Since its inception in 1937, SSI Schaefer has experienced rapid growth. From manufacturing steel products in the early days to a global name as a turnkey solutions provider of intralogistics systems.
Still a family-owned business today, the company is an award-winning provider of automated materials handling equipment and integrated storage solutions. Products range from plastic totes to high bay pallet warehouses and warehouse management software. Providing expertise in the design, build, installation and maintenance of major, and often bespoke, production and distribution centre operations all over the world, we remain at the forefront of innovation within our industry.
Our customer base ranges from every day high street names to small business operations, which handle 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 day to day?
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 driving the business forward. I also spend a significant proportion of my time travelling between our existing and potential customers and our two UK offices. And of course, as part of my role as SEMA President, I am deeply involved in the Racking and Shelving Industry.
WLN: This year’s SEMA Conference has the theme ‘Aiming High’ and includes sessions on implementing the SEMA Code of Practice and how storage fits into a Comprehensive Environment & Safety Plan. Are you directly involved in designing storage solutions for customers? How important a factor is safety in your solutions?
We have set up our own Environmental Working Group and we comply with Environmental Management Standard ISO 14001:2015 as well as being BSI OHSAS 18001 Occupational Health & Safety Management accredited. 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: 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. Regular meetings are held to discuss new and current safety issues. Regular internal audits are used to identify any improvement opportunities. All employees are provided 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: What are your core products and services: what are you best known for? How are you ‘Aiming High’ at safety?
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 and metal and plastic containers. Over the past 17 years we have also been supplying solutions which automate the storage and retrieval of products within these systems – specifically conveyors, pallet and miniload cranes, shuttles, 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. Aiming high in Safety means that this is necessarily 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 paramount.
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? How do they help people work safely?
Following the recent development of our auto-guided transport systems these have become a popular choice for operations requiring flexible transport within the warehouse, distribution centre or production site.
The AGV fleet from SSI Schaefer features a diverse range of solutions for large and small load carriers that are capable of creating a logistics network to connect disparate areas. These trackless AGVs 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 recent 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 2017 SEMA Safety Conference – what are you doing on the day?
We intend to be represented at the conference but we will not be presenting any papers, although as President I personally will host the event.
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 to do to improve storage safety?
We promote attendance of SEMA-led courses in rack safety awareness and maintenance. 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: 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 annually. 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: Do you publish customer case studies on how your products and services help make warehouses safer generally?
We have produced 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 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?
No events are planned for the remainder of the year, 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: In general, which areas of warehouse safety do you think need to be improved, and what can be done about them?
Adequately trained installation team is imperative to ensuring that installations are regularly checked by a competent person and maintained and repaired in line with Manufacturers standards and SEMA guidelines. Failure to take this seriously and implementing low cost, unproven repair work is a serious issue at some sites. Instigating a program of education and safety awareness, from warehouse operative to senior management level, should be mandatory in all warehouse and distribution centre operations.
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.
SSI SCHAEFER LTD
Tel: 01264 386600