New event format very well-received by customers
At Steinert, milestones in the company‘s history have always been celebrated together with customers. An overall investment of around € 7 million has resulted in a test and development centre the size of a football field in Pulheim near Cologne. At the inauguration of the metal sorting line, CEO Peter Funke defied the circumstances and agreed to a completely new format for Steinert: “I must admit that I am delighted about our customers’ positive feedback and relieved that we had the courage to step in front of the cameras.”
The right combination is key
Live music and sketch artists were part of the show alongside drone flights across the entire plant and video clips that described the technology that has been installed. A presenter led Peter Funke, Dr Nico Schmalbein (Technical Director) and Karl Hoffmann (Sales Director Metal Recycling) through the show, who were responsible for interacting with viewers and responded to questions submitted in Q+A sessions. There was a deep dive online seminar afterwards about non-ferrous metal separation and heavy metal sorting for anyone interested in finding out even more about the sorting solutions.
Test and development teams working together closely
Thanks to decades of experience, Steinert knows how important team work is and what the benefits of an interdisciplinary exchange are. For this reason, both the development team and the test centre application specialists have relocated to the new site. As part of their visits and material tests, customers can now benefit from the most recent developments to an even greater extent. Each one of the over 30 staff members in these departments has enough space available for practical application tests and a highly developed laboratory environment, allowing them to bridge the gap between forming an idea and implementing it. Until recently, Steinert welcomed more than 500 visitors to the former test centre each year. Thanks to the centre‘s increased size and added capacity, the company is expecting even more visitors. Customers in the metal, waste and mining industry have several options to experience the wide range of available products and applications: from magnetic separators to sensor-based sorting systems, such as X-ray transmission, X-ray fluorescence and near-infrared.
New ways, new possibilities, new technology
After the event, the CEO of Steinert GmbH, Peter Funke, was available for a discussion with the editor-in-chief of recovery, Dr. Petra Strunk. He provided interesting insights into the world of digital events, the technical innovations at Steinert GmbH and future plans in the field of sorting machines.
recovery: It was a new path for the company – inaugurating the new Test Center as a digital event. What experience have you had with this? Perhaps also for the future a possibility to hold event in hybrid form?
Peter Funke: Before we decided on a purely digital event, there was a lot of discussion. Ms. Kessemeier, Head of Marketing Steinert, has just also brought the digital area far forward, from April 2020 we have already planned this event. Actually thought of as a hybrid event – with the appropriate hygiene measures – we have, also due to the constantly changing conditions, then decided on a digital event. The most important thing for us, by whatever means, is to stay in touch with the industry.
recovery: The investments for a new Test Center were certainly not small – a new hall was also built at the Cologne site. A significant step for the Steinert Group. Why did the company take this step at such a difficult time? What goals has Steinert set for itself?
Peter Funke: In the last four years, we have made great leaps in sales and developed very well. This resulted in the urgent need to create more space at the Cologne site, hence the construction of a new logistics hall. This represents an investment of € 6 to 7 million. At the same time, the Test Center then had to make way there. So we considered where the right location for this could be. The opportunity arose to move in here in Pulheim. The investment sum is similar to that for the new logistics hall. We made the decision before Corona, of course, but didn‘t question it at all during the pandemic. In fact, the circumstances had a positive side effect, because the move under full load would have been even more challenging for us than it already was. Now it was a bit quieter – no trade fairs, no customer visits, no travel – so we had a bit more time to concentrate on these two projects.
recovery: But how does a new Test Center, such a large investment, pay off?
Peter Funke: You can‘t calculate that directly. All in all, the Test Center is used for research & development, marketing and sales. These three areas also contribute to the financing of the Test Center. And in the end, it provides a completely different experience, a completely different added value for the customer to be able to test their own materials in advance or to see the machines in use. That‘s why we‘ve also chosen the equipment here on an industrial scale and want to offer the customer something special. This scale is also very suitable for us, we can answer customer inquiries 1:1, we don‘t have to do any scaling. With the machines of 1 to 1.20 m working width that we have here, the customer gets exactly the results that he will also get later in normal operation. This gives him a completely different level of security, but also us, if we want to guarantee the customer a performance.
recovery: If a customer wants to have his material tested here at the Steinert Test Center, he must already be a Steinert customer, does he have to pay for it – how does that work?
Peter Funke: We take a fee per test, this depends on the material – depending on what kind of material it is and how complex the tests are. Every customer is welcome to join us, even if he has previously ridden the material on a competition machine. We are convinced of our machines and would also like to show our customers what the equipment can do.
recovery: What is the most unusual material you have received for testing so far?
Peter Funke: I can remember compost from Australia, when it arrived at our plant after 6 weeks, it didn‘t have much to do with compost anymore... But in the metal sector, very valuable materials have already arrived. And we have already set up a strongbox here to keep diamonds safe. There‘s nothing you can‘t try to sort.
recovery: The latest machine from Steinert, which is also here in the Test Center, is the Steinert CHUTEC multisensor chute sorter. How long has it been on the market?
Peter Funke: The first machines were at the customer‘s at the end of 2019 and we have received very good feedback. Due to the upscale sorting demands, XRF sorting has experienced a real renaissance. We have a number of XRF sorters – the latest is now the chute sorter.
recovery: Times are not easy at the moment, but still the question about the future – what are Steinert‘s plans?
Peter Funke: We have a lot planned. One big topic is, of course, digitization, which we want to drive forward, as well as the networking of machines, which we are currently working on intensively. We have already carried out complete remote commissioning, where a pre-trained employee on site has commissioned the plant remotely himself. We want to push this further. Another topic we are working on intensively is AI and the associated neural networks. We can then also test these applications very well in the Test Center. And we want to make the Test Center experience a digital one!