From the garage it went into the double garage, then into a hall and in 2005 Michael Bleicher settled down in Schweinfurt's Maintal industrial and commercial park. The managing director of bb-net and his 50 employees (cleaning staff, system electronics technicians, software developers and salespeople) rented space in the business park at Amsterdamstrasse 16-18. The used computers, laptops and tablets business is flourishing and has been growing by a whopping 2011 percent every year since 20.
The two sides of Michael Bleicher's business card represent the business model. The conservative blue view shows the IT processor buying discarded computers; the friendly orange side shows the product that is being sold: refurbished computers and notebooks under the tecXL brand. The course of business is determined by the blue line, because it is more difficult to find used vehicles than to sell the refurbished technology.
Technology like new
One can hardly imagine the implementation of the recycling idea in a flawless manner. The fact that bb-net only uses recycled paper in the printer, that there are many, but no cleaning agents without an environmental seal, underlines the philosophy of a company that was founded in 1996 when the father signed for Michael, who was not yet of legal age. In the early years the company (since 2001 GmbH) concentrated on the used goods trade in the IT industry and on the sale of special items. In 2005 the number of employees had grown to a dozen, and in 2011 the “initial spark” for the two-sided business model followed.
The managing director came to the business park six years ago with 20 employees and transformed used equipment into technology "like new", says Bleicher, who had the plan for professional processing "long, long, long in the drawer."
High quality devices
Every beginning is difficult, and establishing contacts with business partners who sort out computers and similar devices in large numbers was really not easy, says Matthias Ress, the man in charge of marketing.
Ultimately, only the quality was convincing - both when handling the purchased hardware and when starting the computer into its second life cycle.
The prerequisite for re-use is the purchase of high-quality items from the IT industry's business product lines that last longer, that are more resilient than the devices on the shelves of consumer markets. Bb-net purchases devices from airlines, insurance companies and authorities.
Feedback to the customer
The security of data disposal is very important. The (unseen) purchased goods are picked up, and surprises are inevitable - like disused coffee machines under all the cables, screens, keyboards and housings. Bb-net has not only cleared entire office floors, but also entire data centers, the contents of which were delivered to Schweinfurt in sealed trucks. In Amsterdamstrasse, as soon as the coarse dust is removed, every device receives a barcode that allows you to track exactly what happens to the computers in the next few hours.
The seller has a receipt report after 48 hours at the latest. A complete documentation is then available. The inventory records what the device has been able to do so far and what programs it is equipped with. This is followed by the deletion of all data - in the desired security levels up to the mechanical destruction of the hard disk. The hard goods are then placed in the high-bay warehouse.
Vacuum and wipe
If an item is called up in the tecXL production hall, the device is first thoroughly cleaned there. Vacuum cleaners, cleaning cloths and much more are used. If dirt, dust or coffee stains have disappeared, they are sorted according to choice I and II (e.g. with scratches in the paint). Subsequent tests show what works and which parts (such as a used battery) need to be replaced. Depending on the production plan, the devices are now also upgraded or retrofitted (e.g. RAM or hard disk).
This is followed by the installation of the operating system (Windows 10), virus protection and a free office package (compilation of common software for working in the office, writing letters, spreadsheets and creating presentations). As one of only 80 companies worldwide, Bleicher's company is a “Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher” and is allowed to preinstall refurbished computers with software from the industry giant that is faultless under license law. From the final inspection with several technical tests again, the devices go to the packaging station and then off to the high-bay warehouse.
Well below the original price
The sales department now sells the goods (with a twelve month warranty, repairs in 72 hours) to around 500 dealers in and around Germany. On their shelves, notebooks, PCs and tablets are available for private end consumers and medium-sized businesses for around a quarter of the former price.
Devices that prove to be unsuitable for the second life cycle in one of the many tests are put into the spare parts store and at some point are "cannibalized". In addition to certification as a specialist waste management company, bb-net is the only company in Schweinfurt that is certified for initial treatment, i.e. the dismantling of IT products. The individual parts are then passed on to the raw material recyclers.