From horseshoes to full automation

Written by: Trevor Smart | Published:

Trevor Smart, international sales manager for Stadler, looks at current industry trends?, the company’s development and its staff focus.

Stadler was first established in 1791 - initially as a blacksmith making horseshoes and other metal products. Over many years, we progressed into agricultural engineering, making conveying and washing equipment before expanding into the waste and recycling sector.

In 1972, we won the contract for the manufacture of recycling and waste containers for the Munich Olympics. Once the City of Munich could see the benefit of segregating recyclable materials from waste, we were awarded the contract to supply its recycling containers. However, all of the collected materials were then subsequently sorted on the factory floor.

So, in the late 1970s, we were developing elevated picking lines to improve sorting efficiency. In the early 1990s, our current leader, Willi Stadler, took over the company and our focus shifted.

“In 1993, Stadler came under my leadership.," explains Stadler. "I looked at all of the agricultural engineering processes that we’d been developing for the last two centuries, and pretty much started developing our first ballistic separator straight away. This was the start of our sole concentration on the waste industry and the timing was perfect as it coincided with the start of major German recycling legislation in the 1990s.”

There are plenty of similarities in the engineering processes for equipment used in the agricultural and recycling sectors so the transition was a natural one in many respects.

As an example, if you look at one of our ballistic separators, you’ll see the key principle of using a material’s physical properties to separate mixed items of different densities is very similar to wooden threshing machines used in farming practices. The methods of using trommel screens and conveyor belts are also used in both industries.

It’s fair to say that since those first tentative steps into the waste industry, we haven’t stopped expanding. Globally, we have over 280 employees and, from our initial focus on Europe, we now operate within a variety of markets throughout the world, with the USA being our most recent focal point.

Current trends

In much the same way as our initial diversification into the waste industry, we’re always looking for new markets and different ways to develop the business and our landscape is always evolving depending on client needs and legislation.

One of the most common current themes for us is the reduction of operating expenses - we tackle this in two main ways, firstly, though effective MRF upgrades - using the latest in technology to ensure optimum efficiency. Secondly, by assessing industry sectors where improving volumes and tonnages can lead to maximum effectiveness, such as in the processing of C&I and C&D waste.

Staff focus

Our staff are crucial to our success, and we’re not afraid to continually invest in their development. Stadler has been managed by family members since its creation, and this family ethos extends to our employees – in 2012 and 2015 we were really proud to be presented with the TopJob Award, a German-wide HR award which focuses on employee satisfaction with their working environment, their identification with the company and its products and leadership quality.

By focusing on staff development we’re able to ensure not only that our team members are happy, knowledgeable and loyal, but also that our retention levels are very high. For a number of years we have participated in apprenticeship schemes with our local schools and colleges – after three years with us, an apprentice is a fully-qualified Stadler engineer. We’re also proud to offer various language course options for our staff members which is a real bonus for our international trade. Our employees also complete BVNBE industrial training courses to learn about global legislation and regulations.

The future

We’re definitely keeping an eye on the ­UK SRF market, with its challenges to produce good quality material in a cost effective manner.

This is particularly relevant in terms of the continuing attention the circular economy is receiving. Moving away from simple technology to sophisticated sorting methods and full automation is also a massive focus for us.

We know that fully automated plants are achievable following the success of our work at the ROAF MRF in Oslo - the first of its kind in the world which processes 30tph of municipal solid waste (MSW). Luckily for us (and our future!) there’s a real interest within the industry to embrace these technologies and be the best it can be.

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