SCALE HOUSE – WATCH THOSE NUMBERS
Although there is some benefit in watching for abnormal behavior at the scale house itself, the primary solution is found in having accurate record-keeping practices and then conducting periodic audits to look for discrepancies and unusual situations that need further investigation.
When auditing the scale house documentation, look for the following situations, as they may point to potential problems:
1. Questionable documentation practices:
- Scale tickets or mill statements that don’t provide enough data.
- Multiple tract names under the same contract/producer.
- Logger delivering from more than one source.
- Scale tickets used out of order.
- Altered scale tickets.
- Missing delivery cards/ altered delivery cards.
- Any unsigned scale tickets.
2. Questionable information:
- Same or similar gross or tare weights on several tickets.
- More trucks weighed than unloaded.
- Unusual truck weights.
- Shorter than expected turnaround times.
- Trucks tare weight out of the normal range.
- Shrinkage factors out of line.
- Discrepancies in book inventory and actual inventory.
3. Questionable scale house practices:
- Scaler never takes a vacation.
- Cash transactions of any kind in the scale house.
- Scaler is the only one responsible for inventory.
- Scales are outdated.
- Scales tickets are hand-written.
- When comparing scalers, the deductions for one scaler are much higher/lower than the other scalers.
4. Questionable timing:
- Date and time ticket punched prior to the previous numbered ticket.
- Scale ticket shows the log truck leaving before it arrives at the wood yard.
5. Questionable activities at the wood yard:
- Truck’s in-and-out processing time is not normal for the wood yard.
- Trucks leaving the wood yard without unloading.
- Trucks pulling off of scales and then backing back up on scales.
- Logs are stored in separate piles in the yard.
- Since most scale houses are set off from the main operations to allow for adequate waiting areas, security cameras are a good way to see what is happening at any given time. They allow others to observe and document all activities, especially those that are out of the ordinary. If some type of breach is discovered, the archived footage will serve as documentation and evidence for further disciplinary action or as court testimony should that be needed. Whether using cameras or visual observation, look for the circumstances described above and check out anything that is suspicious. Even if there isn’t anything amiss or at least it can’t be proven, your visible follow-up will serve as a reminder that you take this seriously and that any theft and/or fraud will not be tolerated. That follow-up in itself can serve as a deterrent for many would-be violators. If your operation is seen as not only easy to circumvent but also not well-monitored, your chances of theft and fraud are greatly enhanced.
- Set up a clear process for documentation and ensure it is followed at all times. Provide periodic checks, training, and refresher training to reinforce your expectations. Make sure your process has appropriate checks and balances and that no document has a lone signature.
- Conduct periodic audits of the paperwork trail that is established. You can either use an outside auditor or do this in-house. In either case, be meticulous about looking for the types of issues listed above. Be especially vigilant about timing issues – tickets out of sequence, altered, or incomplete, or which contain information that seems out of the ordinary, e.g., have similar weights, etc. (I know in computer-based systems ticket order should not be an issue, but lot’s of folks still use paper-based systems).