Sales of fair trade-certified textiles in Germany are on the rise, and have gone up about 120 percent just from 2013 to 2014. And the best selections are mostly online.
hessnatur is one of the world's largest providers of sustainable fashion and a trendsetter for ecological and social standards in textile production. To achieve this, the company sells its full range of natural textiles in brick- and- mortar shops as well as through e-commerce and mail order. Sustainability has played an important part in this company ever since it was founded in 1976 by Heinz and Dorothea Hess. hessnatur launched the first natural baby collection and grew the world's first organic cotton in 1991.
For more sustainable management: the hessnatur Foundation
Establishing the "hessnatur Foundation" in 2015 gave the company an institutional platform for popularizing the idea of sustainable management. The foundation's mission is defined by environmental protection, textile ecology, development cooperation, and social issues. Good collaboration with suppliers also plays an important role at hessnatur.
In 2005, hessnatur became the first German company to join the Fair Wear Foundation. A monitoring system for recording and continuously improving social standards in ready-to-wear businesses was developed and firmly rooted in the company. This led to supplier improvements primarily in ready-to-wear, but also at hessnatur. It is a dynamic process in which many people are involved, changes are constantly being integrated, and processes have to be adjusted to new requirements.
Ecology and economy in harmony
The basic concept of Heinz Hess has always been focused on a comprehensive and overarching combination of ecology and economy as well as social responsibility. Textile engineers, environmental specialists, and experts for social standards therefore concentrate on non-toxic production to protect people, animals, and the environment. And in times of climate change and growing environmental awareness, efficient shipping also contributes to this success.
Day after day in a one-shift operation, approximately 70 employees in the shipping center at the company headquarters in Butzbach, Hessen, take care of making sure items are efficiently sent to customers on time. The warehouse is 8.700 square meters. In one year, about 2.7 million textile pieces are shipped to customers. One million packages leave the shipping center each year. Using flexible working hours, hessnatur tries to process as many incoming orders in one day as were received that day. During peak times the shipping centre therefore also utilizes a two-shift operation or temporary staff and student workers.
Efficient and environment protecting conveyor technology
The shipping center was commissioned in the early 90s. In 2013, the company went in search of new drive technology solutions because it wanted to replace the outdated 400V drive technology. Siegfried König, responsible for planning, organizing, and operational support for hessnatur, explains:
Environmental protection and sustainability also play an important part in our internal logistics. We try to work as environmentally friendly, low-emission, and as energy efficiently as we can wherever possible.
Drives play an important role in a shipping centre because they impact the energy used to move the items. The conveyor technology, storage, and picking associated with highly automated systems account for about 50 percent of the energy costs within internal logistics. More than two-thirds of the remaining 50 percent is spent on heating and ventilation and about 15 percent goes to lighting. As a result, internal logistics holds considerable potential for energy optimization.
During the request for proposal process, systems integrator PAIS GmbH from Stockstadt, Germany, near Aschaffenburg, was the only company to suggest retrofitting the conveyor system. PAIS has relied on Interroll for many years. Managing Director Paul Waigand speaks to this:
We have already implemented many projects with Interroll solutions and are convinced by the quality of the components and the first-class service. The full range of conveyor rollers and appropriate control is a big advantage for us because we now have a manufacturer as a supplier. It was clear during operations that the Interroll solution is energy efficient, very quiet, and easy to maintain.
Enormous energy saving thanks to decentralized conveyor system
The benefits of Interroll DC-technology have also convinced hessnatur. König explains:
The outdated drive technology, the poor replacement parts supply, and the high number of repairs prompted us to retrofit our facility with Interroll's DC-technology.
In particular, the fact that downtimes can be kept to a bare minimum because the conversion always progresses by individual sections speaks for the concept. Another important advantage: The existing metal base frame can be reused. Only the outdated drive rollers and the polymer parts require disposal.
By now about two-thirds of the conveyor path has been converted and equipped with Interroll's DC-technology. Accumulation zones were equipped with Interroll RollerDrive E310 units as a belt drive for conveyor rollers with spring-loaded shaft s and with two grooves each. ZoneControl assumes control of each individual zone. The curves are equipped with Interroll RollerDrive EC310 units and DriveControl. The partially rubber-coated conveyor rollers prevent the material from slipping through. In principle, a system driven by RollerDrive features a decentralized design. The drives are located in each individual conveyor zone. This allows for activating and deactivating every conveyor zone individually. The conveyor system then only moves when material is present. In the process, only the RollerDrive units that are required for optimum throughput of material are powered. This translates into enormous potential energy savings, as well as reduced noise and wear and tear.
Noise reduction thanks to new conveyor rollers
After the first section was converted, König was impressed.
It was clear during operations that the Interroll solution is not only energy efficient, but also very quiet and easy to maintain. One of our goals is to create social and fair working conditions for our employees so noise reduction plays a very important role. Energy efficiency protects the environment and reduces our operating costs. And lower trending prices indirectly benefit our customers.
Based on the good experiences, hessnatur wants to incorporate the Interroll DC drive solution in the rest of the conveyor system's sections and continue to gradually replace the outdated technology.
And hessnatur is growing. In addition to the mail order business in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, the company operates stores in Butzbach, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Munich with its 360 employees. In 2008, the company became the first German organic clothing provider in the United States. The goal is to continue growing and position the company internationally. König: "Internationality plays a big role. It is therefore important for us to cooperate with companies who provide comprehensive service and excellent quality. Technical expertise and innovative solutions are respectively required."