KLU Talks Business ... with Patrick Eckelmann, OTTO DÖRNER

Whether it's our household waste, the commercial waste or the waste produced in the industry - such waste is normally out of sight. However, valuable raw materials are hidden here. A well-functioning disposal system not only takes over the waste, but also recovers valuable resources. In an interview with Patrick Eckelmann, Managing Director at OTTO DÖRNER since 2022, we take a deep dive into the world of waste disposal and recycling.

Mr. Eckelmann, you have already worked in various management positions in the recycling industry. What fascinates you so much about waste disposal that you have focused your career on it?

Eckelmann: When I was sent into the recycling sector during my first professional experience in the family business, I was initially skeptical, but then I discovered the appeal of this sector. My job has a meaningful purpose and a high complexity. For many people, the topic of waste processing ends as soon as they throw their waste - figuratively speaking - into the hatch under the sink, but for me, it is an exciting big world of work and fulfilment.

The variety of materials and products we work with - in our case, for example, construction waste – is fascinating and multifaceted. The direct positive impact of my work on the environment motivates me every day to improve waste management and drive forward the circular economy. Waste processing also offers an incredible variety of tasks, from process engineering to sales and operational issues, which allows me to develop new skills and grow.

As Managing Director, you have an eye on optimizing all areas - what is your focus here, also with regard to the future of Otto Dörner?

Eckelmann: Our main focus is on customer needs, employee needs, innovation and technological development to stay ahead of the game. Our pride and joy is the digital "Go" order platform, which not only benefits our customers, but is also marketed as a white label solution to our market companions. We also have a team of approx. 40 employees who work exclusively on digitalization in order to explore new opportunities for our business and processes. To this end, I am also involved in the Artificial Intelligence Centre Hamburg. However, one main focus lies on optimizing logistics. I don't just want to increase efficiency, I want to take a holistic view of logistics, almost like a fulfillment task. This means not just transporting a container from A to B, but taking into account the integration of all possible transport modules from rail to ship and lorry and to look at the entire process chain. We have to check whether we are moving around nine million tons of material flows within the group correctly every year and whether they can be moved in a more environmentally friendly way, for example. Are all these tons on the right mode of transport? Are the processes mapped digitally enough and can we shorten interfaces and avoid disruptions?

Recently, KLU students worked on a task set by OTTO DÖRNER as part of a project. What aspect was particularly important to you?

Eckelmann: In this case specifically, we want to improve resource planning with the help of predictive analytics. As an expert in the logistics industry and with my many years of experience in the Port of Hamburg, I recognized the potential of working with a renowned academic institution, which is how I first got in touch with KLU. I was convinced that we could offer the students interesting tasks and at the same time benefit from their fresh perspective and enthusiasm. I was not disappointed - we can implement the winning team's solution directly into our day-to-day business. We would also like to continue working with them to refine the solution. For me, this co-operation was particularly significant as it not only enabled innovative solutions for our logistics processes but also bridged the gap between academia and industry. Not least as a former student, I appreciate projects like this that offer students the opportunity to get to know different companies and industries in order to ask each other the important questions: "Do we fit together? Do we want to work together?"

KLU – described in three words?

Eckelmann: (Logistics) excellence, professionalism and internationality.

More information:

With 40 locations and a team of 1,300 employees, the traditional Hamburg-based family business OTTO DÖRNER is a leading player in waste management and the sand gravel industry. With around 13,000 containers, the company operates the largest "container fleet" in the metropolitan area as well as an extensive fleet of around 360 vehicles and, last but not least, sorting plants with capacities of 300,000 tons.

As a joint project between KLU and OTTO DÖRNER, bachelor students at KLU were able to combine their business management skills with digital technologies in a practice-orientated seminar to develop efficient solutions for container handling at OTTO DÖRNER. Using data analysis and cloud computing, the students were asked to analyze stock levels, demand and container usage in order to save costs, increase efficiency and promote sustainable decision-making. Read more about the seminar participants' final presentation on 28 February and the most promising solutions here...

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