Completely self-sufficient with regard to electricity supply: a haulage company makes itself independent

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Text: Juliane Gringer
Photos: Seifert Logistics Group

The Seifert Logistics Group has built a state-of-the-art logistics centre at its headquarters in Ulm. In September 2023, entrepreneur Harry Seifert reported on how he intends to become self-sufficient in energy and make his haulage and logistics company CO2-neutral at the Wiehl Forum organised by BPW Bergische Achsen.

With a kilometre of logistics halls by the A7/A8 motorway junction, Harry Seifert has fulfilled a life-long dream at the Ulm headquarters of Seifert Logistics Group. The state-of-the-art logistics centre, inaugurated to mark the company’s 75th anniversary at the end of 2022, was planned and built with a clear focus on sustainability. Among other things, this is demonstrated by the photovoltaic system on the roofs of the buildings, which supplies up to 5.5 megawatts of peak electricity. Harry Seifert wants to use this to make the company energy self-sufficient. He says: “We have built for the future here.”

Drones and robots in the warehouse

Around 100,000 pallets are inventoried by drone, picking robots are deployed and additive manufacturing is implemented at Seifert. Underfloor heating provides a comfortable working environment and the offices are equipped with extremely energy-efficient heating/cooling ceilings and a special ventilation system. „Full speed ahead into the future” – this is also the claim of the company, which specialises in contract logistics and primarily serves the automotive, building materials and chemical industries. 1,500 lorries are currently in operation for Seifert, many of them with BPW axles. “We were very lucky with the timing of our construction project, were able to complete it on schedule and we finished just as the order situation started to pick up again after the pandemic,” Seifert reported in September 2023 at Wiehler Forum by BPW Bergische Achsen. “But courage also plays a part: you have to make decisions, get going and have the confidence to do things. We are entrepreneurs, not underachievers.”

»We want to be CO2 neutral.«

Harry Seifert, Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Seifert Logistics Group

His declared goal is for the company to be completely self-sufficient with electricity generated by the PV system in the long term. “We want to be CO2-neutral”, says Seifert. However, there are many challenges on the way to this goal. “The municipal utilities didn’t want to buy the electricity from us at first,” says the entrepreneur. So he had the situation examined by an expert. “In doing this, I learnt that there is a transport obligation for electricity in the EU and that the utilities have to purchase it. It’s worth persevering with such issues.” In addition, the company premises are divided into two parts by a main road – one half belongs to the municipality of Dornstadt, the other to Jungigen. Both places have their own postcode and telephone area code. “According to the Renewable Energy Act, the two sides are not allowed to supply each other with electricity,” says Seifert.

Many regulatory hurdles

No long-term solution has been found for this problem yet. Up to now, the company has had to feed the electricity into the grid and buy it back from the energy supplier. But Seifert is looking for an autonomous, sustainable solution and wants to operate the branch in Ulm and, in the long term, the 44 other company Group locations with self-generated green electricity. “We will definitely manage this, but it will take time and we have to overcome a few hurdles,” he says. He would like to see fewer regulatory restrictions and more support for entrepreneurs like him that invest in solutions. “The competitiveness of medium-sized companies must be secured.”

»Electrically powered vehicles are supplied with electricity in a digitally controlled manner on the ramp during loading and unloading.«

Harry Seifert, Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Seifert Logistics Group

This also includes the switch to alternative drives. The company has installed charging points in Ulm for electric vehicles in its fleet as well as those of employees and customers. Seifert explains that he prefers to use the technology in shuttle and site transport and in local areas: “The vehicles are supplied with electricity during loading and unloading on the ramp using digital control.” On long journeys, it is more realistic for him to use vehicles powered by e-fuels or hydrogen. He has therefore also established all the prerequisites for his own charging infrastructure in Ulm. A filling station of the future, called the “New Energy Hub”, will cover the plant’s own needs with conventional fuels as well as electricity, hydrogen and e-fuels and will also be aimed at external customers, thereby contributing to the acceptance and establishment of alternative green fuels.

Logistics is indispensable for society

For Harry Seifert, logistics is indispensable for society. He compares it to blood circulation in the human body: “We supply everything.” He himself has been heavily involved in the development of this supply system over the past decades: the company’s history began in 1947 with five employees, today there are around 4,000. Harry Seifert is now Chairman of the Advisory Board, his son Julian has already joined the company and represents the third generation of the family business. With Axel Frey as CEO, the management team has already been rejuvenated by one generation. Seifert senior knows that his company depends on the people who work there. That’s why he clearly placed the employees and their well-being at the centre of the planning of the major project at the Ulm site: he wants to offer them healthy workplaces where they can feel good – true to the motto “Employees First”.

The company is tackling the shortage of skilled labour in both the commercial and industrial sectors by positioning itself as an industry leader in terms of employer attractiveness. This goal is built on three pillars: a healthy working environment, a healthy diet and physical fitness. These are most visible in the modern office environment with open-plan work areas, lounges and creative spaces, as well as in the in-house fitness centre which employees can use free of charge. And in the company restaurant “Franzl”, named after the company founder Franz Xaver Seifert, where fresh food is cooked daily. For Harry Seifert, a good corporate culture is extremely important – new employees are assigned experienced team members as mentors, and he always welcomes trainees personally. This extensive commitment has not gone unnoticed: “We receive a lot of unsolicited applications.”

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