echo-interview with Jakob Richi, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Richi AG, Weiningen
elipsLife echo: Mr Richi, In the Zurich region, Richi gravel trucks are a common sight. But the company does more than just transport gravel. What are its other activities?
Jakob Richi: We have three firms in Weiningen. Richi AG produces and sells gravel, manufactures ready-mix concrete and offers a dumping service for waste from construction sites. Lifting gear and specialised transport using mobile cranes, able to lift up to 350 tons, are another service provided by Richi AG. The Richi AG recycling facility, the EZR AG, deals with all kinds of recycling and disposal work: Wir demolish houses, reprocess the resulting material and basically turn old into new. And then we have Richi Bau AG, whose focus is on construction sites. Our overall corporate philosophy centres on closed-loop recycling, and the facilities we have in Weinigen enable us to fully implement our goal.
How many employees work in your companies and how large is your vehicle pool?
The three companies, Richi AG, EZR AG and Richi Bau AG, all of which are wholly family-owned, employ around 150 people. These comprise drivers for our roughly 60 trucks and mobile cranes, operators for 40 excavators, construction equipment and power shovels, as well as 40 people working in our gravel plants, sorting centres and concrete plants. Then there are ten or more employees in leadership and administrative functions.
Your recycling centre houses a biomass powerplant, which generates 17,500 megawatt hours of electricity, enough to power 2,500 to 3,000 households. Does this make economic sense given the current feed-in tariffs?
Just about. But we don’t run the power plant for reasons of profitability, but above all on ecological grounds. We used to export the waste wood, up to 900 truck-loads a year to northern Italy. There it was either incinerated or processed into chipboard. However, the introduction of the Heavy Goods Vehicle Tax turned this into a very costly undertaking. At the same time, the waste wood transports were a contradiction of our closed-loop recyclying philosophy. So around 12 years ago, we had the idea to incinerate the wood right here, generate energy in the process and feed it into the grid.
You need experienced people to operate your special-purpose vehicles. Does the company train them itself?
You need a heavy goods vehicle licence to be allowed to drive a mobile crane. A driver has to produce proof of this licence if or she is to be offered a job with the company. The company will then train the person to drive and operate a mobile crane. That said, the drivers subsequently have to pass a special examination at the Association of Master Builders in Sursee.