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Steady growth in Ennepetal

Henning Reuter and Dirk Wittman lead Siegfried Jacob Metallwerke, together with shareholder and son of the founder Dr. Hans-Eckhard Jacob. With a EUR 350 million plus turnover, SJM is the group’s biggest company. Based in Ennepetal in the west of Germany, this is where the Jacob Metal Group has its roots. Business is booming but also very challenging.

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In February, with the pandemic fading, the management of Siegfried Jacob Metallwerke was hoping for better times to come. But then, on 24 February, Russia invaded Ukraine and the company had to deal with a new crisis. Obviously, the war has had an impact on business.

‘We source and supply the broad automotive industry, a sector that is heavily feeling the pain from a damaged supply chain. But we have a wide range of customers, so it’s not only car makers we depend on,’ says Henning Reuter, who has been with SJM for over 30 years, since 2010 as managing director. In the same year, Wittmann joined the firm.

CLOSE TO HOME MARKET

SJM specialises in trading and processing of scrap and residues containing non-ferrous metals, mainly copper. On a yearly basis, SJM recycles some 65 000 tonnes of copper-based materials, most of which is sourced from industrial production. The lion share of the recycled non-ferrous materials is sold to nearby customers. ‘This is Germany’s industrial heartland’, says Reuter.

‘Within a 150 km range from our operations we have many smelters and producers. So why sell stuff to far away places if you can sell it close to home? Sourcing we do everywhere, even as far as Australia.’

HIGH PRICES, HIGH COSTS

As with all the companies within the Jacob Metal Group, SJM has seen its turnover grow because of high commodity prices. That may sound like good news for recyclers but the company’s mds are not that happy. Reuter: ‘Of course, we’re in scrap metal trade and we love to run a profitable business. In fact, the group’s turnover will probably hit US$ 1 billion due to commodity prices.’

‘But at the same, it is important to recognise that the more expensive metals become, we’ll be seeing more substitute materials like plastics, which obviously will mean extra costs for recyclers. Not to mention the extra cost of logistics and energy. At the end of the day, someone pays.’

INNOVATION AND PEOPLE

One of the top three challenges for SJM and Jacob Metal Group as a whole is innovation. In the next couple of years some EUR 20 million will be invested in smart processing solutions aimed at getting higher quality scrap. The total group investment in smart technology amounts to EUR 50 million in the coming years, according to Reuter.

Another challenge is people. Wittmann: ‘Invest in people and find people at all. Luckily recycling is becoming sexier, so that may help attracting talented people.’ In addition, the Jacob Metal Group has founded the Jacob Metal Academy, claimed to be innovative in the German recycling industry. ‘We offer people with high potential an opportunity to learn the recycling business and build a career within our group,’ he explains.

Wittmann also points at the growing importance of closely working together within the group of companies. ‘People always say: learn from the best. We take that literally and learn from each other. Exchanges between our locations are uncomplicated. We support each other on special topics and share our experiences in our respective core areas.

‘Knowing what another member of the group does even better and sharing this knowledge is, as I see it, a core competence for future success.’

ENTRY OF THE E-SHREDDER?

The third challenge, according to Wittmann, is to reduce JMG’s CO2 emissions. A broad range of measures is being rolled out, which includes a focus on climate neutrality in both logistics and investments. ‘It’s also about cleaner processing machinery. Electric forklifts, electric material handlers, you name it. We are currently testing an e-shredder for aluminium scrap and the first results are very promising.’

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