Innovation and Creativity

I knew the scientists, engineers and experts at Rodenstock , all excellent people as regards education and personal involvement. But we Germans  are too concentrated on the continuous improvements of existing products to solidify the Made in Germany. When I arrived at Paris and discovered the laboratories of  Research & Development activities distributed between Rue Pastourelle and Saint Maur, I realized that Essilor had invested much more in creation of new products and new ideas.  French engineers are very open to new ideas, not only improvements of existing technical solutions but on the lookout for entirely new concepts. It is not by chance, that it was in France, that in the 1950’s the first progressive lens Varilux and the first spectacle lens from organic CR39 were introduced on the market. 

 

A good example for this sense of innovation was the product Composite. One of my first projects in France next to the launch of Varilux Multi Design was to prepare the relaunch of this hybrid lens. The outstanding benefit of the plastic lens is its low weight, the annoying drawback is that without protection it scratches. The solution of this dilemma, Composite, was a lens with a plastic core “wrapped” by two very thin shells of mineral glass. The geometry of these shells was corresponding to the spherical or cylindrical power of the prescription spherical or toroidal. Finally the complicated production process, the limited power range,  but especially the arrival of efficient hard-coatings on the market  stopped its commercialization, but it remains a good example for the ingenuity of Essilor’s scientists.

 

In the following years I had the opportunity to convince myself of these remarkable characteristics of Essilor’s R&D people, a curious mind, keen to experiment with new ideas and open to take risks. It was unforgettable to work with Jean Louis Mercier, Christian Miege, Jean-Pierre Chauveau and their teams developing Varilux Comfort. Their extensive and innovative research work allowed us to design a lens, taking into account new findings about head posture comfort and head and eye movements, new aspherical surfaces, smoother than all generations before and optimized according to a Design Loop based on physiological tests. Varilux Comfort became the most sold progressive lens brand ever.

 

As I explained already I regularly met French managers in our overseas subsidiaries. Even if the French sometimes have some problems in foreign countries, where people do no not speak French, these executive people were enterprising, adapting easily to the culture, particularly in Asia, but also in the USA. So they helped Essilor to build their subsidiaries all over the globe preserving its independence and initiative. Rodenstock had acted differently. In many countries they were represented by distributors . As a distributor can quite easily terminate the contract with a supplier and change to a competitor, Rodenstock’s concept was fragile.  Essilor’s business benefitted enormously from its turnover abroad , particulary USA. So still head to head at the beginning of the 1980’s, with the time the gap between Essilor and Rodenstock Essilor grew bigger and bigger.