Maria: I'd be happy to. As Customer Relationship Manager, I look after RIGK's license customers, as we are a mandated third party under Section 35 of the German Packaging Act (VerpackG) and assume their obligations under Section 15 VerpackG. For this purpose, we conclude a contract with our customers that covers their various obligations. My task is to take care of all matters concerning the contractual relationship and to support the customers in the implementation of their legal obligations.
In addition, I am active in the company as a Digital Transformation Manager. This may sound a bit "hip" and "fancy", but it actually describes my job very well. Since I took over this responsibility in 2019, it was also a concern of mine to find a suitable name for this activity. My task in this area is to transmit analog to digital processes and implement ideas, as well as projects. So it is a relatively new job title, as digitization is still "in its infancy".
But overall, you could say that I look after two areas at RIGK: project management in relation to digital topics and support for license customers.
Maria: My tasks here are very diverse and go beyond pure project management and the conversion from analog to digital processes. For example, I also support colleagues in making better use of all application programs such as OneNote, Teams or Outlook. These programs are evolving very quickly and have the possibility to add a lot of value, especially when they are used in combination. I am available to answer employees' questions about these programs and help them get the most out of them.
Additionally, I support our team in using new application programs, such as DocuSign (digital signature tool). I always approach my colleagues in a very open and unbiased way, so that they can describe their use case of the program and we can then go into implementation together to generate a final reduction in workload. Other programs such as the MS Office tools help us to work collaboratively on things (via shared OneNote notes, for example), even if we are physically in different places - which is where the working world is clearly heading at the moment. This is also a very nice aspect of my job: I'm part of the process of bringing people in the company closer together through the proper use of tools.
Ultimately, the overall goal is to standardize and digitize internal processes in order to reduce the human effort, thereby working more efficiently and ultimately offering added value to our employees AND the users (our customers).
Maria: The customer portal had been in the planning stage for a long time and was something we all longed for. The process of submitting the notices of the packaging quantity that our customers have to hand in every year is standardized. This process will remain the same at its core in perspective, but the number of customers has increased greatly over the years. Today, our teams handle far more customers than in the past, so it made sense to introduce a customer portal to efficiently manage the licensed quantities.
The portal is a kind of reporting tool via that customers submit their notifications and get an overview of their notifactions of quantity already made. On our side, the data that the customer submits in the portal can be imported into our CRM program in a standardized way via an interface. The process that used to be handled with paper and e-mails is now hdigitized and automated. Today, the customer only has to register once in the customer portal, then he can upload his notifications of quantity and certificates, and the data is transferred 1:1 to our database. This eliminates the manual input mechanism and we subsequently take over the verification function. This workflow significantly reduces sources of error and saves valuable time in the process. Of course, mistakes happen from time to time when switching between media (paper to database), but with the customer portal we have taken a big step towards automation and optimization.
Maria: First and foremost, the trademark users/license customers of our two largest industrial systems, the RIGK- and the RIGK-G-SYSTEM, as well as those of the PICKUP-SYSTEM use the customer portal - i.e. all customers who are concerned with the Packaging Act, §15. At the same time, we are also working with a trustee who uses portal solutions for our agricultural systems PAMIRA, ERDE and VerenA. The advantage of these four customer portals in total is that they are all similar inthe basic structure, but are set up on different domains and write to physically separate databases (as is also required by law). Customers - who may have overlaps between the individual systems - do not have to get used to different layouts and menu navigation, as they are similar in each respective customer portal. The "look and feel" is the same, only the respective information belongs to different systems.
Maria: In 2023, we introduced the VerenA-SYSTEM for the recovery of agricultural Big Bags and with this, for the first time, we contractually stipulated that customers are obliged to use the portal. Notification of quantity forms (as we know them in the RIGK- and RIGK-G-SYSTEM) were thus a thing of the past here. The recently amended RIGK- and RIGK-G contracts regarding the Packaging Act also include an obligation regarding the use of the customer portal. In the future, customers will have to make their reports via the portal, and we will do everything in our power to support them in using it and answering any questions that arise.
Of course, our customers also benefit from this process. The history of the packaging notification can be accessed online at any time and any place. Even if the contact person changes, the next person can easily access the most recent notifications of quantity . So both our customers and RIGK benefit from this system. We are already seeing a trend that customers are appreciating this more and more.
Maria: My goal as project manager was for the portal to work without serious problems, which has already been realized to a very high percentage. Since January 2023, almost all of our customers have registered. The registration process itself is quite simple and conclusive. However, we have of course also discovered "teething problems" with the system during operation, e.g. when users carry out process sequences that were not previously thought of in the project plan. Of course, there are also always indications of necessary adjustments in live operation or feedback from the users themselves. Preparing and standardizing the data also took a lot of time, since our database has grown organically over the past few years. So the main challenge in the preparation was also to bring all data sources to one level. For example, the database processing of the data for the RIGK- and RIGK-G-SYSTEM was different than for the PICKUP-SYSTEM, which is due to the historical development of the systems as well as the database itself. Thus, the structure had to be harmonized and brought to a uniform level in order to create a standard data pool for the customer portal. This process was extensive and time-consuming, but I also enjoyed it a lot because as a user I got to know the database well myself and was thus able to play an active role in both the planning and the operational implementation of the customer portal.
Maria: At the moment, the functionality of the portal is focused on the essentials. We initially focused on covering the notifications previously sent to us by customers in the form of letters or e-mails. But we are already seeing a high level of acceptance among customers in this regard, even among those who were still submitting forms to us by mail. We have asked them to register via the portal and re-enter their data. In the process, we explained to them the value added by the portal and why it is important and easier to use. From the feedback, I can see that customers have no problems using the portal. We keep up with the times and are now using a digital interface to improve our service.
Maria: There is a well-known saying, " Keep up with the times and time won't pass you by." However, digitization also comes with costs, especially if the necessary know-how is not available within the company. In such cases, external service providers must hired, but these are often difficult to find. We have worked with a small pool of long-time service providers on these projects, with whom we have been very satisfied. With our service providers, in retrospect, we made a good choice and they internalized the project and were committed to it. Another inhibiting factor is the high level of bureaucracy and the many legal requirements, particularly with regard to data protection and the processing of personal data, which often slow down processes and make them more expensive. Uniform standards are lacking in many areas, which in turn makes data exchange more difficult. I notice this in my projects in particular: it is important to establish transparent and smooth processes, and this requires uniform standards. There is still a lot of need for development here.
Maria: Digitization projects like the customer portal offer numerous advantages for service companies AND customers. First of all, they save time and can potentially also save costs in the long term. This in turn leads to higher customer loyalty and has a positive impact on the company's external image. A strong online presence is indispensable these days and conveys professionalism. But there are also concrete advantages for the customer in using the digital platform. The costumer has access to his personal "digital Leitz folder" all the time, in which he can store and exchange his data as a contact person across the board. This ensures that all contact persons are always on the same level of knowledge and that the customer receives consistent support. The data storage is sustainable, so that the customer can access his history at any time. In addition, he automatically receives a message about the data he has submitted. The platform also simplifies the ordering process. Previously, customers had to go through a cumbersome process of calculating how much they had to pay in license fees in order to initiate internal ordering processes. Today, customers can simply enter the RIGK customer portal, fill in /cache the message and use the data to obtain order numbers or other documents. This speeds up processes and allows the customer to access their data at any time, even while on the move. Overall, the digital customer platform provides a flexible and convenient way for customers to contact us as a company and handle their concerns quickly and easily.
Maria: There have been many positive developments in recent years, despite and precisely because of the challenges posed by the COVID pandemic. In particular, the resulting increased use of Microsoft Teams and other application programs has been very helpful. With regard to field service employees in the PAMIRA project, there is the positive aspect that they now no longer have to fill out thousands of readmission protocols by hand, but can access a central database. This has sped up the process of handling the issuance of the protocol, so that the inspector now has more time to concentrate on checking the material delivered. This improves the quality of the material going into recycling. I also appreciate the close contact with my colleagues with regard to digitalization and the application of new programs. It's nice to work together on projects and receive recognition and positive feedback, while you can see that employees are benefiting by working more efficiently. Furthermore, by recording data, we can now do evaluations that we were not able to do in the past in the level of detail. This allows us to better understand, for example, where and when certain final consumers are active and how we can adjust our processes accordingly. In the future, I would like to get even more involved with analyzing data and adapting processes to further improve our service. I think digital transformation is lived very positively at RIGK and we have already achieved a lot in the recent years.
Maria: After the first digitalization project for issuing take-back protocols for the agricultural PAMIRA-SYSTEM, we are planning a tool for industriel final costumers who contact RIGK to drop off their packaging materials at the nearest collection point. This process can also be optimized and made more transparent for the customer through a portal. That is the next planned project. As a first step, we need to look at our requirements and create a basis for the means by which we will achieve this goal. Our service is relatively unique and beyond the standard, so usually we cannot use standard tools. We do use basic software for HR management or our data management, but our CRM and ERP system is individualized, as is the case with many others, because we serve a very specific group of customers.
Maria: I studied environmental and recycling technology as a bachelor and industrial engineering as a master. This gave me a basic understanding of the recycling industry and industrial engineering. I think that is exactly what is helping me at the moment as well. I understand RIGK as a company and what RIGK does, in terms of recycling issues - but I can also apply the components of the master's degree in my work. I came to RIGK in 2016 rather by chance. During my studies in Nordhausen, I got to know RIGK, liked the field of activity, and did an internship in the quality and environmental management. This was an enormously positive time for me, as I naturally shed light on all the processes at RIGK via environmental and quality management and thus also gained a pretty good understanding of the interrelationships: how RIGK works, which departments exist and how they work together. I then continued to work as a student assistant at RIGK until 2017/18, when I wrote my master's thesis at RIGK on the "Creation of an evaluation procedure for plastic packaging in relation to its recyclability". In 2019, the German Packaging Act came into force. One component of the law concerned packaging and its recyclability, as well as the creation of incentives for the use of recyclable packaging - of which I then investigated different procedures for determining and applying them. After this period, I was initially hired as a data protection coordinator and then took on further tasks in customer support as well as project management digitalization. In my opinion, my studies prepared me very well to bring structured projects to implementation.
Maria: What I value most about my work at RIGK is the trust that is placed in me as a person on a daily basis. I can plan my projects independently and exchange ideas with colleagues in defined meetings. This has also been the case with all the projects I have carried out so far. The freedom the company gives me means that I can work on my own initiative and grow as a person and as a result of the tasks. Of course, this also creates a strong intrinsic motivation and enthusiasm for the work. A lot can be achieved here in a short time and the cohesion and support within the team is very good. There is a lot of potential for development and proposed improvements can be constantly addressed, which gives employees the feeling that they are actively involved in the process and further development.
The costumer portal