Vincent Halma brings an impressive résumé as a material handling executive to his new job at SSI Schaefer, where he was named senior vice president and head of the North America region on July 1. SSI Schaefer is an international material handling equipment supplier with headquarters in Germany and U.S. offices in Charlotte, North Carolina. The company has 70 operative subsidiaries and 10 global production facilities.
Prior to joining SSI Schaefer, Halma was the North American president and CEO of the Kion Group. All together, he has more than 20 years of experience working in the industry. In his new role, he is focusing on growth, delivering on customer commitments, enabling innovation, and creating a team culture that fosters leading digital transformation within the material handling industry.
Halma holds a bachelor’s degree in finance and a master’s degree in business arts with a focus on marketing, both from the Ohio State University. He speaks four languages, including English and German. Halma has three sons and currently resides in Charlotte with his wife, Jennifer.
Q: How do you view the current state of the material handling market?
A: The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic will have lasting impacts on customer behavior and supply chains in general. We are all looking for the best possible ways to deal with the peaks in consumer demand created by the pandemic. We believe that this will trigger an even higher demand for automation and integration of current systems within e-commerce. Continued new software integration of mechanical subsystems will help many other industries expand or start to fulfill their automation ambitions.
SSI Schaefer covers many industries with many solutions and products, so the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic vary depending on the customer. Many of our industrial and retail customers have been hit by shutdowns or slowdowns, while other customers are experiencing an unprecedented boom. Both situations require immediate optimization, and SSI Schaefer has supported customers around the globe to help with these needs. Our market-driven approach gives customers an advantage when it comes to these shifts.
Q: Has the pandemic changed the way customers are designing their facilities? For instance, are they incorporating more social distancing into their operations?
A: We see an even higher interest in automation. This may change the degree of automation customers adopt—for example, they may look for more process-driven automation to help lessen the engagement with labor. Of course, software can easily determine the pick-aisle in a manual setting, but more automation seems to be the theme now. This is also affecting the order profile of distribution centers, so flexibility is important in the design.
The warehouse of the future is highly automated. As hardware and software continue to integrate more seamlessly into the warehouse, more automated processes can be added economically. It’s much easier now to determine what utopia would look like in this scenario.
The team here at SSI Schaefer plans a scaled business approach. We work with our clients to design a path of steady progression toward a “lights out” operation, although for most businesses, this is still a few years away. We also have a large number of legacy facilities that were designed and operated around different principles and metrics, so this presents an opportunity to adapt this methodology and retrofit those facilities as well.
Q: You have worked in both the European and North American markets. How are they the same and how are they different?
A: Europe and North America are two different continents with big differences in material handling history and supply chain networks. Although our customers on both continents are facing similar challenges, they need different solutions. The drive for efficiency through automation and consumer behavior trends for e-commerce growth are similar, but legislation, local standards, and availability of space can lead to very different solutions for the customer.
Q: In what ways do you foster a team culture, and why is that important in leading your business?
A: SSI Schaefer is a family-owned company with great values. I believe in building a clock instead of telling time when it comes to team culture. Teams with open communication and empowered members are a lot more effective. In the global business of automation, a strong team culture is an absolute must. This is the philosophy that I’m pushing forward.
Q: What do you think is the most important thing that companies should focus on now in their supply chains?
A: Always look for new and different solutions and ask for advice from global experts, especially now. The team at SSI Schaefer has decades of experience when it comes to solving complex fulfillment hurdles. There are many efficiency solutions today that didn’t even exist five years ago. Even a simple software upgrade can improve throughput rates. We see supply chain and logistics solutions providing a big competitive advantage to our customers, which helps them gain market share and drive profits.