pieces of the original identifications.

Enterprise standards for lot and serial tracking systems can be used to help solve and identify copper theft by initial tracking of the purchase order receipt to the sale of the spooled wire delivered to distributors and on to the customer.

Copper Scrap theftRecent History of Copper Wire Theft:

  • A Seattle man faces more than 16 years in prison after he was convicted of stealing 4.3 miles of copper wiring from the Sound Transit light-rail system.
  • Utah officials say thieves have pulled off the largest single copper-wire heist in the state Department of Transportation's history.
  • Copper Theft: a Crime Wave from History. Posted on June 8, 2011
  • Copper wire thefts are also becoming increasingly common in the U.S.

Manufacturing Process Improvements and Equipment Solutions:

Using existing systems, we can integrate business process with tracking standards closely mapped to food and beverage, and help mitigate theft. Some systems available to handle quality standards and track failures and recalls are:

  • Laser Imprinting equipment.
  • Policy and process management for documenting and storing tracking information.
  • Sales and shipment tracking integration
  • Quality management systems – recalls, track corrective action and CAPA requirements.
  • Devise a LOLI-like database for metals management as a theft advisory.

Realizing new systems require new thinking, it may take longer to crate than use existing and revamp for the opportunities arising from theft. The sooner entrepreneurs can get to the market with solutions, the faster we can stop the thieves.


Realizing new systems require new thinking, it may take longer to create new, than use existing and revamp for the opportunities arising out of copper theft. The sooner entrepreneurs can get to the market with solutions, the faster we can stop theft.

To find out exactly how SYSPRO Enterprise Software can help you win business by helping your customers solve industrial theft, schedule your enterprise inquiry with one of our solutions engineers.

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Tags: Manufacturing, Material Control, Serial Tracking, Lot Tracking

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