Could you briefly describe AO’s activity ?
AO.SOLA Optique is the second largest spectacle lenses maker on the French Market with 25% market share in volume. It employs nearly 700 people in Fougères, Brittany. Everyday the AO.SOLA Optique prescription lab delivers 26000 lenses to its French customers. AO.SOLA Optique’s objective is to be the opticians’ favourite lenses provider. AO.SOLA Optique manages 2 main brands: AO, American Optical and SOLA. It develops and launches innovative products such AO Compact (progressive lenses for small frames), SOLA One EGO (its latest individualized progressive lenses by SOLA) and Teflon coated lenses for antireflection coatings.
What’s the specificity of AO inside CVG ?
Since March 22, 2005 AO.SOLA Optique is the French subsidiary of Carl Zeiss Vision, born from the merger of Carl Zeiss ophthalmic lenses division and the former SOLA International Group. Carl Zeiss Vision is the second largest spectacle lenses maker in the world. Headquartered in Aalen – Germany, Carl Zeiss Vision employs 9200 people worldwide with a € 830 millions turnover. Carl Zeiss Vision sales a lens every 2 seconds in the world. Carl Zeiss Vision manages 3 lenses brands worldwide: Zeiss, SOLA and AO.
AO/A&R It’s a long story.
Here in France we had one of your early machines which was used to inspect and pack stock lenses however the real relationship began in 1999 when the complexity of our process began to overwhelm us. We work closely with our customers to build products for them. Oftentimes they need their own tampo print and their own envelop. By 1999 it was no longer possible to manage the complexity by adding people and machines: we needed to rethink the entire process; automate parts of it, eliminate certain steps, and standardize other parts. A&R was the ideal choice for us as they had already rethought and automated the inspection, tampo printing, and packaging steps. We began with an RX inspection machine and an envelop packaging machine. Once the A&R equipment was installed a lot of the problems the customers were experiencing disappeared: today when there is a problem it is often a question of a data field being incorrect.
Your lab is increasing intensely….
We have grown in many ways: the quantity of lenses, their complexity, the number of different products, and the add-ons that are shipped with products. The only constant is the lack of space and customers who are becoming more and more sophisticated everyday. A&R works with us to meet these requirements. It seems like someone from A&R is installing a machine or a conveyor here about every six months. If they are not installing something they are working with my team to plan the next step. In each case A&R helps us redesign our production flow and layout. The conveyors are designed, built, and programmed by A&R. We’ve had them design and build special stations for us! Sometimes new applications are added: this year we have put a Spectrometer on one machine to help us manage the coating quality.
How did A&R help you in this process.
We don’t have much space. Who does? A&R helped us redesign the inspection area: A&R proposed layouts, we’d review them, and eventually we’d find an optimal solution. In addition to machines we purchased conveyors and specialized work stations from them. When we purchase a new machine we work together on the project to redefine how the entire system can work.
What is my conclusion?
A&R helped us make a step change in the perceived quality that our customers were receiving. Our returns for manufacturing reasons decreased dramatically once the machines were installed. Before we started we would pile up job trays in 19 different places; today those piles are gone and material flows smoothly through the area. Before feedback to production was limited to saying that x numbers of lenses were rejected: now we have put in place statistical tools to manage the process. For me, the A&R relationship is one of the key reasons behind our evolution over the last five years.
Interview by Helmut Ahn, Sales Director and Sandra Fonticoli, Sales Europe.
Thanks to Bob Grace, Roberto D'Agostino, Fabrice Etienvre, Nicolas Saliot.