Challenge Accepted!

Interview with David Engel, CEO of Drake & Farrell B.V.

Drake & Farrell Logistics
Drake & Farrell ensures closed logistics and production cycles for its customers

Conventional supply chains and production processes have so far remained largely linear - meaning that a lot of waste is produced when products reach the end of their life and are not recycled in any form, but disposed of. In the age of climate protection and sustainability, a circular economy must therefore be established. The requirements of this must be particularly met by logistics - a challenge that Drake & Farrell B.V. has faced and excels at.

Economic Forum: Mr. Engel, Drake & Farrell B.V. contributes to transforming the formerly linear logistics and production flows of companies into a cycle, thereby permanently preventing the emergence of electronic waste through its services as a logistics provider. Do you have a focus on specific industries?

David Engel: We now focus on three industrial sectors: telecommunications, electromobility, and healthcare. Reducing electronic waste is an extremely comprehensive and important field because every year 60 million tons of such waste accumulate worldwide!

Economic Forum: Your company has now made the transition from a medium-sized business to a large company. What does that mean in numbers, and how many employees do you currently employ?

David Engel, CEO of Drake & Farrell B.V.
David Engel, CEO of Drake & Farrell B.V.

David Engel: The number of employees varies somewhat because, in addition to our permanently employed staff, we also have a small number of temporary workers. Additionally, we have also set up social workplaces; in Germany, this would be comparable to Lebenshilfe. We reintegrate people into the workforce. Some are gone after three months, while others stay longer. Overall, we have – in the Netherlands and at our site in the Czech Republic – about 130 employees. Our annual turnover is in the mid double-digit million range.

Drake & Farrell Hardware Test
The company develops tests, among other things, to check both hardware and software for functionality
Drake & Farrell Maintenance
Currently, Drake & Farrell achieves a rate of 95% in restoring, repairing, or recycling electronic products

Economic Forum: How has your company developed in this regard? Are revenues consistent, or is there a tendency for growth?

David Engel: It has actually developed well, we are on a very good track! We have adapted our portfolio so that the ratios are right, that is, enough new customers are coming in. We are moving in a higher single-digit revenue growth range. Of course, finances are a factor, but more important for us are the steps we are taking to fulfill our corporate purpose. That is: How quickly can we save this electronic waste, so to speak, or better, ensure it does not arise in the first place, but becomes usable again? What's interesting for us is: How much do we actually save per day, week, month, and year? When you see that nearly four million tons of electronic waste have been saved in the last ten years, that's quite remarkable. This, I would say, ecological growth is actually what we measure ourselves by, more than by revenue and employee growth.

Economic Forum: That's very fascinating! Do you also communicate these figures to the outside world?

David Engel: Yes, the figures on what we save daily, weekly, monthly, and annually are displayed in real-time on our website so that they are visible to everyone. Naturally, this makes us very transparent, but with this transparency also comes the responsibility for us to strive to achieve what we disclose – i.e., a figure as a goal that we want to reach. It is a very strong motivation for everyone: employees, existing customers, new customers – a performance indicator that really means something. For a company, meaningful activity is actually the most important thing.

Drake & Farrell Quality Control
130 employees work at two locations for Drake & Farrell
Drake & Farrell Repair
The company has set itself the goal of preventing the creation of electronic waste permanently

Economic Forum: The topic of communication is very important, and a lot revolves around it in your company as well: new structures, business areas, transparency. How do you convey all this externally, which communication channels play a role?

David Engel: We do not have a 'classic' marketing department and do not use social media channels, except maybe LinkedIn as a professional network. To be precise, everyone in the company is somewhat of a marketer: We place great importance on very deep and regular communication with our customers. We seek dialogue. Many customers have their own Sustainability department. Here we consult with our customers on what projects we might be able to do together besides the actual collaboration, always being completely transparent about what we do. Trust and transparency are our core values.

Economic Forum: What, in your opinion, are the reasons for the company's success?

David Engel: We are professionals with regard to sustainability; we can very well adapt to what the future holds. So, to what new industries, new customers might bring, but also crises like Corona. Because we have a very strong focus on a few areas and go very deep into them, we can act extremely flexibly in our areas of telecommunications, healthcare, and electromobility.

Economic Forum: A personal question to conclude: What drives you in your work, where does your personal motivation lie?

David Engel: I am very attracted to new challenges, to things I haven't done a hundred times before. Running a very successful company is fine and dandy – but the challenge is to make it future-proof. What challenges me, moves me out of my comfort zone. And that's actually my drive: to master things that are outside of this zone.