Why does the SEMA Distributor Group Matter?
The barriers to entry to setting up as a designer/supplier of storage equipment in the UK (pallet racking, mezzanine floors, shelving) are incredibly, worryingly low. In fact, they are effectively non-existent.
Less than a £1,000 could set someone up with a good looking website working out of a back bedroom, using stock industry images and look sufficiently competent enough to start trading.
You would think that manufacturers of racking would somehow audit the calibre of companies they are supplying to. You would be wrong. The market has become so disparate that many of the leading racking and shelving manufacturers will supply anyone who has the means to pay for the goods, with no resources to test of the technical competence to specify them. In this regard, the title “distributor” can at best be unhelpful and at worst completely misleading.
The storage of heavy goods at height is a serious matter. Multiple tons of product stored above colleagues heads picking and putting away goods. Rack collapses are thankfully infrequent in the UK, but when they occur they are typically dramatic and life-threatening. The recent high-profile rescue of the fork-lift truck driver in the cheese factory in Staffordshire thankfully ended up with success and only minor injury, but the total collapse of the racking system requiring a rescue though the skin of the building illustrated the point.
It’s somewhat of an oxymoron that as H&S consciousness tightens massively in other industry sectors, the number unregulated and evidently under-resourced organisations purporting to be experts in the design and supply of storage systems seems to proliferate.
The SEMA Distributor Group is important as it’s the only body in the UK that tests the competence of distributors or resellers of storage equipment. Formally the SHEDA organisation, it reversed itself under the SEMA (Storage Equipment Manufacturers Association) umbrella in 2012 and with the additional resources this brought, set about quality testing its membership through the SEMA Distributor Group Audit.
To the surprise of the committee, only 80% of the members could pass the initial audit, even with help, and even though the initial criteria were set relatively low. These members were asked to leave or re-apply. The 30 strong group has subsequently attracted replacement companies who want to work to the increasing standards set within the group.
The SEMA Distributor Group members know what it takes to meet this standard, to work at a highly competent level, to manage risk. They are continually frustrated that people who should know better still essentially buy their storage equipment on a price-led basis and not a competence-led basis, using companies with no accreditation or investment in people and structure.