Picture 5: Fuens Stiftslidende
[Article from ScrapBook Autumn 2010]
For more than 40 years Mr. Steen Laursen was active within Eldan Recycling. To many of the customers he became a personal friend. At the end on 2009 he retired from Eldan. Steen tells us about his years at Eldan, and outlines some of the important milestones for the company...
The story about Eldan Recycling started during the spring of 1956. Ejvind Laursen started E. Laursens Maskinfabrik A/S, a company making repairs to machinery and equipment within the scrap yard industry. Being in continuous contact with the customers, they got a first hand update on what was going in the market. It was through these contacts they realized that there was an interest for finding a way to cut down the scrap iron to maximum 30 cm pieces. The scrap iron would then have a higher value, since it would be easier to use. The EL20 was developed, which would cut scrap iron up to 20 mm in thickness. Later on EL30 and EL40 was also launched. These scrap iron shears were the foundation of what is Eldan Recycling today. The latest one was sold in 1984, and as a total more than 100 shears has been sold mainly in Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
“The success of Eldan is founded upon us having a close relationship with the customers and actually listening to what they are saying. By always being available, and by paying attention to what the customer’s problems and concerns are, we keep one step ahead of the competition” says Steen Laursen.
Listen and be inspired
The needs and demands within the recycling industry has always been the source of inspiration for Eldan. It is through continuous customer contact that the majority of the company’s products have been developed. “It is like trial and error – if the first idea does not work, try the next. You have to listen to the customer and develop the new products in cooperation with them. It is not unusual for the customer to make suggestions which have proved to have been extremely helpful” says Steen Laursen. “If we did not have this close relationship with our customers, we would not be the innovative, international company that we are today.”
In the 1960’s legal regulations were introduced which halted the traditional burning of cables to recover metals. In the process of burning cables including PVC insulation, hazardous acids (HCl) occurs. The problem would be solved if only the plastic was removed. Eldan researched the problem, and the Cable Strippers (M3 and M6) were developed. Another advantage of stripping the cables is that pure copper is produced, instead of black copper (copper with oxide on it) when burning cables. “I remember that this was the perfect solution to the problem. During the first year the company sold in more than 100 cable strippers around the World. This was the first professional solution to the problem. The company has subsequently manufactured and sold well over 3,000 cable strippers” says Steen Laursen.
Sometimes Eldan was ahead of it’s time with product development. “I remember when we realised that there was a huge potential within tyre recycling. It was during the 1970’s when more old tyres than ever were being discarded. A machine called the Rasper, which reduced the size of the old tyres, was developed. However, only six Raspers were sold at this time for recycling tyres.” says Steen Laursen. “Instead it was in the cable recycling industry where the Rasper was widely used for the pre-chopping of voluminous cable waste prior to granulation” The break through for the Rasper within tyre recycling only came many years later, in 1986, when two Danish gardeners contacted Eldan. Every month they used more than 200 tons of oil to heat up their green houses, and they came to think about tyres as an alternative energy source. Eldan suggested that they should try the Rasper. Even though the Rasper was a tough machine, it could not endure the steel in the tyres. Many of the competitors had already given up this difficult market, however, Eldan Recycling refused to give in and a new more robust machine was developed together with the gardeners.
The break through within tyre recycling came on an exhibition in Louisville, USA, in 1990. Those competitors who had not given up on tyre recycling could only offer solutions to the different stages of the tyre processing – for example reducing the size of the tyres or separating the materials. ”A complete tyre recycling plant did not exist at this time. For the exhibition in Louisville we decided to put together a system comprising Eldan machines that would manage the tyres from shredding to separation. A line drawing of the complete plant was put on to a large wall poster on the Eldan exhibition stand and the success was immediate” says Steen Laursen. ”I remember one visitor who burst out laughing when he saw the poster. He had been assigned by a Canadian company to research the market and assemble an entire tyre plant from start to finish. Now Eldan Recycling had “stolen” his solution, and he had lost his consultancy fee.”
“Eldan has a mission to always be the industry leader with regards to innovation and the development of machinery and new process technology. At least one new solution should always be in the pipeline. Eldan is at the cutting edge of recycling equipment technology” says Steen Laursen.
Service and trust
Acquiring a recycling plant is a large investment. Feeling the support and competence of the manufacturer during the sale, as well as afterwards, is of paramount importance. “I remember a customer from Germany in the beginning of the 1980’s. He was interested in starting his own business within recycling, and was getting a hold on a large amount of aluminium cables. For this purpose he ordered equipment from us. Before he received the equipment the market of aluminium cables vanished, and instead he got a hold of aluminium profiles. Aluminium profiles are a more difficult material to process. Instead of leaving the customer, Eldan modified the equipment together with the customer to suit this material instead” says Steen Laursen. “As a result of this collaboration the Heavy Rasper was developed which in turn lead to the development of both the Heavy Granulator and the Multi Purpose Rasper, which are two of our most popular machines.”
Since the company was founded, Eldan has sold approximately 800 plants and 7000 single machines. Some customers whom we have known for many years and with whom we have developed a special relationship allow us to use their facilities as reference factories. This means that we are able to show potential customers how our plants and machines work in reality. They also get the opportunity to ask the plant owner questions directly. By showing them what they get they feel secure in their choice of manufacturer.
When the cable stripper was developed in the 1960’s E. Laursen Maskinfabrik appointed a Danish sales company to look after the international marketing and sales of its products.
In 1980 the founder Ejvind Laursen passed away unexpectedly and his son, Steen Laursen, and took over as managing director.
During this year E. Laursen Maskinfabrik also changed name to Eldan Recycling (Ejvind Laursen DANmark), to be more attractive internationally. It was also decided that Eldan Recycling would go international on its own. The agreement with the old sales partner was terminated, and three agents were tied to the company. Since the success concept of Eldan had always been to be close to the customer, the agents where picked in the three key markets – the US, France and Germany. It was important to know the language, market as well as the culture. For the best possible representation and customer contact, the agents only represented Eldan (i.e. had no other principles)
Eldan have always maintained close contact with its international customers in conjunction with the agents. The management as well as product and service personnel have always been ready to travel the world to meet the customers. This has always been highly appreciated by the customers, the agents and the employees. “By travelling the world, and meet the potential customers, you get to experience things that you never would if you travelled alone as a tourist. I remember visiting a customer in Japan who took me to an amazing drum festival” says Steen Laursen. “Many of my closest friends abroad, who I visit often, started out to be customers at Eldan” Being active internationally means having to be available for customers in all times zones. The customers can always get in touch with us.
Next to Eldan
“Eldan has come a long way since the beginning. In the 1970’s the largest machine weighed 5 tons, the overall weight of the largest complete plant for cables was 7-8 tons and we had 10 employees. In 2000’s the weight of the largest machine had increased to 55 tons, the largest plant for tyre recycling had an overall weight of 120-130 tons and we had 100 employees” says Steen Laursen.
Eldan has for a long time been a family business. Steen Laursens wife, Mrs. Lis Laursen, worked at the company with sales and layout for 25 years. In 1999 Eldan Recycling A/S was sold to the Swedish industrial group, Carl Bennet AB. In 2005 Dr. Toni Reftman was made Managing Director of Eldan Recycling A/S, preparing the company for Steen Laursen’s retirement. Until 2009 Steen Laursen continued his involvement in the company as a business development manager and consultant.
The fact that Steen Laursen has left the company does not mean that the family Laursen has left Eldan Recycling. His son Bjørn Laursen works as product manager for tyre recycling, and daughter-in-law, and Bjørn’s wife, Mrs. Heidi Laursen, works as a 3D-sketcher and produces the plant layouts.
Eldan Recycling has not been a regular job for Steen – it has been his baby and hobby. When leaving Eldan Steen Laursen’s other passion in life takes over – veteran and classic cars. He owns a Morgan +8, a Porsche 911 and a Mercedes SL Pagoda. “I am a member of the Porsche club in Denmark. My wife and I often join them for events like Hill Climb, Track days and Touring. This summer we for example went to Italy” says Steen Laursen. Another popular activity is to drive up the coast of Jylland in Denmark to the summer house in beautiful Skagen.