The circular economy: an ecological challenge for the 21st century

The recycling machines of Doppstadt Calbe GmbH from Saxony-Anhalt are used worldwide, in Fukushima, Japan, for the rehabilitation of the lagoon in Venice, all over Europe after hurricane Kyrill 2007 or after hurricane Katarina in New Orleans. The company was named "Hidden Champion" by the WirtschaftsWoche and the University of Sankt Gallen.

Almost 30 years ago, the mechanical engineering company Doppstadt took over the conveyor system manufacturer Calbe in the central German state of Saxony-Anhalt. Today, Calbe is the company's largest site and a global market leader. It produces cutting-edge environmental technology and recycling machines alongside the belt drums which were once the company's core business.

The environment was a driver for Ferdinand Doppstadt years before the issue moved up the political agenda. He has long been aware of the ecological challenges of the 21st century: rapidly increasing urbanisation accompanied by continuing, strong population growth, and on the other hand decreasing resources. "We are part of a highly dynamic future market that will continue to grow in importance in the coming years. The conflict between increasing global demand for raw materials and the foreseeably finite nature of our resources can only be resolved by sustainable processing and recycling technologies," says the owner of a corporate group that currently has a turnover of almost 200 million euros, and operates in a range of other fields in Calbe and Velbert alongside the manufacture of mobile and fixed machinery. Founded in 1965 in Velbert as an agricultural contracting business, the group is now a German mechanical engineering company in the field of environmental technology and recycling. In 1992, Doppstadt acquired Förderanlagen Calbe GmbH in Saxony-Anhalt, the industrial heart of central Germany. This is the largest of the company's sites. Mobile machines and materials handling technology are developed and mass-produced in a 222,000 m² plant that now has the latest manufacturing and assembly technology. The site manufactures recycling machines including shredders, special composting machines, drum screen machines and chippers. In others words, it can reduce everything from green waste to railway sleepers.

Even used in natural disasters

These machines are ideally suited to the challenges of the future. Doppstadt supplies system solutions – shredding, separation, recycling and recirculation – for landfill reclamation, mixed construction waste, commercial waste, wood waste and substitute fuels, biomass, and compost. Doppstadt products are used all over the world, including on the sites of tragedies and natural disasters, where the German company has been instrumental in repairing the damage. In Fukushima, Japan, Doppstadt machines were used to remove contaminated soil. Doppstadt separation systems were used in the clean-up of 100,000 m² of Venice's lagoon, and special machinery employed to repair damage wreaked by Cyclone Kyrill in Europe in 2007 and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

Doppstadt Calbe is one of the largest employers in the region with a current workforce of c. 470 employees, and that figure is set to rise. Around 60 employees in Development and Design keep the innovations coming; conversion and modernisation have been almost continuous since the company was founded, with an investment to date into the high tens of millions. Only raw material is delivered to Calbe, so the vertical range of manufacture in the production facilities is very high. Around two machines are produced per day, up to 40 per month, and 400 per year, and those figures are rising. At the heart of the Doppstadt portfolio is its largest model, the Inventhor Type 9. End customers need to invest around 700,000 euros for this 530 HP shredder, which weighs more than 35 metric tons, has a useful life of several decades, and can process almost any material. The product is controlled from a small display or remotely. Feed material is reduced extremely efficiently by the Inventhor crushing system: the motor, crusher roller and patented Doppstadt VarioDirect gear unit form a direct drive train. In fact, the product is so much more efficient than standard options that there is no loss of power. This is the genuine made-in-Germany quality for which Doppstadt products are famous, and one of the key reasons for its leading position on the global market.

Hidden Champion

Doppstadt Calbe is listed as a "Hidden Champion" in the index published by the renowned HBM Unternehmerschule business school at the University of St. Gallen and the WirtschaftsWoche business magazine. The ranking is produced each year and candidates must meet strict criteria. They must have the highest or second highest market share in their segment and an annual turnover exceeding 50 million euros, and operate on at least three continents. "Hidden Champions" are medium-sized businesses that often fly under the public radar but are among the leading players in their field. Doppstadt mobile machines operate in more than 40 different countries. Today, more than 7000 customers are served through the group's sales network. Doppstadt Calbe not only meets the "Hidden Champion" criteria but is seeking further growth – for which the current focuses of environmental protection and recycling ought to be a key asset.

The company is not neglecting its roots either. Belt drums have been produced at the site for 55 years, originally by Förderanlagen Calbe GmbH. In some cases weighing over 20 metric tons, they can, for example, drive conveyor belts several kilometres long and are used in conveyor systems and open-cast mining. Belt drums may account for only a small proportion of total turnover, but sales remain steady with exports to over 25 different countries. Each belt drum is individually manufactured and certified. Doppstadt has so far succeeded in finding solutions for even the most difficult requirements and operating environments, for example dealing with huge distances or heights, and adjusting to exceptional climatic conditions.

Almost 30 years ago, Doppstadt took the conscious and considered decision to acquire the Calbe site, and not just because of the large area. This place is the beating heart of the mechanical engineering industry: since 2013, the turnover of companies in the field has grown by 18.7 percent and the workforce by 14.4 percent. There is a close partnership with Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg and the supply of skilled workers in the region is better than in many other locations.

Author: Anja Falgowski