Established by Fritz Schaefer in Germany in 1937, SSI Schaefer is a fully family- owned business, Headquartered in Neunkirchen, Germany, with a global reach including more than 55 subsidiaries worldwide and over 10,000 employees.
The early years of the business revolved around the manufacture of steel products and the company is now a major global player in technology and an award-winning provider of automated materials handling equipment and integrated storage solutions, with products ranging from plastic totes to high bay pallet warehouses and warehouse management software.
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. Derek Wright, Sales Director at SSI Schaefer Limited spoke to Warehouse & Logistics News.
What are your best-known products and services?
As a family owned business for 75+ years we continue to deliver the same values and as a group, are fully committed to staying this way. During this time we have been active in developing systems which enable us to provide our customers with solutions specifically tailored to the storage of both unique and generic products. Our product offering is so broad, as a turn key supplier we can offer a single tote, standalone IT systems or a fully automated warehouse, as well as cater for any requirement in between. The past years have seen this portfolio grow with the addition of AGVs and a fully integrated IT offering.
What new products/services will you be launching next year?
Our focus is very much on our people and customers. Our product range has grown so much over the past years, next year will be about continued growth in the UK.
Tell us about your business highlights or a project you have recently completed?
2019 has been an interesting year, we have added another 25+ people to the organization and this looks likely to continue with the ongoing success of the entire business. Project wise we have finished many covering multiple market sectors, it’s difficult to choose one! The team has worked hard with new and existing customers, be this new solutions or CI type projects.
What challenges will the business environment offer to your industry in the coming year? How will you turn these challenges into opportunities?
I think as always in the industry the shortage of labour will continue to be a challenge. This will always present good opportunity for all levels of mechanization and automation. Our ability to support growth and help with process improvement will always focus us on labor improvements.
What industry sectors do you see offering you the most potential next year?
We operate across a wide variety of market sectors, ranging from frozen food and pharma distribution, to hanging garment retail and the automotive aftermarket. Outside of traditional economic growth we have been very successful both locally and globally in the fashion sector.
Are you investing in new premises over the next 12 months? What about recruitment, staff development and training?
Our people are at the heart of our growth and their development is always a priority for. The company continues to grow so investment in people is continuous. As our customer needs change, we must make sure we are agile enough to consistently add value.
How do your products help businesses become cleaner, recycle more and reduce their carbon footprint?
Green logistics is a key focus for all our products and R&D currently. We see this however as more than just the hardware and software we provide. We must be aware of total impact the solution is having on the environment. We are looking at how we provide solar powered cabins in the project phase and using organic and sustainable textiles for uniform in the Maintenance stages. All of this has a contributing factor to the sustainability of our solutions.
How have business conditions changed and how have you reacted?
I think the market is still busy, the market effects different parts of the business in different way. We have focused on what we can control and how we add value whilst making sure we a plan for the future, whatever that maybe!
Are you involved in any major trade shows or other industry events next year?
We have just hosted in the past weeks our very own internal show Logistica, which we host every two years, with 2019 having the highest attendance in its history with more than 250 customers. For the coming 12 months, we are just finalizing our show plan so keep an eye out for announcements!
What recent changes/improvements have you made in customer service?
We have customer service in many ways at SSI. From a customer interaction point of view, we provide specific market sector teams to offer key knowledge and experience of your market sector. This helps us interact more efficiently with our customers as the teams understand the language and expectation of their sector. We then have a growing Residential Maintenance and Service business that continues to grow with every project. They support day to day not only on keeping a system moving but also in those key CI objectives each customer has.
Do your solutions reduce manual handling and physical lifting?
Ergonomics is key to all our solutions, be this shelving or full Automation. We must make sure that our designs offer equal opportunities for everyone and will not restrict the work flow and productivity of the people using them.
How do your solutions help customers increase the level of automation in their business?
By providing a range of automated equipment, from Vertical Lifts to full ASRS solutions with goods-to-person picking, SSI provides different scales of automated solutions to help our customers at each stage of their automation journey. We aim at optimizing productivity throughout each processes and reduce the number of product touches whenever it is possible to improve efficiency.
How do you help customers make optimum use of their existing warehouse space?
Dense storage solution such as ASRS or vertical lift systems that can utilize the full height of the building and thus reduce the footprint of storage solutions. In our more manual solutions, the aim is still to optimize space by using the height of the building with multi-tier structures.
How much do your solutions and products contribute to warehouse safety?
Ergonomics is a key criteria during our solution design as ensuring the safety and well-being of operators is critical. Ensuring operators are located in a common safe area of the warehouse segregated from any automation or MHE equipment whenever possible is the best way of reducing risks. Regarding automation specifically, our products are designed with the highest safety levels to ensure safe operations.
To what extent are you drivers of technological change?
The combination of our manufacturing and IT capabilities provides great opportunities for innovation. Our work with Schaeffler regarding maintenance 4.0 is a good illustration of how new systems can provide significant savings in terms of running operating costs. Our new Flexi shuttle also offers new prospects as it provides ground-breaking benefits in terms of energy efficiency combined with very high storage density and performance.
How futureproof and flexible are your solutions as businesses change?
Automation solutions are designed for a set of parameters that are based on forecasts. Predicting the future is always tricky and there is much room to get it wrong. In order to reduce risks and ensure successful projects, we look at the sensitivity of the key parameters of our solutions to demonstrate how resilient and flexible our solutions are. We also take into account the extension capability of our designs whenever possible ensuring that options are kept opened to expand the system if the business growth is faster than anticipated, for instance.
What big news can our readers look forward to seeing in Warehouse & Logistics News from you in 2020?
Contract and key product developments we hope!
And finally, if you had to sum up your company in a hashtag, what would it be?