Today OHRA is one of the market-leading manufacturers of racking installations in Europe, as well as the European market leader and specialist in cantilever racks. With its pallet and cantilever racks, OHRA has become particularly well established in the building materials and timber processing industries. Thanks to OHRA’s customer-focused approach and individual solutions, OHRA racking solutions can be found in opera houses as well as at vehicle recyclers or marinas. In 2019 the company celebrates its 40-year anniversary with the motto: “40 Years OHRA – we will “rack” you!”.
Fork-Lift Trucks Increased the Demand for Racking
The success story of OHRA Regalanlagen GmbH officially begins in 1979: Ottokar Hölscher founded a company for the production and sale of racking systems. “But the roots actually go back to the 1960s: That was when my father started to supply racking as part of his fork-lift truck dealership that he had founded in 1957,” explains Dr. Andreas Hölscher, now the managing director of OHRA Regalanlagen GmbH. “After fork-lift technology was introduced in Germany in the post-war years, products and goods could now be stored high up, so the demand for racking solutions grew rapidly.” Originally selling racks from various manufacturers, the company started to build its own in 1973, for which the product name OHRA (“Ottokar Hölscher Regalanlagen”) was introduced a short time later.
Innovative Cantilevers Led to Rapid Growth
At first it was only pallet racks, but it soon became clear that there was a high demand for for long goods storage racking. So Ottokar Hölscher introduced cantilever racks into his racking solutions range. The first of these racks were still equipped with welded cantilever arms, which could not be height-adjusted. The second generation was already using bolted cantilever arms – they were indeed height-adjustable, but it was extremely time-consuming. Therefore, Ottokar Hölscher developed a new solution: cantilever arms that are slotted into a punched hole pattern. “That means the cantilevers can be height-adjusted quickly and without tools,” explains Thomas Jerschkewitz, Domestic Sales Director at OHRA. The system also has the advantage that if the arms are hit by the fork-lift truck or the goods, they can move sideways or upwards, reducing damage to the fork-lift, the rack and above all, the product. This solution was so innovative at the time that Ottokar Hölscher had it patented, making OHRA officially the inventor of the cantilever rack with boltless arms. Customers quickly recognised the advantages of the system, particularly in the timber processing industry and building materials trade. The company was increasingly positioning itself as a specialist in long goods storage.
The Brand Name becomes the Company Name
Thanks mainly to the cantilever racks, the dramatic increase in sales of the racking systems eventually led Ottokar Hölscher to separate the racking division into an independent company in 1979. OHRA – the previously used brand name now became the company name – and so OHRA Regalanlagen GmbH was born. The development of the racking systems continued: Today all load-bearing parts of OHRA’s racking – whether pallet or cantilever – are manufactured from solid-walled, hot-rolled steel profiles. This enables high load-bearing capacity while retaining a slim construction design. The boltless cantilever arm also underwent further improvements – thanks to redesigned column connectors, today the arms can be slotted into the upright grid horizontally and locked with retainer plates. That makes changing the storage level height even easier. This self-locking, boltless cantilever arm is now the leading system of all cantilever racking systems.
Steady Growth in Exports
With racking systems that were on the forefront of technology, OHRA set out to strengthen its international position in 1994 – this was also when Dr. Andreas Hölscher took over the company management: “At the beginning of the 1990s the business climate in Germany was rather difficult. We faced the decision either to stop our export trade, which was only very tentative at that time – or to really invest in it and build it up systematically.” OHRA chose the riskier path and started to search for new European customers abroad. “Whenever the company had acquired enough reference projects working from Germany, OHRA would station a sales representative in the relevant country. That way exports could be gradually expanded,” explains Raymond Wolsey, Export Sales Director. Today the company has an export share of around 60% and has its own sales offices in 13 countries.
Success Thanks to Customer Specific Solutions
OHRA has particularly established itself as a solutions provider for long and heavy goods, especially in the metal, wood and building materials trade. “One reason for our success is certainly the robust design of our racking,” says Thomas Jerschkewitz. “In addition, we have always supplied special solutions for different sectors – our extensive range of accessories enables our racking to be equipped for the widest range of applications.” OHRA now supplies racking solutions even for opera houses and theatres, as well as for vehicle recyclers or marinas (for the winter storage of yachts). OHRA is also meeting the challenges of the trend towards rack-clad warehouses and automated solutions, with a special project division that can guide customers even through the larger, more complex construction works. “This customer focus gives us a decisive advantage over our competitors,” says Raymond Wolsey.
Efficiency through bespoke static engineering design
Today, racking technology is still evolving alongside fork-lift technology, as Dr. Hölscher explains: “The fork-lifts are getting more powerful, reaching greater heights and lifting heavier loads. Therefore, the racking technology also has to evolve with respect to height and load capacity.” In that area, OHRA racks have the advantage with their massive steel profile construction design. Nevertheless, for high bay rack installations, which may also be equipped with a roof, bespoke static design calculations are a necessity – a service that forms a part of OHRA’s solution package. “At the same time, our customers’ companies are growing as well as their product range,” says Jerschkewitz. So, the dimensions of the rack installations become correspondingly larger. “Consequently, the customer demands with respect to assembly and production capacities, but also financial stability of suppliers is rising. In that aspect we have reached a leading position in terms of company size and economic performance,” adds Wolsey.
Positive Outlook for the Future
In the anniversary year 2019, Dr. Andreas Hölscher has a fundamentally positive outlook on the future. “As the economy grows so does logistics. Even though globally increasing protectionism represents a risk for our sector, we are still in a growth phase. Moreover, OHRA benefits especially from the fact that many of our racks are supplied to companies in the construction industry – and this sector has been booming for years and continues to show good growth perspectives for the future.” Only the lack of skilled workers could prove to be a decelerating factor. “That is a genuine problem, but here in the Cologne region, because of its population density, we are still doing pretty well in that aspect,” says Dr. Hölscher.
At the same time, OHRA is extending its human resources work, having specifically employed a head of staff development, who will define and professionalise all the company’s training programmes. If it ever does come to an economic slowdown, the managing director of OHRA still tends to take a confident view: “Thanks to our market position we have come out of a crisis all the stronger. Our industry will readjust, but we are standing on solid foundations.”