ZEISS offically opens Cambourne site with strong message over Brexit
ZEISS officially opened its state-of-the-art new Cambourne site with a message that Brexit will not shake its commitment to the UK.
Home to the global manufacturing centre of Carl Zeiss Microscopy Ltd and to Carl Zeiss Ltd, the sales and support operation centre for the ZEISS Group in the UK, the building on Cambourne Business Park is home to nearly 200 people.
They gathered at ZEISS House last Wednesday to hear Dr Jochen Peter, a member of the executive board of Carl Zeiss AG and head of ZEISS Industrial Research and Quality, hail the site as a “testament to the modernity and dynamism that ZEISS embodies today”.
The multinational optics and optoelectronics company, which creates microscopes, medical technology, industrial and consumer products, moved from its previous home in Cherry Hinton to facilitate growth.
Dr Peter told those gathered: “ZEISS was founded by a very talented engineer and remarkable scientists more than 170 years ago. And 125 years ago, ZEISS opened its first non-German subsidiary here in England. This marked the start of a very successful global expansion.
“Today, globally, we employ more than 30,000 people, we operate in more than 50 countries and we run 60 centres, like the one here, and we have more than 30 production sites and 25 development sites.
“As you can see, ZEISS has a long tradition in Britain. We generate a revenue of more than 150 million euros and we employ more than 600 people in this country, and close to 200 at this location.
“The UK is one of the most important markets for ZEISS.
“Our sales and services company and a significant part of the electron microscope business are now located here. These companies have now been consolidated in this one building and we offer a really modern and open office space with a variety of collaborative spaces.”
The building, which has no designated office spaces, would “strongly foster the collaboration within the ZEISS teams”, he predicted.
“We have a long history of lean manufacturing and I think we have now achieved the next level with this state-of-the-art facility,” he added.
“By using a very smart approach to building management, we were able to reduce our carbon footprint at this site as well, which I think is extremely important given the challenges we are facing.
“We are really committed to our operations in Britain, just as we are committed to our ZEISS brand promise. ZEISS will not be shaken in our efforts to be here in Britain for our customers.
“We have very long established business relationships with our customers and, of course, we have very important and strong relationships with a lot of business partners, universities and research institutes, especially in this part of the country.
“We greatly value the market and customers in Britain, even in the light of the uncertainty surrounding the potential Brexit.
“So rest assured, our employees here are and will remain very important for the ZEISS Group. We are convinced that together we can overcome all potential challenges that may arise from a possible Brexit. Our faith in this strong team here is the main reason we are investing here and expanding our infrastructure in the UK.
“The executive board of ZEISS AG believes that this site is an extremely fine example of our brand promise and I can assure you we will do everything we can to make our customers more successful and to make this an inspirational place to work.”
Dr Peter handed over a gift of photographs taken on the Apollo 11 mission to the moon with the aid of ZEISS technology – a reminder, he said, of the “drive to go beyond what is possible”.
As a global brand, ZEISS invited Susannah Poulton, international trade adviser for life science at East of England Department for International Trade, to speak at the launch. Pointing to the department’s 30 commercial specialists in the East of England that “live and breathe exports”, she said: “There has been a commitment from the government to expand British business strategy in life science. Our department has grown and has been given more importance. To think global and act global is at the root of everything
With 97 per cent of products manufactured in Cambourne due to be exported, that goes for ZEISS too.
Daniel Aldridge, managing director of Carl Zeiss Microscopy Ltd, explained to the Cambridge Independent: “Half of what we produce goes to China. It’s cooling a little bit now but for the last decade it has really grown.”
This was a direct consequence, he said, of economic growth in China, where significant investment in materials research and steel mills had led to strong demands for ZEISS products.
But he stressed that the company had a variety of customers across industry and academia, and was forecasting further growth.
Just as well, then, that there is scope to expand the electron microscope manufacturing business at Cambourne.
“We are about 75 per cent capacity,” he said. “We will fulfil about 630 orders here. We have capacity on a single shift to go up to 800. If we went to a night-shift, we could get close to double, but there would be a lot to do to go to a double shift and we would have to take on additional people.”
The production team moved into Cambourne Business Park at the end of March, with the rest following six weeks ago.
“We looked at lots of buildings in different areas but there was a limited choice in this region that had the office space and manufacturing capability we needed. It came down to two and this was chosen because of the neighbourhood.
“There is good access and a nice environment. The building is fantastic and the environment is so much better than what we had previously.”
Managing director says Zeiss is forecasting growth
Paul Adderley, MD of Carl Zeiss Ltd, began his career in South Africa, selling microscopes in Johannesburg, where they were commonly used in mining operations.
“I’ve been at ZEISS 25 years. One of the things ZEISS is really good at is helping people develop careers and look at opportunities,” said Paul.
“I came to the UK as the managing director for the sales and services organisation in 2009 and at the time we were in Welwyn Garden City.
“I couldn’t figure out why we had these two businesses so far apart, so the first thing I said was let’s bring them together.”
Having united them in Cambridge, the business enjoyed further growth.
“Then inevitably we ran into space pressures,” explained Paul. “There was no sign the growth was going to slow, so it made sense to look for a new type of facility that also reflects the image of the company, but to stay within the Cambridge area and Silicon Fen. Cambridge University is one of our biggest customers.”
The company spends about 10 per cent of it annual revenue on research and development, helping it to keep at the cutting edge of optoelectronics.
“We’ve got a number of facets to the business,” said Paul. “We have the research and microscopy solutions business, we have an industrial quality solutions business housed in Rugby, we have a medical technology business and a consumer products. Each plays an important part in the overall size of the business in the UK.
“About 35-40 per cent of our business is split between the medical technology and microscopy business, with the remainder in the industrial quality solutions and consumer optics. Medical technology is split between eyecare and microsurgery. The markets we are served are linked to growing macroeconomic trends so we expect to continue to see growth.”
More by this authorPaul Brackley