ONLY a couple of the big companies that
dominated Australia’s
security industry from the 1960s to the 1990s have survived. And it’s not
particularly surprising to find that arguably the most successful of them all
is SNP, a family-owned provider of manpower, monitoring and integration
services.

Founded as a manpower outfit by former
CIB officer John Roche in 1923, SNP was built on Roche’s exemplary reputation
as a police officer of integrity and capability. The company fought through the
challenges of the Depression years and War War Two and by the time SNP opened
its first control room in 1967, it was a dominant player in the Sydney security market.

Key elements of SNP’s success have been
evident throughout the company’s development and they’re the keys to
understanding this business. The first is the family-based nature of the
company. Family-owned businesses are by their nature more inclusive than public
corporations, whose leadership structures don’t encourage the same levels of
ownership at a management level.

But rather than being hampered by this
visceral connection with staff, SNP has built a family culture into the
business. It’s a fundamental that’s more easily felt than explained but there’s
no doubt SNP’s people are different and the company’s clients know it.

Encapsulating this difference vividly
are two facts. Firstly, SNP has been handling security at SydneyAirport full-time since 1970,
operating the first X-ray machine in Australia installed by Qantas in
1978. And secondly, three of the security officers who worked that first X-Ray
passenger screening contract in 1978 are still
working with the company after 30 years of service.

Unquestionably, the other key element to
SNP’s business is its willingness to pioneer new directions in electronic
security technology. There’s a tendency in all businesses to stick to one’s
knitting. But compared to other major players, SNP is surprisingly quick on its
feet and it has been for more than 40 years. In fact, SNP’s adoption of new
technology could fairly be described as adventurous. 

In 1967, the company was among the first
to install a central station in order to monitor the Pinkerton’s Radar Eye
alarm systems it was importing from the U.S. And in the 1980s, SNP was
arguably the first company in the world to monitor CCTV cameras remotely from a
central station using revolutionary equipment from local tech house, Zone
Technology. The Zone gear was so effective SNP continued to offer a remote
monitoring service long after the product was no longer available. 

SNP’s longstanding relationship with
access control giant Casi Rusco, as well as its rapid embrace of Pacific
Communcation’s DVTel system and more recent use of Mobotix IP cameras
underscore the point. SNP has a definite technological bent. 

SNP’s managing director, Tom Roche is
the son of former SNP boss and ASIAL founder, Kevin Roche. He kicked off his
career in the security industry as a security officer at SydneyAirport
back in the 1980s where he worked part time to put himself through uni. It’s a
valuable insight into both the family and the man and you can see the imprint
of his grassroots background clearly.

“SNP has been handling security at SydneyAirport
full-time since 1978 when Qantas installed the first X-ray machine in Australia.
Extraordinarily, three of the security officers who worked that first X-ray contract
in 1978 are still working with the
company after 30 years of service”

With a deep awareness of his company’s
history and a first hand knowledge of its operations, Tom Roche has an
evangelical zeal for SNP’s business that’s deeply rooted in old fashioned
fundamentals of family, leadership and integrity. Yet Roche’s humble doctrine
of group commitment overlays something even more powerful – his profound drive.
Roche and SNP are going somewhere – fast.

Accommodating growth

According to Roche, one of the big
advantages of a family-owned business is stability. There’s no chopping and
changing, no dancing to the tune of foreign ownership. Instead the company can
focus vigorously on its goals with no outside distractions.

“This stability at the top is very
important,” Roche says. “We’re growing at 20 per cent a year and we have been
for 9 years. This makes things challenging and exciting at the same time.
What’s so nice about strong growth is that it’s meant we can do things with the
business.

“Being in control of our own destiny is
important because we’re working in a tight market and we must be competitive.
We’re now a full-service security business providing manpower and electronic
security services,” Roche explains.

“And we are also quality endorsed with
all the documentation, procedures, and systems that go along with that.”

Central to the company’s future growth
was the decision to purchase and develop a large site at West Ryde in Sydney in order to build a
head office capable of housing a growing team, as well as a new high tech
control room.

Roche says every possible scenario and
plan was considered in developing the new site and no effort was spared to get
everything right.

“We’ve spent $A11.5 million converting
an old warehouse into a new building with a total floor space of around 3200
square metres,” Roche explains. “We’ve kept the warehouse theme, retaining some
of the internal walls. We used a conceptual company to help us achieve the look
and feel we wanted.

“We moved into the new building over the
June long weekend and while we had some

initial troubles with the power supply,
we managed to get things working as they should. While the floor space is
mostly open plan, we have a Ripplefurl roof that makes things very quiet.

“This building is designed to
accommodate growth,” Roche explains. “Around 80 per cent of work stations are
now filled but there’s still plenty of room for growth. We have an area for
future expansion that’s fully self-contained. It’s currently used as a break-out
area for meetings and special operations.

“We also have a large, dedicated
training room that can be used for group meetings, as well as museum area –
it’s important to know where you came from,” he says.

According to Roche, the fast growing business
had needed a bigger space for several years.

“Before the move we’d reached a point
where things were so tight we had to go outside our old building in Homebush
just to get the whole team together in one place.”

As part of the move to the new building,
SNP decided to integrate many of its spaces and systems in order to make things
more efficient and more economical.

“Housing the latest Grade A1 monitoring
system, the new monitoring centre exceeded the grading requirements for the
highest possible Australian standard. Construction of the site required over 80
kilometres of Ethernet cabling, 50 kilometres of electrical cabling and the
installation of a dedicated electrical sub-station to meet power needs”

“In the new building we have shared
utility rooms and fewer offices and the latter was a deliberate move to improve
communication between staff and management. We wanted to make managers more
accessible to their staff and that has worked very well.”

SNP is also working on a new payroll
system.

“When you have a staff of 2000,
management of payroll can be challenging,” Roche says. “We’re putting in a new
system that has some great features – it’s interactive so staff can check their
hours and book holidays on-line – it provides a service to our employees as
well as helping streamline internal operations.”

Roche says every possible scenario and
plan was considered in developing the new site.

“We wanted to get everything right – for
our staff, for our clients and for the industry,” he says. “This is an exciting
time for us.”

New control room

Any major provider with aspirations
to offering a complete security service needs a control room and SNP has built
something very special at its new head office. The space is huge, the amenities
are excellent and the general layout reflects the company’s deep appreciation
of the monitoring business.

Housing the latest Grade A1 monitoring
system, the new monitoring centre exceeded the grading requirements for the
highest possible Australian standard. Construction of the site required over 80
kilometres of Ethernet cabling, 50 kilometres of electrical cabling and the
installation of a dedicated electrical sub-station to meet power needs.
SNP says the centre has been designed as a self-contained underground bunker,
with dual UPS systems (un-interruptible power supply), redundant and self-contained
air conditioning, standby emergency generator housed inside the building and
special telecommunication paths to ensure that data lines cannot be severed.
The site has been fitted with the latest technology in CCTV monitoring
equipment ensuring that any sign of an issue is detected and recorded.
Within the centre, external seismic alarms detect any possible attack,
triggering full emergency alerts and diverting all alarm events to a second
Grade A1 Monitoring Centre, located in Newcastle.
This ability to deliver full disaster recovery and redundancy is completed
through dual 1 and 2Mb telecommunication pipes.
And as part of the control room, operators have their own meal room with TV and
a work station with Internet connection. The idea is to give operators a chance
to completely relax away from their workstations in order to keep them fresh
and alert.

This is a seriously big monitoring
operation with more than 27,000 separate alarm systems being monitored.
However, the numbers are deceptive. Many of these systems are made up of
solutions with multiple areas, each area representing a different commercial
premises and a different customer.

“Taking these areas in large buildings,
industrial sites and shopping centres into account we’d have between 50,000 and
60,000 monitored lines,” Roche explains.

SNP uses the MAS (Mastermind) system to
run its monitoring stations. The MAS system has a simple and effective GUI that
can track log-ins, calls and call durations. MAS screens are duplicated
throughout the control room. Operators focus on the alarm dispatch page once an
event has been displayed and this page gives full details of the site, relevant
procedures, contacts and both long and short (24-hour) histories. SNP has
specially developed an automated voice system that handles late to closes, the
only one in the world to be integrated with MAS, which increases efficiency and
improves response times.

“We also have our own proprietary
software called ART (for Alarm Response Tracking) integrated with MAS.

“The integrated alarm response (ART)
helps a lot with customers like Australia Post – ART lets us know where a
patrolman is in relation to an alarm response – it improves efficiency and
allows us to leverage our resources more effectively.”

Efficiency isn’t just a word at SNP. Any
call that is not answered and addressed inside one minute is re-directed to the
company’s second Grade 1 monitoring station up in Newcastle.

“We have duplicated systems in the Newcastle control room and
means that ultimately both control rooms are fully redundant thanks to their
support for each other,” Roche says.

In a move that’s historically quite
typical of SNP’s eager adoption of high technology, the company is just months
away from integrating Google Earth and full GPS mapping into its patrol cars.
Roche says the move will allow operators to see sites when they’re calling in
responses and the preliminary mapping looks superbly detailed.

“We’re also looking at video
monitoring,” Roche says. “We’ve done video monitoring before very successfully
and we think there’s significant potential demand for it in the current
market.”

Future growth

According to Roche, the SNP
business is set for continuing growth in the national market.

“We’re the largest security provider in
regional NSW and probably the second largest provider of security services in Australia,”
Roche says.

“This new building along with other
developments in technology and staff will underpin further growth moving
forward. Staff are obviously the key and as part of our expansion we now have 5
degree-qualified engineers in the company working on the integration side.”

Roche says electronics is an
increasingly important part of SNP’s business.

“We have 128 staff in the new building
and 40 of them work in electronics – that’s a very high proportion,” he
explains.

According to Roche, SNP’s growth is not
limited to building space or leveraging existing markets.

“We’re also in the process of pushing
into the Canberra market and Victoria is a strong growth area for us,
too,” he says.

According to Roche, a real key for SNP
is retaining customers.

“We don’t churn customers – we’re always
looking at improving delivery and we work hard to ensure customers are not
taken for granted,” he says.

The veracity of this argument is borne
out in SNP’s longstanding relationships with SydneyAirport and Railcorp – especially SydneyAirport.
More than 30 years is an extraordinarily long time to retain a customer in this
business.

When Police Minister David Campbell
opened SNP’s new building in June, Tom Roche’s father, Kevin, and his uncle,
Peter, attended. Walking around the clean, open spaces of the company’s new
head office with their memories they must have been a couple of very proud old
men.

“This new building along with other
developments in technology and staff will underpin further growth moving
forward. Staff are obviously the key and as part of our expansion we now have 5
degree-qualified engineers in the company working on the integration side”