Return system for trays

SISTRO precision engineering GmbH is contract manufacturer in the field of high precision components for the medical technology, sealing technology and precision engineering. In the longer term SISTRO is keen to take the role of contract production back to thereby provide more resources for developing their own products, the expansion of the company’s internal project management, process know-how and developing their own innovative capability. The present project, the development of a tray return system, is an important step to prove the role as a single-source provider of complex solutions.

In the self-catering (eg huts), many people have to be employed to clean up food trays from the tables. The staff currently being used for that task, has not got a very attractive job and is often needed only at peak times. By a tray return system those resources shall be reduced – or utilized in a more meaningful way – which would lead in any case to a cost reducing for the restaurant business. From the perspective of the guest, the system should lead to a considerable increase of the comfort factor and to find – even in a self-service restaurant – tables always cleared down.

The challenge of this project was to implement this – actually – simple idea in an efficient and cost effective manner. The key issues that needed to be solved are, on one hand, the tray detection and on the other hand the handling of the deposit return.

The innovation was primarily to adapt and integrate technologies that were originally developed for other applications to a novel, not yet existing application. The specific technical and economic challenges of the project were, in addition to the Precision Mechanics and Mechatronics, a comprehensive knowledge:

  • Product innovation: the creation of “intelligent” food trays.
  • Process Innovation: The project staff and the external partners have been closely involved in the planning of the project. In the long term we shall succeed in such way to expand the own value chain by building up in-house expertise to be able to participate more actively in development projects and to initialize them by our own.
  • Innovation Management: This project can be seen as a kind of pilot project to initiate that process actively. In this context, innovation (for SISTRO): We go “one step back” in the value chain and are willing not only to “make products” but focus more on – in large parts already existing – research and development knowledge.

The project made it possible to find an innovative, yet sustainable structure for SISTRO.


Sistro precision engineering GmbH

Project duration

08.01.2011 – 29.02.2012


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