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Driving ahead in the face of challenges

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Kurt Richter, the managing director of Curt Richter SE, speaks to Tank Cleaning Magazine about the challenges his company faces.
Can you introduce yourself to our readers and tell us about your company and services, in particular Curt Richter’s involvement in tank cleaning?
Curt Richter SE has been active in the field of tank logistics for the chemical and petrochemical industry since 1936.
We concentrate on Europe-wide transport of liquid goods, including hazardous materials, as well as warehouse logistics, technical services, complete outsourcing projects or the development of logistics concepts for our customers.
Tank cleaning is an important pillar of our company. We currently maintain five fully certified tank cleaning facilities in the German cities of Cologne, Bitterfeld, Hamburg, Ludwigshafen and Mehring, all of them approved by the Federal Immission Control Act.
In 2003, we, together with other companies, founded the German Association for Tank Interior Cleaning (DVTI) – which in turn is a member of the European Federation of Tank Cleaning Associations (EFTCO).
The overriding aim is to create and maintain a consistently high standard of quality and safety in tank cleaning.
Can you provide a brief history of the company and how it was now possible to employ 750 people at 11 sites across Europe? What is the secret to your success?
The company was set upby Curt and Erna Richter in 1936 in Halle, in eastern Germany. Its headquarters was then moved to Cologne in 1950, where it is still located today.
Now in its third generation of owner-management, Curt Richter has become a Societas Europaea (SE) to emphasise the company’s European character. We are represented in Germany, Italy, the UK and the Netherlands with a total of 11 branches. The secret to our success is very simple – we are a good and well-coordinated team and we are service providers. We live by the values we represent – quality, reliability, flexibility, and accessibility. The cohesion of our employees, their team spirit, coupled with good training, experience and commitment is what keeps the ‘flame of quality’ burning – as I like to put it –and makes the company successful.
You were one of the founding members of Tank Combination Europe (TANKCEU) in 1990. Can you tell us what this organisation does and why it is important?
TANKCEU is an association of tank logistics companies that signed up to the same high-quality goals.
Curt Richter is a founding member of TANKCEU and is represented on the board of directors. In tank logistics, whether in the chemical or food sector, high quality in transport, service and tank cleaning is of fundamental importance.
At the same time, customers expect Europewide services from a single source, which small and medium-sized companies in particular cannot always provide, at least in the required density. TANKCEU’s support also includes a Europe-wide network of tank cleaning facilities.
Digitalisation is a key strategy in the business. How has Curt Richter used this to its advantage?
If you read studies and reports, you could almost think that digitalisation is a recent invention. I am proud of the fact that we were already much further ahead than most at a very early stage. After all, we have been using state-ofthe- art IT in all areas of our company for decades – from tank cleaning to transport with track and trace, digital transmission of orders, on-board computers and networking of location. We have established our own team of IT experts to develop internal applications that integrate perfectly and to establish efficient interfaces together with our departments and locations as well as with our customers.
A number of companies have started using the new EFTCO cleaning document (eECD). Do you think this technology will streamline the tank cleaning processes and will Curt Richter be adopting it?
As a member of the DVTI, we have to issue the printed EFTCO cleaning document ECD. The eECd is supported both by the association and by us. With our whollyowned subsidiary Gruber & Co KG in Ludwigshafen, we are already taking part in a pilot project to introduce the eECD. Electronic registration creates more transparency and security and simplifies processes. Just as we adapt other useful digital solutions in and for our company, we are also happy to be at the forefront of the eECD.
How does Curt Richter ensure high hygiene standards and guarantee clean containers for its customers?
On the one hand, we make sure that our employees are appropriately qualified for their respective areas of responsibility and well-trained. On the other hand, we make sure that our technology is state of- the-art to guarantee high hygiene standards. Of course, anyone can say that, which is why we not only have ourselves regularly certified, but also audited. The tank cleaning facilities of the individual locations are audited separately and have all achieved an overall score of 96% and 97% in the latest audits.
Sustainability is important nowadays. What sustainable practices do you use?
Sustainability is often simply equated with environmental protection, but we understand it as corporate social responsibility. It goes without saying that we have committed ourselves to making our business as environmentally friendly as possible.
In the transport sector, for example, this means using a modern fleet and giving our professional drivers additional training in fuel-efficient driving. In the tank cleaning sector, this means that every decision, for example in selecting cleaning agents, is based not only on quality, but also on environmental protection.
To underline this commitment, we are part of the ECTA Responsible Care Programme, where we voluntarily commit to a continuous improvement in our environmental, health and safety standards. Moreover, sustainability also means that we assume responsibility towards our employees; 750 employees from more than 20 nationalities work for Curt Richter.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your business?
Shortly after the virus appeared, we were already reacting and adjusting our pandemic plans accordingly.
Our pandemic crisis team regularly analyses and evaluates the current situation and the measures to be taken. We have enabled some colleagues, whose jobs allow it, to switch to working from home. In other areas of work, we have restructured shift and duty rosters and premises to ensure the required safety distances can be maintained.
We have also made disinfectant dispensers available. We have equipped occupational groups for whom the safety distances cannot be maintained or who come into contact with a lot of people with additional personal protective equipment. In addition, we have held talks with customers to try to make the situation as safe as possible for our drivers on their factory premises, for example during registration, loading and unloading operations. The teams look after each other and implements the safety measures, professional and private, necessary to keep the company running.
When do you see the industry returning to 100% normality?
I wish I had a crystal ball and could answer this question. Unfortunately, all we can do is hope that a good measure of normality will return as soon as possible.
But as to when the industry will reach pre-COVID-19 levels again, we can only wait and see. In any case, with our team, our transport and our tank cleaning services, we are ready for a new start.
For more information: Visit: curt-richter.de