2019 E-Reuse Conference panel.

Cedric Carter (left) speaks during a session at the 2019 E-Reuse Conference. Rike Sandlin (center) and Bob McCarthy look on. | Dan Leif/Resource Recycling, Inc.

In sessions at last week’s E-Reuse Conference in Texas, a number of industry veterans detailed concepts that can help e-scrap and ITAD companies run leaner, more profitable plants.

The speakers outlined how to minimize employee theft, properly equip a sales team and avoid getting drowned in data points, among other best practices. 

Below are some of the top efficiency pointers presented at this year’s E-Reuse Conference, held Nov. 10-13 in Austin.

Stop the stealing: Rike Sandlin, founder of consulting company Rivervista Partners, noted that electronics recovery businesses inherently face challenges from workers who realize how much valuable material is moving through a facility. “There are some innovative employees out there, with creative ways to steal from you,” he noted. To minimize the problem, owners would be wise to distribute staff oversight responsibilities across several mid-level managers, Sandlin said. “It’s checks and balances in a business,” he said. “You don’t want to put all the control under one or two people.”

Systems, not sunblock: Often it’s helpful for an operational mantra to boil down to just a few words, making it easy for company leaders to remember. And a business-centric twist on a common phrase was delivered by Cedric Carter, managing director of The Vested Group, which specializes in setting up ERP software and systems. He advises clients to “apply SPF” – that is, to strive for simplification, purification and focus when they leverage technology or think about making changes to their business as a whole. “A lot of best practices have come from others,” he said. “You don’t necessarily need to go outside the box. Just trust the systems that are in place.”

Crunched by numbers: Mike Watson, chief compliance officer at reuse-focused processor Global Resale, said the growing suite of digital tools available to the industry has helped his company and others use data to quantify their operations and take tangible steps forward. But there is also a downside to the seemingly endless amount of information at a manager’s fingertips. “When we finally got quality data that we could manage the business around, all of a sudden, we wanted the same level of data on an hourly basis,” he said. That drive for more and more information can eventually become all-consuming – and counterproductive. “You can very quickly get into diminishing returns,” Watson said, “where you’re spending too much time and money on measurement itself and not on corrective actions.”

Find the silver lining: When a processor does encounter a problem, frustration can be one response. A wiser move, however, may be to see the episode as an opportunity to grow more profitable. Darrell Kendall, executive director of certification platform RIOS, said one company his group worked with learned that assets being sent from the plant were being damaged in shipping, and managers decided to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the packaging they used to move product. “They figured out how to cut down on damages, but also they determined how to significantly cut costs on the packaging itself,” Kendall said. “By monitoring a situation, they were able to find real money.”

Sales pitch: All processors are looking to get the highest-quality material in the door, especially when commodity markets are uncertain. According to Bob McCarthy, vice president of business development and compliance at ITAD specialist Cobalt, that process starts with the language being used by the sales team hunting for supply. “You’re looking for the potential reuse,” McCarthy said. “If the sales team is saying, ‘We want your end-of-life and e-waste,’ I guarantee that’s the material you’re going to get in the door. I do everything in my power to make sure my sales team never uses those terms.”

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