Wise up by turning Waste into Wealth
Over its dozen years in business, Wisetek has experienced considerable growth with an operational footprint across the Middle East, Asia, Europe and North America.
Having generated a turnover of €35 million in 2018, the company maintains its position as a market leader in the provision of reverse logistics, IT asset value recovery and manufacturing services to the electronics and IT industry in Ireland and overseas.
With an expanding blue chip customer base that includes EMC, McAfee, Tyco, Dell, VCE, Option Wireless and Jabil, Wisetek continue to turn a cost into revenue with its one-stop approach to redundant IT equipment through a policy of re-use, re-sale and recycle.
“The ‘circular economy’ is a relatively misunderstood term, and companies are still trying to understand what it is all about,” explains Wisetek CEO and founder Sean Sheehan.
Traditionally, the linear economy was the preferred choice, operating a ‘take, make, dispose’ model of production, creating a huge drain on natural resources. This cannot continue to support the constantly growing demand in the electronics industry.
“The circular economy can alleviate the pressure by repair, reuse, remanufacturing, refurbishing and recycling to substitute this natural resource,” Sheehan says.
The world produces up to 50 million tons of e-waste annually, of which only one fifth is recycled appropriately. “This is planned to more than double to 120 million tons by 2050, and the circular economy has to be top of our agenda from a design, reuse and protection of our environment perspective.
Ireland, as well as the rest of the world, has to embrace the circular economy or suffer the consequence of damaging our environment,” he adds.
The Original Equipment Manufacturing and data centre sector are two industries that are fully embracing the circular economy for turning ‘waste into wealth’, he says.
“These companies can derive substantial procurement savings from recovering valuable parts from customer returned IT systems — this is particularly true of IT products where the primary economic lifespan of enterprise IT systems are among the shortest of any capital asset.
“The opportunity to reuse is enormous. It also, of course, massively benefits the environment and provides a good sense of corporate social responsibility for businesses.”
Given the increasing speeds required by modern devices, the major Hyperscale Data Centres are keeping up with the requirements for the market place.
“Generally, they continue to refresh their equipment every two to three years. The main areas of focus would be connectivity for speed, power for cost reduction, security to eliminate any breaches and uptime to ensure continuity,” Sheehan says.
Wisetek now has five facilities in the US — a number he sees rising into the future as the location of most significant opportunity. “The USA is starting to become aware of the circular economy and its benefits. The States are also beginning to draft laws around the illegal disposal of IT hardware which we predict will provide further opportunity to expand our US footprint.”
Allied to the North American expansion, Sheehan sees similar growth across Europe, the Middle East and Asia. “Europe is relatively mature when it comes to IT asset disposal due to the WEEE initiatives.
We have a facility in the UK and have some partners in mainland Europe, and going forward, mainland Europe is certainly on our radar for expansion. We have an office in Dubai and work with a partner in this region.
We already have a facility in Thailand, which serves the Asia market place. I think it is further down the road before we see substantial market activity in the Asia region.”
Regardless of Wisetek’s continued global expansion, Sheehan anticipates no change in the company’s base of operations. “Our headquarters will always be in Cork and we expect to see modest growth here. Most of the opportunity and employment growth will be in the USA and we expect to see a substantial increase in headcount in this region with possible acquisitions.”
Wisetek last month announced a partnership with Washington Library System and Samsung Electronics America to manage the recycling and repurposing of e-waste equipment across the District of Columbia region.
“Our recycling and repurposing of e-waste equipment program with DC Library system and Samsung are hugely important to us. Samsung, as does Wisetek, believes it is our responsibility to be fully accountable for our supply and disposition chain processes. Working with the DC Library System is an exciting opportunity to advance our environmental objectives by making e-waste recycling more accessible to residents as well as businesses.”
Sheehan can see similar partnerships and opportunities emerging from this initiative.
“There is an increase in the level of obligation with corporate social responsibility measures being introduced to manufacturers. New environmental government legislation will take back e-waste and growing environmental awareness of the issue and is increasingly getting a vast amount of media attention which helps with this.”
Looking back to the founding of the company in 2007, the idea global growth of the magnitude so far achieved would have been a pipe-dream, he admits.
“When we started the company in 2007, we had no idea about the kind of growth we’ve achieved today. We had one significant customer at the time. I believe legislation, attitude, circular economy and landfill policies have all worked in our favour,” he adds.
“I think Cork has a great future. We have the data connectivity and the infrastructure. It is an excellent gateway to Europe. Most of our customers would see Cork as a fantastic place to visit, but I would still like to see more flight opportunities out of Cork.”
As to current challenges, he believes Brexit is a concern for Wisetek, but one with a potentially positive impact.