2011 has to date been a very successful year for SSI Schaefer, not only in terms of new business but in recognition of its successes within the design and innovation of its many industry leading systems and products – to top this off, SSI Schaefer is also celebrating its 50th birthday within the UK.
First founded by Fritz-Schaefer in 1937 in Burbach, Germany, it wasn’t until the 1960’s that the company started to focus on international markets and the first two foreign companies were founded in Basingstoke, UK and Neunkirch, Switzerland. Today the company group is not only represented in Europe, but also in America, Australia and many countries in the Middle East and Asia.
Mike Bell, Customer Service Manager, has been with the company 47 years, joining in 1964, starting out as an office junior at the age of 15, and remembers the first UK made shelf unit that was manufactured.
Mike spent much of his early career with Schaefer at the company’s previous facility in Basingstoke from 1971 through to 1994, within sales and marketing roles, before moving to its current, purpose built headquarters in Andover.
Mike said: “When I started there were no such things as computers or mobile phones and an electronic typewriter was considered very high tech. Salesmen had to ring in daily from a public telephone box to pick up their messages!
“Computer systems come and go as technology has advanced culminating in our current Navision system and over the years my department has been heavily involved as a user in the changes and implementation of each new computer system.
“The biggest changes over the years that I have witnessed are the number of employees, technology , location and environmental working conditions and as far as the next 50 years are concerned it can only be onwards and upwards building on our achievements within the logistics market.”
Steve Summers joined SSI Schaefer in Basingstoke in 1975, as a draughtsman, before the introduction of computers and CAD, so drawings were produced manually on paper using pencil or ink pens – he is now a Contracts Engineer.
Holding a number of roles over the years, it was during the 1980s that Steve supervised a number of projects in Iraq and France when the UK branch still carried out many projects in the Middle East and Europe. He was even fortunate enough to supervise a large installation in Barbados during the 1990s when exports were still then a significant part of the business – which is in stark contrast to UK operations today, particularly since manufacturing was centralised in Germany in 2004 and other divisions have developed and opened up around the world that now handle international business.
Bob Jane has been with the company for over 30 years, joining at the age of 23. Bob quickly rose through the ranks at work, starting out as an area junior sales representative, before leaping to senior sales rep, then regional manager, followed by national sales manager and now as Business Development Manager.
Years ago Bob worked alongside 28 sales representatives across the country and now there are just ten Regional Field Sales (in addition to specialist sales reps in Automation, Static, Dynamic and Plastics), he said: “The world was certainly a different place during the 1980s when we needed more structure in place to deal with more customers and lengthy communication methods. Our ability to communicate has radically changed the way we carry out business today and we no longer need the field sales manpower to achieve the same result. More recently we’ve significantly increased our specialist sale and technical resources in Automation and Project Management.”
In terms of the direction in which the business is going and the logistics industry in general, The Company is all too aware that the needs of customers are constantly evolving which is why SSI Schaefer is continually providing materials handling, storage and distribution solutions that fit in with today’s modern warehouse whilst pushing the boundaries in design, technology and innovation in order to keep one step ahead of the competition.
He continued: “The value of projects is now much higher and customers are progressively looking for suppliers that can provide a multi-faceted solution, providing a combined approach that includes both static and automated storage and picking.
“We now take on the ‘integrator’ role – more and more customers are looking for working partners that can provide them with the confidence and peace of mind that a project can be handed over and followed through to completion, knowing all aspects of design, build, installation and smooth integration of additional contractors will be managed efficiently and effectively. SSI Schaefer is unique in its position to be able to provide most solutions built from its own product portfolio.
“I look forward to the next 50 years!”
Tel: 01264 386600