A new dimension in special logistics in North Hessen

British group RS has massively expanded its distribution center in Bad Hersfeld in response to Brexit. State-of-the-art systems now deliver products efficiently and sustainably to customers all across Europe from Hessen. A visit by HTAI CEO Rainer Waldschmidt and representatives of Hessen’s economic development network marked the start of even closer cooperation with regional enterprises.

Every few seconds, countless gray plastic bins sweep down the kilometer-long conveyor belts snaking like roller-coasters through the 37,000 square-meter logistics center. The computer-driven shuttles transport tiny electronic components, special tools, or even entire machine parts, bringing them swiftly from the vast warehouse area to the staff at the packing stations. These specialists then process the orders using touch pads and scanners, with a focused light beam showing them what to pick from the shuttle. After this very high-speed packing, another short conveyor-belt ride delivers the parcels to the fully automatic sealing and labeling station. They’re then ready for sending to any European customers, since British company RS Group now serves them all from its recently expanded distribution center in Bad Hersfeld.

“Extending our Bad Hersfeld facility is a conscious investment in the future of this location, in our company, and in North Hessen. We have more than doubled our warehouse space and trebled our capacity. What’s more, our fully automatic warehouse system with its 300,000 storage bins allows us to process orders even more efficiently, further reducing delivery times to customers. In addition, a certified ESD protected area has been constructed in a new story. ESD stands for ‘electrostatic discharge,’ and the highly sensitive electronic components stored here are specially protected from this. We have also created a highly attractive workplace for our 350 or so staff that sets new standards for sustainability,” said Ralf Hellwig, Managing Director DACH - RS Group, who is responsible for the UK Distributors´ business in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

RS Group – a global company – has constructed its most advanced distribution center in Bad Hersfeld, equipping it with innovative, state-of-the-art systems and creating additional jobs. This is impressive proof of the role Hessen plays for international investors. We are delighted to be helping RS Group achieve its goals by leveraging our wide range of networks and contacts.

Dr. Rainer WaldschmidtChief Executive Officer, Hessen Trade & Invest

A visit from three different Hessen economic development agencies

Hellwig was hosting some special visitors to the logistics center on the day of the interview: Three different economic development executives were visiting the flagship project in Bad Hersfeld. In addition to Rainer Waldschmidt, CEO of Hessen Trade & Invest GmbH (HTAI), these were Kai-Georg Bachmann, CEO of Regionalmanagement Nordhessen GmbH, and Bernd Rudolph, CEO of Wirtschaftsförderungsgesellschaft für den Landkreis Hersfeld-Rotenburg mbH. Together, their agencies provide comprehensive support for companies in Hessen: centrally at federal state level, locally in the region, and directly on the ground.

“RS Group – a global company – has constructed its most advanced distribution center in Bad Hersfeld, equipping it with innovative, state-of-the-art systems and creating additional jobs. This is impressive proof of the role Hessen plays for international investors. We are delighted to be helping RS Group achieve its goals by leveraging our wide range of networks and contacts,” said HTAI Rainer Waldschmidt during the tour of the site.

“Extending our Bad Hersfeld facility is a conscious investment in the future of this location, in our company, and in North Hessen. We have more than doubled our warehouse space and trebled our capacity."

Sven ReussManaging Director, RS Components GmbH

Optimum location and regional links

RS Group has operated its North Hessen site for 20 years. The reason for the current expansion is Bad Hersfeld’s central location. A remote town on the border to the GDR until the Wall fell and Germany was reunified in 1990, it has seen rapid change since then. Its position at the heart of Germany and Europe now makes it ideal for the logistics sector. Numerous companies have set up major hubs here, thanks to the excellent freeway links. “This gives us access to trained specialists in the region. And our carriers collect shipments until late in the evening, so that these generally arrive at our customers the next day,” said Sven Reuss, the facility’s Managing Director.

Brexit reinforced the North Hessen distribution center’s position even further. “Previously, our British parent stored a lot of products in the United Kingdom, and distributed them across the EU from there. But the new hard customs border has made this process uneconomic. That’s why we have expanded Bad Hersfeld into our largest – and central – hub in Continental Europe,” Reuss added.

An enabler of entire sectors

Reliability is crucial for RS Group: As a specialist supplier to a large number of industrial sectors, the company ensures many other enterprises in Europe and throughout the world run smoothly. “RS Group is a classic enabler of the economy: The company’s rapid delivery of spare parts ensures that other industries can continue working even in times of crisis. Sometimes the lack of even a tiny component can shut down a company’s entire production and cause extremely high follow-on costs. That’s why having a central, highly efficient location for our logistics center is vital not just for RS Group itself but for entire economic sectors,” Waldschmidt added.

One reason why the new distribution center is more efficient is its radically revised operating concept: Previously, staff had to collect goods across a wide expanse of shelving and aisles. The new goods-to-person system, complete with conveyor belts and autonomous shuttles, has substantially reduced the work involved. Since a large proportion of the stock held consists of small components, working at RS Group is also less physically demanding than is normal in the sector. “What’s more, as a specialized B2B supplier we don’t see the strong seasonal volatility that other logistics companies have. As a result, the workload is more balanced – a real advantage for our employees. And we also offer them long-term prospects and extensive training. This is reflected in our low staff turnover rate: At a mere two to three percent, we are among the leaders in the sector,” said Reuss.

Contacts to a Hessen university and the MoWiN.net network

The tour of the facility by the regional Hessen economic development executives revealed ideal touch points: Technische Hochschule Mittelhessen – the university of applied sciences that has a campus in Bad Hersfeld – offers a wide range of bachelors’ and masters’ courses in technical subjects. “We’d be delighted to broker contacts in this area. After all, investments in a company’s staff are also always investments in the location,” said Bernd Rudolph. And Kai-Georg Bachmann drew the logistics specialist’s attention to another potential opportunity for cooperation with local organizations active in the area: The MoWiN.net network and the Mobility Cluster offer a regional platform for cooperation and innovation in North Hessen’s mobility sector. “The focus is on development, on managing concrete projects, and on grant consulting and event organization,” said Bachmann. RS Group finds both offerings highly attractive: “We are grateful for such support and very interested in exploring additional continuing education opportunities for our staff,” Reuss emphasized.

Employee-related social factors are also one component of RS Groups’ three-pronged approach to sustainability. A long-term focus on a future-proof location forms the second, economic focus, while environmental aspects are the third – and are particularly comprehensive. Concentrating activities at the central location in North Hessen in itself substantially reduces transportation distances, and hence cuts carbon emissions significantly. In addition, a 6,000 square-meter photovoltaic installation on the roof of the new building generates roughly 25 percent of the company’s energy needs. RS Group sources the rest in the form of green electricity, which is generated sustainably from wind power. What is more, a climate-friendly heat pump produces up to 40 percent of the heat required.

“We are aiming to significantly expand these areas going forward. At the same time, we are focusing on the many small things that, when taken together, make a difference. For example, we have planted trees and meadows of wild flowers together with the local conservation association. All these efforts are bringing us nearer to our goal of being fully carbon-neutral at enterprise level by 2030,” said Sven Reuss. “Coupled with the ability to continue growing and adapting to future requirements in North Hessen, this offers us secure prospects as a global company. And that in turn makes this location ideal for us.”

RS Group

RS Group plc is a leading global omni-channel industrial product and service solutions provider to customers who are involved in designing, building and maintaining industrial equipment and operations, safely and sustainably. We stock more than 700,000 industrial and electronic products, sourced from over 2,500 leading suppliers, and provide a wide range of product and service solutions to over 1.2 million customers. With operations in 32 countries, we trade through multiple channels and ship over 60,000 parcels a day.

We support customers across the product life cycle, whether via innovation and technical support at the design phase, improving time to market and productivity at the build phase, or reducing purchasing costs and optimising inventory in the maintenance phase. We offer our customers tailored product and service propositions that are essential for the successful operation of their businesses and help them save time and money.

RS Group plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange with stock ticker RS1 and in the year ended 31 March 2022 reported revenue of £2,554 million.