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 one of the world’s leading providers 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.
Phil West, Health & Safety Manager, SSI Schaefer Limited spoke to Warehouse & Logistics News.
Warehouse & Logistics News: First of all, what does your role involve day to day?
My role involves a range of activities, from Health and Safety surveillance of construction sites, offices and our expanding Resident Maintenance operations to the development of new and improved safety features on equipment. In March 2016 SSI Schaefer successfully attained certification in OHSAS 18001 and we are now working towards transition to ISO 45001. The company is certified in ISO 9001 and is in the final stages of assessment for ISO 14001 certification. A substantial element of my role involves ensuring that we comply with all relevant Health and Safety requirements as well as working with our customers to make sure that safe systems of work are in place.
WLN: This year’s SEMA Conference includes sessions on on safe storage system design and the new Construction Design and Management regulations (CDM). Are you directly involved in designing storage solutions for customers? How important a factor is safety in your solutions?
I have involvement throughout the whole design process. Being involved in the early stages is crucial to ensure risks are designed out and that the solutions we provide can be operated and maintained safely. We are always looking to further improve safety features of our solutions through Continuous Improvement initiatives.
WLN: Who else in your company is specifically involved with storage safety?
Initially, Designers work closely with our Structural Engineers, Quality and Health and Safety teams to ensure the storage solutions are safe and comply with all the relevant requirements. During construction our Project Managers and Site Managers ensure this is undertaken to the highest safety standards. Resident Maintenance Site Managers and their teams ensure that our customer’s assets are maintained to ensure that safety features are effective. Racking Inspectors undertake regular detailed surveys of our customer’s installations to ensure continued compliance with legislation. The company’s Management team supports the relevant business units in delivering storage solutions of the highest quality and safety.
WLN: What are your core products and services: what are you best known for providing? How is safety ‘built in’ to these?
We have been supplying storage systems for more than 75 years. Our core products include pallet racking, shelving and containers but we also supply solutions which automate the storage and retrieval of products within these systems. Our product portfolio also includes warehouse management software.
Asset protection is built in at the design stage. This operates on two levels: firstly, the product itself is designed to be ‘fit for purpose’ through a process of exhaustive testing, backed up by rigorous quality assurance. Secondly, the layout design of the system which incorporates the product undergoes scrutiny by a qualified structural engineer and environmental and building conditions are also assessed. This means that blanket safety coverage of both the stored product and the storage system itself exists at all levels.
WLN: Have you launched any new products and services in the past year? Again, how do they help enhance storage safety?
Our new AGV, the Weasel can be safely utilised where conveyors cannot easily be installed and where there is significant human interaction. We have also launched an updated version of our vertical lift LogiMat automated storage system, which has enhanced functionality and improved ergonomics.
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?
Prominent sectors in our customer portfolio are pharma distribution, the automotive aftermarket, temperaturecontrolled warehouses and retail.
Projects in these sectors involve the installation of pallet racking, which may be serviced by automated storage and retrieval machines, and there are also elements of shelving, carton live storage, conveyors and integrated auxiliary equipment, such as carton erectors and tote stacking/destacking machines.
WLN: What makes you the first choice supplier in your area of expertise?
Our reputation for quality of both products and service, along with innovation in solutions design, is well known. This is steeped in years of experience. The stability and longevity of a multi-generation family business is also regarded as a big ‘plus’ by our customers.
WLN: What is your key message about improving storage safety for the warehouse industry?
My message is to maintain storage solutions to the highest standard in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations and legislative requirements. This will not only ensure your equipment is safe to use, but will also extend the life of the asset. The competence of those maintaining and inspecting any storage solution is crucial in ensuring that this is undertaken safely and effectively.
WLN: What is your company’s involvement at the 2016 SEMA Safety Conference – what are you doing on the day?
We intend to be represented at the conference, although we are not presenting any papers.
WLN: How does your involvement in SEMA help you as a company?
Being a SEMA member enables us to share experiences, valuable industry information and advocate new policies and standards. It also acts as an ‘accreditation’ and makes us more attractive to a potential customer. How does it benefit your customers knowing you are SEMA members? Customers know we adhere to strict policy on safety and quality which 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 equipment and solutions are designed and constructed to comply with all the relevant standards and regulations. Standards and regulations our products comply with include; Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC, BS EN 15629:2008 – Steel static storage systems, BS EN 15095:2007+A1:2008 – Power-operated mobile racking and shelving, carousels and storage lifts, Safety requirements. BS EN 528:2008 – Rail dependent storage and retrieval equipment, Safety requirements. Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER), Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) and SEMA codes of practice.
WLN: How frequently does the equipment you supply need to be inspected to make sure it is safe?
Do you offer an independent safety inspection service to make sure it is in good order? The frequency of equipment inspections varies. Certain regulations such as LOLER for instance, require that lifting equipment is inspected every 12 months unless it is used for lifting people where the frequency is every 6 months. We offer a racking safety inspection service which is designed also to educate. Inspecting racking and shelving on a regular basis is required under current Health and Safety legislation and the ultimate responsibility for rack safety lies with the employer and carries significant legal liabilities in the event of an accident.
Our SEMA approved Racking Inspectors are specialists trained to identify the less obvious structural weaknesses and irregularities, such as damaged baseplates, broken safety locks and ill-fitting beam connectors. We offer inspection reports, in an unbiased, easy to understand format. SSI Schaefer will project manage and effect any repairs necessary, replacing damaged components and ensuring full Health & Safety and PUWER compliance. SSI Schaefer Computerised Maintenance Management System (CMMS) allows customers to keep records of inspections as well as planning maintenance activities and monitoring spares.
WLN: What safety training do you offer your customers? Do you offer onsite training at customers’ premises?
Where applicable we offer our customers working at height and rescue at height training and this can be delivered at a customer’s premises. SSI Schaefer Limited offer comprehensive product training for all products we supply by in-house trainers. Training courses incorporate a strong Health and Safety element and are certificated.
WLN: Do you publish customer case studies on how your products and services help make warehouses safer generally?
We have a specific publication relating to racking safety, designed to raise awareness within user installations. Where product safety features are built in then these are highlighted. For example, in installations which include our pallet shuttle, ‘Orbiter’, we highlight the increased safety aspect associated with its built-in laser, which detects anything in its travel path and causes it to stop moving well before impact.
WLN: Do you have any pilot sites where people can see your products in action?
Our latest technology is installed in a host of sites globally, while key sites in the UK range from large retail organisations, such as Sainsbury’s and Holland & Barrett to niche suppliers like office Office Depot, Teva and wholesale growers, such as Bowmans Chilled Stores and AJ & CI Snell, who store their products in temperaturecontrolled environments.
WLN: What do you see as the most common threats to warehouse safety, and what can be done about them?
There are numerous safety pitfalls at all points from the installation through to ongoing operational activity. Top of the list is poor training, followed by inadequate equipment maintenance, failure to implement inspection regimes and to understand product safety features. Ignoring racking damage or implementing low cost, unproven repairs to racking or other storage media harbours potential for accidents. Instigating a program of education and safety awareness across the board from warehouse operative to senior management should be mandatory in all warehouse operations, while the use of automated systems can also reduce accident potential.
WLN: What do you think the warehouse industry should do to raise awareness of asset protection, moving forwards?
Trade bodies representing the industry, such as SEMA, AMHSA and others, should play a role in raising and promoting safety standards through programs of education and awareness for all who are actively engaged in materials storage and handling. Ultimately it is the responsibility of employers to significantly raise the levels of awareness and implement training, ideally backed by industry trade bodies.
WLN: Are you promoting your safety message at any other trade events coming up?
We recently featured safety as part of our product, services and solutions portfolio at the IMHX exhibition at the NEC.
WLN: Where do you see your company going from here in terms of product development and attention to safety concerns?
More technology-based safety features will be inevitable and necessary within the design of new products and in upgrades of existing equipment. However operator awareness is still paramount and we see education and training as playing a hugely significant role in the prevention of accidents and asset damage in the warehouse.
Tel: 01264 386600