SLUK was invited to the opening of SIP’s new mega-store around the corner from their old shop in Landsberg am Lech in Bavaria.
It shouldn’t come as much news that SIP were already the biggest scooter parts seller in the world, even before they upgraded to their new 5,000sqm, purpose-built home.
Their main business is mail-order, sending parts worldwide, but their last shop also featured a retail area where customers could rock-up and shop in person. This time the retail area has more than doubled in size and now includes the ‘Siperia’; an Italian-themed café bar with pizza and pasta on sale 6 days a week. It’s not just Italian-themed. Alex and Ralf subcontracted the catering to a local Italian restaurant so the pizzas are tasty, and as genuine as you’ll find anywhere north of the Alps.
SIP couldn’t have asked for a better, blue-sky day to lure out hundreds of Vespa riders along with owners of hot-rods, Vespa 400 cars, a Heinkel Tourist and even the odd Lambretta. Down here though the scene is very much Vespa-centric since Lambretta was not officially imported during the Slimstyle period.
Attractions included a free dyno, low-price stock disposal of ‘seconds’, and a photo booth where customers could be photographed on their scooter for a mock cover of SIP’s in-house Curve magazine.
Or you could simply enjoy the scooters with a slice of pizza and a few beers…
Get a flavour of the day on the video below…
How big are SIP?
By almost any measure they are the biggest scooter parts supplier on the planet. They employ around 100 staff and send out 1,000 parcels a day.
The new premises were completely custom designed by an architect in order to accommodate Alex and Ralf’s plans for expansion and to cater for a largely straight through-flow of goods from one end of the building to another. Besides the Siperia and the showroom there is also a massive media studio for production of images and videos. Upstairs are offices for a massive sales force selling to both public and trade in a wide selection of languages.
One of SIP’s biggest projects at the moment, apart from the move, is to continue the process of homologation for many of their own-brand components such as wheel rims, brake calipers and shocks. They’ve noticed that with their client base getting older, customers now want all the parts they fit to be 100% road legal; where previously people would be satisfied to ignore a ‘race use only’ marking.
Growing so enormous as to become ‘Amazon for scooters’ brings its own problems. People expect next-day delivery from Amazon so the level of expectation from a firm like SIP is equally high. However, once your stock is spread over 5,000sqm and several levels it now takes supreme organisation for all the pickers to find and collect the parts without having to walk for miles every day to get them.
What SIP did was visit several massive mail-order companies to see how they worked. Then SIP built their own solution with their own choice of hardware. Currently the company runs two shifts a day (6am-2pm and 2pm-10pm) picking and packing, but the complexities of having 25,000 lines of stock means that orders are now split between several packers.
The solution they’ve come up with has been to build a custom computer system using touch-screen handheld search and scan devices. Orders are then put into blue boxes by various pickers and the boxes enter a looped track system where they circulate until the last box required to complete the order is ready. Only then are all the boxes with the complete order sent down a ramp to one of the packers. They then rescan everything to ensure the order is complete and correct before it is boxed-up ready for despatch.
As an exercise in extreme time management it is highly interesting, but most customers don’t care about anything except ‘where are my parts?’ Unsurprisingly, the move from one building to another has caused some problems. Alex thought he’d got everything prepared to the finest detail and they planned to make the move from one fully operational shop to another in only three days.
In reality, there were some issues with stock being placed by mistake in the wrong locations by a team that worked day and night to get everything done. This meant that there were some inevitable delays in getting the new system fully working. Impatient modern customers were not sympathetic to this slip in SIP’s usual high level of efficiency and hammered their TrustPilot rating for unexpected delays and lack of communication during the changeover period. Alex expects it to take at least a year for SIP to recover its very good rating. Such are the problems of setting yourself high standards in the internet era.
What’s next from SIP
Elsewhere we’ve covered the big new releases from SIP in terms of their 11” wheel conversion for classic Vespas, but they have plenty of other projects on the go. These include analogue-look digital speedos for modern Vespas. Amongst their 100 staff, SIP have added an engineer from the car industry whose job is to accelerate prototyping using 3D printing techniques. To be honest, this is one of few areas where I’ve seen other firms in the scooter industry leading SIP in terms of technology. In other areas, particularly connected to video and promotion, they are often way ahead. You only have to look at their early adoption of drone video. For the open day they were recording 360-degree video footage.
SIP are continuing to problem solve in the scooter industry by making small parts – such as Vespa air filter screws – as soon as Piaggio delete them from availability. Forthcoming projects include replacement contact breaker stator plates for the Vespa Sprint, sports shocks for the Faro Basso and shocks for second series SS180.
Why are they so fascinated to make low-demand stuff for half-century old Vespa models? The answer comes from Alex, who hates the way his SS180 front end dives when it is cold. If you find a problem on your own scooter, and you own a company that makes aftermarket spares for Vespas then why not make something to solve it?
Words, images and video by Sticky