SSI Schaefer is well known for large scale projects like the new National Distribution Centre it fitted out for Sainsbury’s at Crick, Northamptonshire, servicing over 550 stores with Sainsbury’s entire General Merchandise range and with the capacity to store 220,000 pallets and deliver 2.4 million units per week at full capacity.
As the ecommerce market grows and distribution operations of all sizes look for ways to become more efficient, SSI Schaefer is restructuring its sales operation to make its storage solutions available to the up and coming middle tier, who find they need full or part automation to grow.
Derek Wright, Sales Director at SSI Schaefer spoke to Warehouse & Logistics News.
Derek, what does your role as Sales Director involve day to day? Do you talk to customers personally and get involved in developing solutions for them?
Interesting question and one I keep getting asked, maybe I should be worried! As Sales Director I take responsibility for all sales within the UK business. Our portfolio is very wide from a single plastic container to £100m+ in Automation so we must have a strong team set up to answer all market needs.
As the range is so broad, my main work comes around making sure we have the correct support and structure to enable us to look after our existing and new customers, whilst giving our team the exposure and the experience of the total business, something that has benefited me in my career with SSI.
As part of my role I also have responsibility for Application engineering, data and concepting, business development and marketing. This way I can create a tool kit of support for team and our customers.
I still get very much involved in with customers across the business, I don’t think anything will ever take me away from this interaction and it shouldn’t. Good relationships are key to delivering successful projects.
Are you forming a new division to handle the middle tier business and will you be leading it? Who else is in the team with you?
We are forming a new division which will be run by my Head of Sales, Aaron Thornton, who has 18 years with the company so he knows his way around the industry! The new division consists of vertical market specialists with expert knowledge and experience of intralogistics processes within their own market sectors and how the wide portfolio of SSI SCHAEFER products can be implemented.
Overall we are targeting customers who use mainly static products, who are now expanding and need additional solutions to manage that growth. Some of these customers may have been put off talking to SSI Schaefer believing we are ‘automation only’ but with a dedicated mid-tier sales and support structure in place, we can offer expert guidance and improve efficiency for this mid tier sector.
What’s been involved in your restructuring? Have you taken on more sales engineers to tackle the middle tier?
The company now has 300 employees and has grown through all divisions, including sales engineers and sales support teams. Our two offices in Andover and Towcester are growing consistently, we’re running out of desks!
Where do you make your storage systems? Have you thought any more about making your systems for the UK here?
Our manufacturing bases are spread throughout the globe, we mainly receive product from Germany, Austria, Czech Republic and even Malaysia.
Can we talk about the mid tier projects you’re looking at. What kind of project values are involved?
There are no set limits either side but we’re generally looking at projects from £150,000 to £4 million. We cover everything from £1 to £150m and have a dedicated team set up to handle the variety and skill set needed for such a broad range of projects.
What kind of sectors are these customers in?
As an organisation we concentrate on six core market sectors, namely fashion, food retail, food & beverage, healthcare & cosmetics, industry, retail & wholesale as well as the automotive industry.
How does SSI Schaefer approach the environmental aspect of its business?
We have a very strong ethos on ‘green logistics’. Our technologies are now focussed on energy recovery and energy saving systems. Internally we have an Environment committee and we’ve just finished a ‘go green’ initiative regarding recycling through-out all of our sites and offices and even our own homes.
Your ‘mega’ systems are spectacular. The SSI Schaefer system for Sainsbury’s at Crick consists of an automated high-bay, double deep pallet storage system which feeds product to picking areas via a combination of inverted monorail and pallet conveyor. What sort of systems would you be looking at offering the middle tier?
We’re looking at an element of automation and a few conveyors but also focusing on solutions involving software, warehouse management systems, pick by light, AGVs and vertical storage machines e.g. LOGIMAT.
You talked about the value of the projects, but what kind of square footage for these solutions are we looking at?
This would really depend on the individual project, we are also very clever at space utilisation ensuring we can maximise the available footprint for any customer – size doesn’t matter!
How quickly will you be able to turn round designs and layouts for these mid tier projects? Will the design work be done here in the UK? What sort of lead times do you envisage, from placing an order to installing it?
We have a high skill base within the UK who are experts in their field and we are well supported by our parent company when needed, typically we would look for around a week. Our lead-times are determined by the products and solutions realised for each project.
Do existing warehouse buildings and floors need to be modified to accommodate your solutions?
Through correct engineering and application design we can minimise modifications to ensure costs are kept to a minimum. If for example you opted for a multi-tier shelving structure, the loadings would be spread out on the existing floor so you may not need to make any significant alterations.
How important is safety in your solutions?
Safety is paramount in what we do both at SSI Schaefer and across all customer sites. We are committed members of SEMA and AMHSA, we have designers qualified to NEBOSH standard and we are ISO18001 accredited.
Your part of the business covers the UK. Is this targeting of middle tier customers a global initiative by SSI Schaefer? Are you offering the same service in other countries?
UK and Germany are leading the way in targeting mid-tier projects which will then be rolled out across the other countries within the group.
As operations take up your technology do you see British industry becoming increasingly automated and workers becoming fewer?
Not specifically, but as smaller operations grow, we know they are looking to improve their efficiency and output, including their picking accuracy and they know workers have their limitations. Through the use of goods to man principles in mechanisation and AGVs we are able to work closely with customers to offer future proof solutions to enhance their efficiency going forward.
One of the hot topics in the industry is Big Data. How are you bringing digitalisation into the SSI Schaefer offering?
We offer comprehensive data provision / data planning expertise so for these mid-tier projects we are talking to customers about data before they embark on a project. We look at it from an internal perspective to check which solution is the most viable, which then determines how the project is progressed through to Aaron’s team either for automation or static implementation, depending on the project. Our competitors are not necessarily able to offer this expertise at the mid-tier level.
SSI Schaefer Ltd