Interview: Tomaž Jurejevčič, Hella Saturnus
How do trends in energy efficiency affect your development?
They set the global direction and customer expectations. Apart from preparing solutions in advance, we need to be proactive and conduct research in order to prepare potential solutions. Our activities revolve around producing automotive headlights and fog lights and since beginning of this year, we have the global responsibility for single function lamps in the Hella Group. We use classic halogen (incandescent) technology, xenon burners and for the last three to four years we have been using LED technology which is developing rapidly. Every year the intensity of LED diodes increases approximately 20% and new diodes, enabling us to realise more and more demanding headlight function, enter the market.
What are the greatest benefits of LED technology?
First is energy efficiency. In comparison to a classic light bulb where only 3%-4% of supplied energy transforms into light, LED diodes transform up to 30%. Another benefit is its life expectancy. While 2,000 hours is a great achievement for lifelong bulbs, LED diodes last up to 20,000 hours or more. Once you have it in the car it's basically forever and this reduces the need for further lamp production for maintenance. Moreover, LED products are lighter and smaller, thus reducing the consumption of fuel for transport. There are however some limitations to LED as the increased electricity temperature reduces the luminous intensity which is just the opposite effect to classic bulbs. Thus heatsinks need to be installed in the system which automatically enlarge its energy footprint. So our job is to find and make a good compromise between what is needed and what is technically bad.
Where is LED used?
Primarily we produce lamps for the automotive sector but in the past two years we've expanded to industrial lightning where LED is used in street lamps, buildings, airports, parking spaces and interiors. This field is very interesting from the business perspective as it involves municipal investment constrained by certain budgets. We are able to offer them tailor-made solutions in the modular sense. Our products are very qualitative and due to their modularity, appropriate for long-term maintenance as we also offer retro-fitting using standardised spare parts.
How big is LED production in Hella Saturnus?
Our automotive products are multifunctional and combine LED and halogen lights, so it is difficult to say. However, in the past two years approximately 40% of our products incorporate LED technology. If we discuss trade, LED has been included in 60% or even 70% of it. The discrepancy lies in the fact that high-end headlamps include LED technology whilst fog lights, which are mass produced and thus cheaper than headlamps, do not.
Do you plan to increase the figures?
Most definitely. Part of our strategy is to include LED technology in all our products in the next two or three years and we are already preparing for this. We have invested in people and new development capacity; we have employed experts with new profiles, i.e. engineers for electronics, hardware and software; we are training people and making investments in development and laboratory equipment. These are completely new circumstances and therefore we need to adjust our production, purchasing and logistics processes. We are also networking and incorporating knowledge from other locations within the Hella Group and at the same time, gaining our own experience by working on concrete development projects. Our development is heading in the direction of energy efficient technologies.
What are your plans for the future?
In the last financial year we surpassed our plans and are very satisfied. However, we are not stopping there as our goal is to become the leading producer of lighting equipment. We have already started preparing ourselves by employing new personnel for project development - in the last two years we've employed 88 new development engineers and we plan to employ 30 more. Every year we develop around 30 projects and it will be the same in the future. Projects are our life and usually we are personally engaged in more than one at the same time.