SSI Schaefer is one of the world’s largest total solutions providers and components manufacturers in the warehouse logistics, storage, conveying and waste management sectors.
SSI Schaefer was established by Fritz Schaefer in Germany in 1937. The early years of the business revolved around the manufacture of steel products and the business enjoyed rapid growth before the four Schaefer brothers took over management and drove further expansion through the 1950s.
Still a family-owned business, the company is now the UK and world’s leading provider of automated materials handling equipment and integrated storage solutions, with products ranging from plastic totes to high bay pallet warehouses. The organisation offers expertise in the design, build, installation and maintenance of major, and often bespoke, production and distribution centre operations across a broad spectrum of commercial and industrial sectors. The company is constantly evolving and remains at the forefront of innovation in both new product development and the provision of unique intralogistics solutions.
Schaefer’s customer base ranges from every day high street names, such as Sainsbury’s, to less well known – but no less important – small business operations handling a multitude of products in locations across the UK and the globe.
Jaap Vos, Managing Director SSI Schaefer Limited spoke to Warehouse & Logistics News.
Warehouse & Logistics News – First of all, what does your role involve from day to day, and what part does safety play in it?
As Managing Director I am fully responsible for the complete operation of the UK subsidiary of SSI Schaefer, which is present in more than fifty counties worldwide. A key element of my responsibility relates to ensuring we operate at the highest possible standards of safety. This not only applies to providing our customers with safe warehouse and distribution centre storage systems – which frequently have a high element of automation associated with them – but also to our own employees and subcontractors operating on site.
WLN – Who else in your company is specifically involved with addressing safety concerns?
We have a dedicated Health & Safety Manager who works closely with all departments within our organisation. Regular meetings, involving senior managers and representatives from all departments, are held to discuss new and current safety issues, to identify any points of weakness and to undertake risk assessment to future-proof both on- and off-site operations. All employees are made aware of, and are given access to, meeting minutes and changes in policy. All site-based operations staff are fully trained in all aspects of health and safety.
WLN – What are your core products and services: what are you best known for providing?
SSI Schaefer has a long history in the supply of storage equipment. For more than 75 years we have been actively involved in developing systems which enable us to provide our customers with solutions specifically tailored to the storage of both unique and generic products. Our core products are based on simple pallet racking and shelving storage systems and metal and plastic containers. Over the past 14 years we have also been supplying solutions which automate the storage and retrieval of products within these systems – specifically conveyors, pallet and miniload cranes and automatic picking. We have also extended our product portfolio to include warehouse management and control software and integration of other system-related products.
WLN – How is safety ‘built into’ them?
Safety is built in at the design stage. This operates on two levels: firstly, the product itself is designed in all instances to be ‘fit for purpose’ and a process of exhaustive testing is in place – backed up by rigorous quality assurance procedures – in all of our manufacturing plants. Secondly, the design of the system which incorporates the product is of paramount importance. A layout design will undergo scrutiny by a qualified structural engineer and environmental and building conditions are also assessed by appropriately qualified personnel, which enables us to determine if a proposed installation can proceed or if the site needs to be modified in any way beforehand.
WLN – Have you launched any new products and services in the past year? Again, how do they help raise safety standards?
If I can draw on one most recent example I would highlight the Schaefer Orbiter System, which is a shuttle, or satellite, enabling high density pallet storage. Orbiter uses a unique power technology, incorporating new safety concepts recommended by the European Factory Safety Association. It is the only shuttle of its kind which communicates with an end of rack base station using a light beam which, if broken by a person or object in its path, instantly stops the unit from moving, this preventing collisions.
WLN – Which industry sectors are your customers in? Can you name some of your major customers and tell us about the work you do for them?
We operate across a wide variety of industry sectors, ranging from frozen food and pharma distribution to hanging garment retail and the automotive aftermarket. Warehouse systems for Sainsburys, Home Bargains and Holland & Barrett are some examples of recent major customer projects. These projects all involve the installation of pallet racking, some of which is service by automated pallet cranes. There are also elements of shelving carton live storage conveyors and controls with integrated peripheral equipment such as printers and label applicators.
WLN – What makes you the first choice supplier in your area of expertise?
Expertise. Exactly that. We have an enviable reputation for quality and innovation.
WLN – How important is warehouse safety to you as a business?
The warehouse is an environment in which personal safety is of prime importance to us. We are bound by legislation to supply equipment which can be used safely and operated without causing death or injury, although we exceed this basic requirement by designing and providing systems with smart ergonomics to make the human interface a better and more efficient experience.
WLN – What is your key message about safety for the warehouse industry?
Safety is a two-way street. It doesn’t matter how safe your equipment is when initially installed by the supplier, as day to day operations within the warehouse or distribution centre will result in wear and tear, which may ultimately render it unserviceable or unsafe. For even basic static storage systems, inspecting your racking and shelving on a regular basis is required under current Health and Safety legislation. The ultimate responsibility for safety lies with the employer and carries significant legal liabilities in the event of an accident.
WLN – What is your company’s involvement at the 2014 SEMA Safety Conference – what are you doing on the day?
I am the current SEMA President and will be chairing the event. We will not be presenting papers this year but did so last year. We will have a number of delegates at the conference.
WLN – How long have you been a SEMA Member Company?
SSI Schaefer is a founder member and was instrumental in the organisation’s inception in 1970.
WLN – How does your involvement in SEMA help you as a company?
Being a member of SEMA enables us to share experiences, exchange valuable industry information and advocate new policies and standards. It also acts as an ‘accreditation’ and makes us more attractive to a potential customer.
WLN – How does it benefit your customers knowing you are SEMA members?
Customers know we adhere to strict policy on safety and quality which, together, gives them confidence in their decision to choose Schaefer as a supplier.
WLN – What specific safety standards do your products and services comply with?
SSI Schaefer’s products and services adhere to all relevant UK and European safety standards, which can be found at BSI online. We ensure we keep abreast of changes in health and safety legislation and we are currently working toward OHSAS 18001 approval with BSI. From a servicing perspective, our company is ‘Safe Contractor’ accredited.
WLN – How frequently does the equipment you supply need to be inspected to make sure it is safe?
For static equipment recommendation is as given by the Health and Safety Executive and depends upon usage. We recommend an inspection by a technically competent person at least every year.
WLN?- Do you offer an independent safety inspection service to make sure it is in good order?
Yes. We have SEMA approved rack inspectors for static equipment and ongoing service and maintenance programs in place for automated systems. Our specialists are trained to identify the less obvious structural weaknesses and irregularities, such as damaged baseplates, broken safety locks and ill-fitting beam connectors. Inspection reports are then provided in an easy to understand format as well as being professional and unbiased. Upon receipt of instructions to proceed, SSI Schaefer will subsequently project manage and effect any repairs necessary, replacing damaged components and ensuring full Health & Safety and PUWER (Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998) compliance.
WLN – What safety training do you offer your customers? Do you offer on-site training at customers’ premises?
We promote attendance of SEMA-led courses in rack safety awareness and maintenance. For some customers we offer training either at Schaefer offices or at the customer’s site, particularly if electro-mechanical automation equipment is included as part of the installed solution and this would be automatically undertaken on site at the time of installation.
WLN – Do you publish customer case studies on how your products and services help make warehouses safer?
We have produced many case studies which underline the benefits of warehousing system efficiency, in turn, leading to a safer operating environment. Automated storage and retrieval systems, which rely on minimal human-machine interface are a case in point.
WLN – Do you have any pilot sites where people can see your products in action?
We have numerous customer reference sites throughout the UK and Europe which, together, offer potential purchasers the opportunity to inspect examples of our products from the complete systems portfolio. We also have a large demonstration and test facility in Germany to which customers are openly and routinely invited.
WLN – What do you see as the most common threats to warehouse safety, and what can be done about them?
We see poor or incorrect training, poor or incorrect maintenance, poor or incorrect load accessories, lack of inspection and failure to understand safety features of products as being the most common threats to warehouse safety. Failure to take racking damage seriously and implementing low cost, unproven repair work is also a serious issue at some sites. Instigating a programme of education and safety awareness, from warehouse operative to senior management level, should be mandatory in all warehouse and distribution centre operations.
WLN – What do you think the warehouse industry should do to raise awareness of working safety standards, moving forwards?
It should be the responsibility of trade bodies representing the industry, such as SEMA and AMHSA, to promote safety standards across the board through advertising and running education courses – backed up by significant government sponsorship!
WLN – Are you promoting your safety message at any other trade events coming up?
No events are planned for the foreseeable future, although next year we will no doubt be taking our message to a number of exhibitions which set out to cater for manufacturing and distribution across a wide range of industry sectors.
WLN – Where do you see your company going from here in terms of product development and attention to safety concerns?
With increasingly higher safety standards assuming greater importance within warehousing operations, more built-in safety features will be coming to the fore, particularly within our automated storage product portfolio.
SSI Schaefer Ltd
Tel: 01264 386600