ICT CHANNEL: Mr. Bleicher, the pandemic has significantly accelerated the trend towards mobile working. How much has that affected the demand for used systems?
Michael Bleicher: Due to the devices required for home office / schooling, we were confronted with an enormous increase in demand. Which meant that we were manufacturing almost just-in-time and barely had any stock. The entire new and used goods market was affected by this. The focus was clearly on mobile devices, the desktop area has declined sharply.
ICT CHANNEL: In your opinion, to what extent did it play a role in the increased decision to buy used that new laptops were often sold out?
Bleacher: The ability to deliver had to be proven in the market. At that time it was of secondary importance for partners and customers whether the device was new or refurbished. IT remarketing got a positive boom over the past year. Companies that were still skeptical about reprocessed hardware up to now explored new terrain out of necessity and were convinced by the unbeatable arguments of refurbished IT. Quality, delivery and performance, attractive prices - professionally refurbished devices keep what they promise. It can therefore be said that partners who have opened up to products with an extended life cycle usually rely on the use of these devices in the long term. The upswing enabled sales channels to be expanded in the long term in a very short time, which, however, made the procurement of used devices and the associated lack of responsible use of IT hardware in Germany very clear.
ICT CHANNEL: To change that, in 2020 you will have among other things the »Initiative for sustainable, secure IT evolution«(INSI) founded. Could this, and thus also the social part in the form of device donations, also benefit from the boom in demand?
Bleacher: The INSI initiative is bearing its first fruits and some projects have already been implemented. However, the full potential of the initiative has not yet been achieved. Nevertheless, smaller device donations, including those from our own projects, have already been handed over. For the new year we would like to push INSI further and offer companies the opportunity to make a positive contribution to our environment and to support the education sector with their decommissioned hardware.
Supply situation remains solid despite waste
ICT CHANNEL: Does the mobilization of the working world also increase the demand for rental models because companies try to bridge the lockdowns with borrowed devices?
Bleacher: Definitely. We were also able to implement various projects with partners in the rental IT sector and temporarily bring refurbished IT back to the market. Some partners were so impressed by the quality of their rental equipment that they took them over as soon as the rental period expired. Due to the current situation, the demand for loaned devices will not decrease and will continue to play a role in our portfolio.
ICT CHANNEL: How well could and can you still care for your partners and to what extent do factors such as lockdowns and hygiene regulations play a role?
Bleacher: Thanks to long-term and reliable partnerships, we were able to overcome the difficult supply relatively well and withstand peak loads. However, some projects were stopped for the time being due to the shortage of new goods and also due to hygiene concepts. Many companies reduced access and deliveries or, in our case, collection of goods on their premises to a minimum. As a result, the decommissioned IT could not be picked up as agreed and processed in our technology center, but was stored at the customer as a reserve. Our premises enable us to continue our production with sufficient distance, mask requirements and shift systems, for example during breaks. Home office in the commercial area was standard at bb-net even before the pandemic, which means that there were or will not be any service or contact restrictions for customers and partners.
ICT CHANNEL: What do these changes mean for purchasing and thus the near future? Are mobile devices becoming ever scarcer while desktops are in abundance?
Bleacher: The greatest challenge in the IT remarketing sector is the procurement of the goods. The more companies store their used hardware, the more difficult the procurement. The problem with the availability of new hardware has stabilized to some extent, which means that more IT that has been decommissioned is being handed over to refurbishers and procurement is a bit easier. The trend towards mobile devices compared to desktops can be clearly seen and will presumably not flatten out, but rather increase.
Impending end for numerous Microsoft refurbishers
ICT CHANNEL: In your opinion, how much will current experience change the world of work beyond the acute situation and how can the used market benefit from it?
Bleacher: The working worlds in all industries are becoming more digital than ever before. At the beginning of last year, home office was still an absolute privilege for many, but it is becoming more and more the standard. The advantages for employees, employers and also for our environment are great, but also associated with a lot of trust, discipline and some changes. Nevertheless, even after the return to normality, mobile working will not lose its popularity, but will be an integral part of it. By creating permanent and additional home office workplaces, we are assuming continued demand for mobile devices, which is why the associated hardware requirements will hopefully shed a great light on the refurbished IT market.
ICT CHANNEL: In addition to the exceptional situation caused by Covid-19, this year you had to manage the integration of the numerous smaller refurbishers that Microsoft had discontinued. How well did this work and you can assume that most of those affected will remain in the market under the new conditions
Bleacher: The majority of the approved Microsoft RRP program could not be intercepted by existing MAR partners. The discrepancy between the companies and the impending switch to exclusively digital licenses was too great. Nevertheless, we were able to quadruple our partner landscape in this area and assume that the top 15 percent from the program can now continue their business through other MAR partners.
ICT CHANNEL: At Microsoft, the new year is all about digital licenses. What challenges does this bring and how can you support the partners? What other trends or topics do you expect?
Bleacher: The greatest challenge is the integration of the digital process at TPR partners (editor's note: third party resellers). The implementation and the associated effort should not be underestimated. Ultimately, however, this step ensures that digital licenses can be used profitably in the long term. Other trends could be that other software providers are also adopting this "spirit" and are increasingly offering digital instead of analog products.
More help for companies and authorities
ICT CHANNEL: What is your overall assessment of the past year and what feedback has your partners received?
Bleacher: From an economic point of view, 2020 was consistently positive and more demanding than average. Which we see as positive because it provides the extra speed necessary to develop further. The pandemic has shown the weaknesses in the markets. The dependence on China and its production facilities, the sensitivity of supply chains and the long overdue digitalization in all areas. Online trading has once again taken a large piece of the pie from brick-and-mortar retail, and retailers who are exclusively stationary have suffered considerable losses. The rescue package will expire next year and will reveal the full impact of the pandemic. In addition, the prices on the market are overheated and availability is still scarce. We are very skeptical about 2021.
ICT CHANNEL: Is reprocessing still the trend, especially since green IT is currently experiencing an upswing?
Bleacher: Every company, no matter what size, faces the challenge of disposing of their used equipment. Our society puts more and more pressure on companies to act sustainably in all areas and to oppose the throwaway society. Many companies and institutions tend to be open to dealing responsibly with their used IT, but shy away from converting their internal processes and fear additional costs.
ICT CHANNEL: What new ideas can you and your partners use to help companies and authorities master this challenge?
Bleacher: In order to give smaller companies, in particular, the chance to deal sustainably with the decommissioned IT, they can use bb-net Green IT box rent. The Green-IT Box serves as a mobile interim storage facility for the decommissioned company hardware, regardless of the period of time. Companies can conveniently and centrally store their used IT and order collection and delivery to bb-net at any time. After the goods have been transmitted, they will be checked on a serial number basis in the Schweinfurt Technology Center, data will be deleted and evaluated according to fair market prices, and the payment will be initiated. All services are already included in the rental price, which means that the company does not incur any additional costs.