How intralogistics is helping businesses adapt to COVID-19
An interview with Torsten Wiecker - MD of STILL UK
2020 has been an eventful year not only for the logistics industry. In this interview with newly appointed UK Managing Director Torsten Wiecker, we’ll discuss how STILL is supporting its customers through intralogistics and innovative automation solutions. Helping them adapt to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and operate more efficient supply chains for the future.
How has STILL responded to the business impact of Covid-19?
Like everyone, the impact of COVID-19 was personal as well as a business challenge for me. I took over the responsibility of UK Managing Director on 1st March this year and by the 2nd or 3rd week into my new role, the lockdown restrictions were announced.
The first step was to do everything to keep our employees and customers safe. We have an important role in the supply chain which keeps the country running. Fortunately, as a Group we were able to manage this situation well. As a result, there have been no infections within our team and we continue to support our customers to a high level.
Has the STILL mission statement changed for the future?
2020 is not only the year of the COVID health crisis, but also the STILL centenary. Throughout our 100-year history our sole focus has been the customer, so if external factors, new technologies or a health crisis force change, the needs of the customer remain our focus. I believe that’s the reason we are still operating stronger than ever and with 100 years of experience.
In 1920 we started producing generators, now we’re producing complete logistics solutions and automated trucks, that’s a big technological development over 100 years, but our customer focus has remained unchanged.
Has the STILL mission statement changed for the future?
Our philosophy is to understand the demands of the customer and provide the right solution for that demand. The latest automation solutions and digitalisation define our “first in intralogistics” slogan which we are most proud of.
For STILL, our solutions are quite diverse and depend on the customer’s needs. In some cases, it makes sense to provide them with a premium used truck or when it comes to new challenges within their industries, then we will talk about a completely automated solution.
Automation and digitalisation are industry trends right now, where do these sit within the STILL philosophy?
In the STILL group we have enough know-how to confidently offer automated solutions to our customers. 8 years ago, as a Branch Manager in Germany, I worked on the first automation project where we automated VNA trucks as a solution for our customer. The end result has proved so successful for this particular business, they have since doubled the size of their automated fleet.
It is also not only all about our premium products or solutions. It’s about service during the operation and particularly our premium service which is what we pride ourselves on. The total cost of ownership is also a very important factor; we focus on forming strong relationships with our customers that through support and collaboration mean that they can see the long-term value of our solutions. As a result, we have high customer satisfaction and a high net promoter score compared to our competitors.
How can businesses ramp up productivity after COVID-19?
In some cases, it makes sense for customers to upgrade their fleets to electric forklift trucks. Not only are they a ‘greener’ product than diesel or gas trucks, but they are cheaper to run presenting a lower total cost of ownership. We are also advising customers to increase their supply chain efficiency by changing the type of truck they're using. For example, Very Narrow Aisle (VNA) forklift trucks enable customers to store more pallets within the same warehouse space.
What are the STILL company values?
Our STILL core values focus around making a lasting collaboration with our customers. These are Integrity; meaning we do what is right. Next, Collaboration; we trust each other, we understand people, their business, and openly share ideas to establish those long-term relationships.
Then, Courage; enabling us to inspire new ideas and respond to change in the world and act in the best possible way for our customers and ourselves.
Our final value is Excellence; where we create outstanding customer value and shape the industry through innovation. These four values are just as valid during the COVID-19 crisis as they have always been and will matter even more in the future.
What are the next developments for materials handling?
We are seeing digitalisation make significant developments both internally at STILL and for our customers. Internally we are using bots to reduce manual work, allowing our people to use their expertise to collaborate more with our customers. For the customer we offer a FleetManager™ application, where the customer can manage all the information about their fleet wherever they are in the world. These solutions improve their efficiency, help them make better decisions and further encourage collaboration between STILL and the customer.
What business opportunities do you see in distribution logistics as a result of COVID-19?
It’s still too early to tell but we have seen some businesses increase their productivity in the last few months. However, the final quarter results of 2020 will be interesting to see how successful businesses have managed the ramp-up. For the future, automated solutions could be the right answer for customers looking to adapt and make efficiency improvements. For example, automated warehouses can operate easier with social distancing measures being imposed. With Brexit approaching and furlough schemes changing, our customers are facing a constantly changing environment. However, by focusing on efficiency, improving ourselves and collaborating with our customers we can help keep their businesses safe.
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