The SSI Schaefer Group is the world’s leading provider of modular warehousing and logistics solutions. SSI Schaefer designs, develops and manufactures systems for warehouses, industrial plants, workshops and offices. Its portfolio includes manual and automated solutions for warehousing, conveying, picking and sorting, plus technologies for waste management and recycling. Solutions from SSI Schaefer improve the productivity and efficiency of customer organizations – not least through the highly precise monitoring, visualization and analysis of operational metrics for proactive intralogistics management.

Jaap Vos
Managing Director, SSI Schaefer Limited

SSI Schaefer offers highly sophisticated, turnkey systems. As an international player, it can deliver onestop solutions to all four corners of the earth. Its comprehensive portfolio encompasses design, planning, consulting, and customer-specific aftersales services and maintenance. Jaap Vos, Managing Director, SSI Schaefer Limited spoke to Warehouse & Logistics News.

Warehouse & Logistics News: First of all, what does your role involve day to day? Are you directly involved in designing storage solutions for customers? What part do you play in ensuring safety is built into the solutions you provide?

As Managing Director, I am responsible for the UK subsidiary of SSI Schaefer. We are fortunate to have such a broad products and solutions portfolio so I am involved in a variety of day to day challenges supporting our team with driving the business forward to ensure we deliver design, quality and safety excellence through our storage solutions. And of course, as part of my role as SEMA President, I am actively involved in the Racking and Shelving Industry.

WLN: Who else in your business is specifically involved with storage safety?

We have a dedicated team which works closely with all departments within our organisation. We hold regular meetings to discuss new and current safety issues and regular internal audits are used to identify any improvement opportunities. We provide all employees with meeting minutes and changes in policy and are trained in relevant aspects of Health and Safety specifically related to their job or in more general terms.

WLN: This year’s SEMA Conference has the theme ‘Mission Possible,’ with the focus on safety issues for end users of storage equipment. How important a factor is safety for the end user in your solutions? How are you helping to make safety a ‘Mission Possible’ for end users?

A key element of my responsibility is to ensure we operate at the highest possible standards of safety. This means providing our customers with safe warehouse environments and ensuring our employees and subcontractors are safe when on site. An objective of ours, which aligns with what we as an industry, are trying to promote through the various SEMA activities.

WLN: What are your core products and services: what are you best known for? How do they help make working in warehouses safer?

For more than 75 years we have actively developed systems which enable us to provide our customers with solutions tailored to the storage of both unique and generic products.

Our core products are based on simple pallet racking and shelving storage systems as well as a diverse range of metal & plastic containers designed to suit any application. Over the past 18 years we have also been supplying solutions which automate the storage and retrieval of products within these systems – specifically conveyors, pallet and miniload cranes, shuttle, automatic picking, and AGVs. We have extended our portfolio to include warehouse management and control software and integration of other system-related products. Robotics is now playing an increasingly important role in our solutions provision.

‘Mission Possible’ in Safety means that we incorporate this at the design stage. This operates on two levels: firstly the product itself is designed in all instances to be ‘fit for purpose’ and the 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 paramount. Therefore, 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 solution needs to be modified in any way beforehand.

WLN: Have you launched any new products and services in the past year? What safety innovations do they represent?

Without exception, our continued development across all products and solutions incorporates not only the latest in design innovation, but also the highest levels of safety. For example, the trackless Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) fleet from SSI Schaefer have sophisticated built-in sensors which detect human presence within their operating areas and will momentarily shut down to avoid potentially fatal collisions.

WLN: Which industry sectors are your customers in? Can you name some of your recent major projects and tell us about 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, Wiggle and Oxford’s Bodleian Library are some examples of major customer projects.

These projects all involve the installation of pallet racking and shelving, some of which is serviced by automated pallet cranes. There are also elements of carton live storage, conveyors and controls with integrated peripheral equipment such as printers and label applicators.

WLN: Why should customers come to you as the first choice supplier in your specialist area?

We market ourselves as the ‘go to’ brand and, although we enjoy an enviable reputation for quality and innovation, we are also financially independent and committed to long term solutions for our customers. This means they can rely on our full support for their businesses for many years to come.

WLN: What is your company’s involvement in the 2018 SEMA Safety Conference – what are you doing on the day?

This year we will be well represented at the conference and as President, I personally will host the event which once again, brings together our members and a host of prominent speakers including industry experts, health and safety officials and key authorities on safety matters.

WLN: How does your involvement in SEMA help you as a company? How does it benefit your customers knowing you are SEMA members?

As an active member of SEMA we work with our industry peers to find opportunities to improve all aspects of our industry. This ranges from ensuring products are tested to standards, to safe installation and inspection and repairs. It certainly acts as an accreditation and ensures our customers that 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 aspects of storage safety 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 are always up-to-date on changes in health and safety legislation and we have OHSAS 18001 approval with BSI. A nonexhaustive list of standards and regulations our products comply with are: 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.From a servicing perspective, our company is ‘Safe Contractor’ accredited.

WLN: What guidance do you most frequently give your customers on what to do to improve storage safety?

We promote attendance of SEMAled courses in rack safety awareness and maintenance. Additionally we are able to offer various training courses which incorporate a strong Health and Safety element and are certificated.

WLN: Which warehouse safety standards do you comply with?

In addition to the product standards already mentioned, I would refer to Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER), Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) and SEMA codes of practice.

WLN: How often does the equipment you supply need to be inspected to make sure it is safe? Do you offer independent safety inspections?

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 on an annual basis. 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 structural weaknesses and irregularities such as damaged baseplates, broken safety locks and ill-fitting beam connectors. 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 onsite training at customers’ premises?

For some customers we offer training either at our offices or on site, particularly if electro-mechanical automation equipment is included as part of the installed solution. Where applicable, we offer working at height, rescue at height training and comprehensive in-house product training to our customers for all products we supply. 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 continue to produce many case studies which underline the benefits of warehousing system efficiency, which in turn, leads to a safer operating environment. A number of these are available via our website.

WLN: Do you have any pilot sites where people can see your products in action?

We are fortunate to have numerous customer reference sites throughout the UK and Europe which, together, offer potential customers the opportunity to inspect examples of our solutions. We also have a large demonstration and test facility in Germany and a smaller one in Austria, to which customers are openly and routinely invited.

WLN: Are you promoting your safety message at any other trade events coming up?

Our event calendar is now complete for this year however we will be taking our message to a number of key industry exhibitions throughout 2019 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 in warehousing operations, more built-in safety features will be coming to the fore, particularly within our automated storage product portfolio. It is not only a matter of safe operating but certainly also design solutions in such a way that they can be safely installed and maintained in the future. This is a continuous development cycle.