BLOG: New technology is essential for the continued growth and innovation of our business

   Tue, 17th Jan, 2023

CEO of KMK Metals Recycling, Kurt M. Kyck, reflects on the use of the highest levels of technological advancement to develop the company into becoming the very best in its field and a huge source of pride.  

“Standing still is the fastest way of moving backwards in a rapidly changing world”.

These were words spoken long ago by Hollywood actress Lauren Bacall, yet they resonate across every area of life and business in today’s even faster-paced world.

Technology is one of the main drivers of innovation and is an essential part of the success of any organisation, including KMK Metals Recycling. We have always believed in the need to keep making investments in the best available and appropriate technology in order to stay competitive and continue to grow, and this approach has worked extremely well so far.

When I started out in the metal recycling business in the late seventies/ early eighties, we had only six employees and little or no use of technology. Today, my son Max and I work as a team, with around 150 direct employees with many more indirectly employed. We have developed innovative processes that use technology.  Despite Ireland being such a small country in relative terms, we are on par with many advanced European WEEE recycling operations, having worked long and hard to get here. We are responsible for recycling approximately 80% of the waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) in Ireland.   Over many years we have developed a strong partnership with the largest WEEE Compliance Scheme in the country, WEEE Ireland.  I have no hesitation in saying that we are the experts in metals and WEEE recycling.

Much of our forward thinking is demonstrated in our partnership with University of Limerick and subsequently with the emerging spin off company Votechnik. From the outset we were engaged with UL graduate Dr Lisa O’Donoghue in developing an automated process for processing Flat Screen Displays (televisions and monitors). We deployed the first ever automated process in Ireland in 2018, the ALR 3000. After working this new technology in a real industrial setting Lisa went on to troubleshoot and streamline the operation and developed her latest version the ALR 4000 which was produced in Ireland and is now deployed at our KMK Kilbeggan site. Employing robotic technology in our daily operations is truly exciting.

Our most recent project has been the installation of STEINERT magnetic separation, eddy current and state of the art STEINERT KSS colour sorting system.

With the STEINERT project we can achieve additional high-value material extraction. We had to wait a long time to complete our Small Domestic Appliances (SDA) recycling process which began 12 years ago with the deployment of a Smasher and Shredding System to advance treatment of Irish SDA in Ireland. Since then, we have installed a Trennso fines treatment and re-engineered our Holman-Wilfley wash table to further recover valuable raw materials. Our SDA recycling process in now complete producing clean plastics and metal fractions which go on to be refined and turned into new products. A truly circular process.

As with the robot, which takes pride of place at our Kilbeggan plant, the STEINERT machinery is very impressive to look at and creates a strong centrepiece for our Tullamore facility. I brought two of my grandchildren to see it in operation this week and it gave me a great feeling of pride to watch them awestruck looking around, knowing that everything we have created will benefit their environment in the future, a future that is under threat unless we can successfully tackle climate change.  

Although it is certainly true that the ground-breaking technology we have introduced is far more precise and quickly outstrips human efforts in terms of speed and productivity, undoubtedly, the far greatest assets we have are our people. It is just brilliant to have my family working with me, including my wife Edeltraud who has been there from the beginning and my daughter Christina who has recently joined the team. We have a very strong workforce who are also like family, many of whom are with me for over 20 years. Max, who has dedicated half of his life already to the company, is strongly supported by a highly dedicated management team for the day-to-day running of the business. Every one of our employees plays a hugely important role and we wouldn’t be where we are without them.

The loyal contractors we have worked with over the past forty or more years are also a vital cog in the wheel. Customer facing transport and logistics operators who go out of their way every day to profile the highest quality customer service. Local service providers who have grown with KMK over many years are a testament to our philosophy of supporting local enterprises. Our relationship with WEEE Ireland has provided us with economies of scale that support the above achievements and gives their members the comfort of compliance and reputational security.

Underpinning my pride in the achievements of the company is our environmental performance. We operate two EPA IED licenced facilities with a joint licenced capacity of 85,000 tonnes of compliant WEEE treatment in accordance with the Irish WEEE Directive SI 149, which includes the requirement that all WEEE must be processed in accordance with the WEEELABEX or CENELEC standards EN 50625 and EN 50614. Each year we are tested by independent auditors to comply with this world leading standard and each year we pass with commendation. Generating 25 % of our electricity demand through the deployment of massive PV panel installations on the roofs of both our facilities gives me, however, the greatest feeling of securing a future for my family. Hopefully with the continued support of our valued customers we will be in a position to add to this generating capacity in 2023.

My family and my inspired management team have gotten used to the deployment of technology, such that we have a full programme of ideas to increase capacity and productivity in the pipeline. Embracing circularity and securing raw materials for the future.