E/D/E annual report 2023

Market change as an opportunity, resilient and innovative in alliance

contract suppliers
sectors and product groups
Milliarden Euro Handelsvolumen​

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen, Partners and Friends of E/D/E,

The financial year 2023 started for us at E/D/E with a confident outlook and the assumption that we could expect mild growth throughout the year. Unfortunately, however, we experienced a downward market trend as early as February 2023, which both differentiated and intensified as the year progressed. The effects of the market changes were clearly felt over the course of the year and affected the industrial B2B sector as a whole. In this difficult economic and political environment, we managed to close the financial year 2023 with a trading volume of EUR 9.3 billion at a respectable level, even if it fell short of the previous year’s record result. Even in the face of such a challenging operating environment, we have continued to invest in the future of the E/D/E association – above all digitalisation, automation and artificial intelligence – in order to further strengthen the performance and competitiveness of our members, suppliers and collaboration partners.

The foundation for the success of the past financial year was once again laid by the product business in Germany and Europe as well as by the operations of the ETRIS BANK. In our core business of merchandise, we had to cope with a difficult macroeconomic environment that affected almost all areas of the industrial B2B sector. The E/D/E was unable to escape the market developments witnessed in the steel and construction sectors, in particular, with around two-thirds of the decline being attributable to the steel sector. Industrial business, on the other hand, remained largely stable. High stock levels, which were built up significantly for product security reasons due to prevailing supply chain issues during the Coronavirus period and which have now been significantly reduced due to the downturn in the market, had a dampening effect on purchasing activities, which is reflected in the respective figures of central payment. Direct deliveries from the eLC to our distributors’ end customers have been further expanded and now account for well over 80 per cent of all parcel deliveries. This enabled us to achieve a record result of EUR 370 million. It clearly shows that the warehouse business is one of E/D/E’s core competencies, and will continue to be of enormous importance for the association in the future. On balance, we achieved a trading volume of EUR 6.7 billion in the goods segment. Our international business once again proved to be an important pillar of product business for the E/D/E Group and developed more strongly than in Germany. Overall, the European business contributed EUR 1.8 billion to the trading volume and now accounts for 27 per cent of the product business.

The ETRIS BANK rendered an important contribution to the overall result of the E/D/E Group through its growth of 31 per cent compared to the previous year in buying association business and in factoring.

If we summarise all of our business activities, we achieved a consolidated result above the previous year – something that was also influenced to a positive extent by the interest rate environment. A result that gives the E/D/E association the necessary stability, especially in turbulent times, to realise investments for the future of the industrial B2B sector under its own steam.

In addition to these purely economic factors, a particular focus in the past financial year was on in-person events and encounters between people, which took place again at a normal level throughout the year and which had a positive impact after the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. We particularly remember the “Branchentreff spezial” – our professional get-together – which we organised in Cologne, as we did in the early days. The exuberant atmosphere on site impressively reflected the generally positive mood in the industry, unaffected by the prevailing conditions. Members, suppliers and cooperation partners really showed great appreciation for the event. It was encouraging to experience and feel the strong bond within the organisation at first hand.

“Listening, understanding, acting” is not only a requirement at our events but also the central motto of our EVOLUTION strategy and organisational development process. It helps us to adapt to the dynamic changes we are seeing, and to provide the best solutions on the market in a responsible and forward-looking manner, thereby securing the future of our organisation and expanding its performance. In the course of the past year, we have worked consistently and vigorously on the topic of digitalisation and have made some tremendous progress in this area, particularly with the targeted use of artificial intelligence.

When we talk about the future, sustainability is a key issue. As the E/D/E Group, we take our responsibility and our sustainability goals very seriously. It is not only the issue of legal regulation that is increasing the demands being placed on our members, an increasing number of customers also expect us to act sustainably. This is precisely where the sustainability activities at E/D/E come into play. We are geared towards pooling resources and services, networking partners and contributing to the future viability of our medium-sized and family-run members with competitive concepts. We take a forward-looking approach to legal requirements, look for smart solutions to meet the needs of our members and develop approaches to create differentiation potential through sustainable services.

Looking at the start of the financial year 2024, developments have, unfortunately, fallen short of our expectations once again this year, although our members’ business with industrial customers has remained relatively stable when compared to the construction business. Across all product areas, we are currently seeing a near double-digit decline overall, although differences in development are also evident here. The figures speak for themselves. In discussions with our dealers and cooperation partners, these are only partially supported by a reassuring spirit of confidence. However, we cannot currently recognise any signs of growth in the market. In addition to these current developments, structural changes and strategic issues are clearly challenging us with all our expertise. Especially in such tense times, as those we are currently experiencing, cooperations are more important than ever. Creating our own economic situation and focussing on our strengths are important levers for the further development of our business activities. By joining forces, we are able to combine our strengths to create solutions that enable further leaps in development. Irrespective of current market developments, the E/D/E will continue with its major strategic investment projects in order to achieve the necessary breakthroughs, which will then enable us to provide new and innovative services for our members, suppliers and cooperation partners and which will contribute to the success of our association.

Dr. Andreas Trautwein
Chairman of the E/D/E Management Board

The Einkaufsbüro Deutscher Eisenhändler

We are the Einkaufsbüro Deutscher Eisenhändler (E/D/E) – the European service and systems provider for the industrial B2B sector. We have approximately 1,200 affiliated members, primarily specialist wholesalers mostly supplying commercial customers in the craft sector and industry, as well as local authorities. These members deal mainly in tools and machines, industrial supply, fittings and building components, as well as products for personal protective equipment (PPE) and the technical trade, building services, and steel.

As a high-performance system headquarters, we guarantee comprehensive support to help our members strengthen their competitive position by means of centralised purchasing, logistics, marketing, digital and banking services and e-commerce. We consistently focus on our members and invest in supporting the performance and future-readiness of medium-sized industrial B2B companies. We do this by ensuring that performance in daily operations is strengthened and core business is enhanced. Guided by the requirements of the market, we are continuously expanding our services as an organiser and operator of networks for market-driven supply systems for the craft sector and industrial needs.

When Ferdinand Trautwein founded the Einkaufsbüro Deutscher Eisenhändler in 1931, it was with the conviction that every individual can benefit from being part of a strong community. He was proven right – and the strength of his idea persists to this day. E/D/E has always been the link between manufacturers and specialist dealers in the field of the industrial B2B sector.

We have a presence in 29 countries all over Europe, and employ more than 1200 people.

EVOLUTION is rooted in a broad-based strategy and organisational development process with the aim of continuously expanding the performance and future viability of the E/D/E association – for the benefit of members, suppliers and collaboration partners. EVOLUTION has established structures and routines that facilitate a spirit of organisational resilience, in order to cope with constant change and the challenging conditions that characterise a globalised and digitalised world with greater ease; in a world in which prevailing interests, influential developments and forms of collaboration are subject to constant and drastic change. The E/D/E sees it as its task to recognise such changes at an early stage and to provide SMEs with competitive and suitable solutions.

Dr Andreas Trautwein, Chairman of the Management Board: “EVOLUTION means listening carefully, understanding the matter properly, and understanding each other – and acting decisively on this basis, in order to consistently align the E/D/E Group with market requirements and to create added value for partners.”


Despite declining market development in almost all areas of the industrial B2B sector, qualitative and quantitative growth was achieved in the E/D/E. Although current economic conditions were not ideal, the E/D/E continued to focus on the important future topics for the industrial B2B sector as well as on decisive investments under the guiding principle of EVOLUTION in 2023 “Growing sustainably together and driving digitalisation forward”. Significant progress was made in the following areas:


Sustainability is something we see as a mandatory commitment for the E/D/E combined with constant endeavours at all levels. In 2023, our sustainability objectives were developed further as a guiding framework; the organisational anchoring of sustainability within our organisation and the role of cross-functional collaboration were also strengthened. This enabled significant results to be achieved in 2023. One central topic was the relief of members in the fulfilment of regulatory requirements within the broader context of sustainability.

Here, the “Prewave” software solution was used to develop and market service modules with regard to the German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act (LkSG), and the accompanying seminar programme was also expanded. Significant steps have also been taken to reduce resources and emissions. With “ÖKOPROFIT”, the E/D/E has received its first sustainability certification, and has now begun preparations for “Secured Sustainability” from the German Institute for Sustainability and Economy (DINO).

Data management

Last year, the E/D/E was able to expand its digital portfolio to include AI and cloud offerings, which strengthen and promote the competitiveness of E/D/E members in a sustainable way. For example, the new supplier data portal was configured and put into operation by way of close, intensive collaboration with the E/D/E partners and the AI provider ONEDOT, which optimally covers the requirements of the industrial B2B sector and its product ranges. Suppliers benefit from the ability to add new products and update data at any time. Members benefit from the structured improvement in data quality and upto-dateness. The new onboarding process for suppliers was launched in 2023 and will be systematically continued this year.

Another example is the new Data as a Service (“DATAcloud360”) offering, which is to be further rolled out in 2024.

Under the product name “DATAcloud360”, the E/D/E is offering its members a completely new data supply service. The special feature: this innovative, cloud-based solution provides customised product data for digital marketing and online sales. During the first stage, the focus is on merchandise management systems; the range will be further expanded in subsequent stages.

In addition to a wide range of services, the partners of E/D/E are advised on how to achieve a comprehensive transfer of knowledge and support the utilisation of opportunities in digital sales channels and increased efficiency in business processes.

Shop systems

The E/D/E has consistently developed its service portfolio within e-commerce and e-business in a differentiated manner: with SHOPCloud360, the E/D/E offers its members a cloud-based solution on the basis of the provider’s Intershop and, therefore, a leading shop technology for the industrial B2B sector. The first members are already benefiting from the new offering, including the innovative AI-based search “Sparque”.

Supply networks

There was also dynamic growth in the industrial business in 2023. 78 MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Operations) projects with a total volume of more than EUR 100 million in sales (project business) were successfully realised.

E/D/E’s constantly evolving (and comprehensive) range of supply network services formed the basis for strong growth in this area. This includes services such as consulting, analytics, procurement and intralogistics modules such as ETT and the eFabrik (MRO showroom in the E/D/E), which went into operation in 2022.

Use of AI (digitalisation/automation)

As previously mentioned, the collaboration between the E/D/E and “Prewave” – which started in 2023 – shows how artificial intelligence and modern digital solutions can make a significant contribution to fulfilling legal regulations. Our national and international members in the association thus benefit from a lean, easy-to-implement solution to fulfil the requirements of the German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act (LkSG) – to avoid additional administrative burdens.

The effective use of modern technology in the E/D/E is also demonstrated by the successful automation of manual processes. For example, the implementation of a centralised tool for recording booking transactions in the ETRIS BANK can significantly increase the speed and quality of processing.

What else was achieved as part of EVOLUTION?

Another result of EVOLUTION is the new E/D/E company restaurant. The redesigned premises have created a space for both members and employees that not only invites them to enjoy lunch together but also to exchange ideas in person. The high level of footfall confirms that this new concept works.

Another important step and milestone concerns the restructuring and ongoing development of E/D/E’s internal and external communication: with the implementation of a newsroom approach in corporate communications, the aim is to efficiently communicate relevant information to members, suppliers and collaboration partners. The results achieved so far are very encouraging. In addition, the industrial B2B sector magazine (“PVH Magazin”) has gained in terms of quality and industry focus. With its key topics such as sustainability, AI and the shortage of skilled labour, our magazine deals with precisely those issues that are currently of particular concern to the industrial B2B sector.

Outlook for the year 2024

In 2024, we will continue to consistently align our decisions and actions with our vision for the future as part of EVOLUTION. The EVOLUTION Agenda 2024 is based on the guiding principle of “Creating our own economic situation, increasing productivity and efficiency, and achieving breakthroughs to enable the E/D/E Group to make positive leaps in development – as well as fostering the necessary attitude”. The aim is to establish and develop our own economic foothold in a tight market environment by expanding the E/D/E services and reducing existing inhibiting factors in order to generate new growth opportunities for the E/D/E association.

Our aim is to increase the performance of our network through smart, market-driven product range management and a high-performance end-to-end data management process by reducing redundancies, increasing productivity and efficiency and using digitalisation, automation and artificial intelligence.

With EVOLUTION, we are working specifically on those urgently needed breakthroughs, in order to leave behind the systemic, structural and conceptual barriers that still exist today and to take our opportunities to a completely new level. One important source of leverage here is the reorganisation developed and established as part of EVOLUTION, which has already proved highly successful in recent years and will continue to be an important prerequisite for achieving the breakthroughs prepared in the future. Further information on the individual initiatives that we have launched under EVOLUTION can be found in this annual report.