For this interview, I was very pleased to be hosted by Ilona Radics, Central Europe Director, Szatmár Optikai Kft., who kindly answered my questions.
(Helmut Ahn, Sales Director at A&R)
Why Mateszalka (nearly 3 hours drive from Budapest) has been chosen to install a state of the art lab like yours?
Mateszalka has a long tradition of optical knowhow. 1969 MOM (Hungarian Optical Workshops) opened the first plant in Mateszalka, what included also the production of optical lenses. In the 1990s during the privatization phase in Hungary e.g. Zeiss and Buchmann were buying parts of the MOM factory. Today Carl Zeiss Vision, Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, Hoya were the most important companies of the town, building up employees with very good expertise during the years. Specsavers & CZV having a long customer relationship, so when Specsavers analyzed various countries & options for a new plant, Mateszalka came into the scope as a very good option. Specsavers could find here excellent conditions of optical knowhow and can use those advantages, but also having advantages of suppliers next door. With the new Specsavers lab, Szatmar Optika, the region is having an additional global player producing in Mateszalka, strengthen also the optical knowhow.
SZATMAR OPTIKAI is a part of the Specsavers Group. How do you differentiate from the other labs?
We are a full member of the Specsavers group, that’s correct, and this means that in first line we will run the production as the Specsavers processes are defined and fully concentrate on our customers. Of course there are areas where we are different, as we have the – I would call it – luxury of building a production up right from the beginning, with new building, new equipment, new processes, etc, no old structures you need to inherit and then to modify. Of course we can profit & learn from the existing labs, but also using our knowhow to this new structure. We also differentiate to some labs that we will do both areas, surfacing and glazing. And of course there is also a cultural difference as Szatmar is the first Specsavers lab in this European Region, and Hungarian mentality is different to the UK mentality, what makes it also very interesting to bring those together.
How do you explain such a high degree of automation in a relatively low-labor cost country?
I think the times when you go to Hungary as a low-cost labor country and produce manually or with old used equipment are slowly over. On the one side Hungary is developing to a higher standard, on the other, when you want to produce good quality, high standards, and high volumes in short times, you need some level of automation. A&R equipment is a standard equipment what you need to ensure the quality of your products and your processes. This lab will produce high volumes in short times, so you must have automation.
In your case, what are the advantages of automation?
To ensure the quality of our products and our processes and therefore to provide best service to our customers. Automation helps us to push high volumes in a relatively short time through.
What’s your conclusion?
The situation for Szatmar is very unique, building a production right from the beginning, using the knowhow of existing Specsavers Labs, but also of the professionals of this region, using state-of-the-art equipment & processes, but also bringing two cultures together. I think it is the combination of all those factors, making the next years for Szatmar Optika so interesting and challenging.