An evolutionary development

At Shamir Optical, everything is set for the 2019 MIDO eyewear show, where the company will present a world preview of its new progressive lens, Autograph IntelligenceTM. Let’s find out more about this company, founded in 1972 in an Israeli kibbutz, directly from Eran Harduf, the General Manager of Shamir Italy.

How is your company organized worldwide? How has your company fared recently?
With 27 retail branches and 16 laboratories around the world, more than 2000 employees, and an annual turnover of approximately 250 million euros, Shamir Optical is today one of the leading producers of hi-tech progressive lenses, thanks to an ongoing policy of investment in research and development. Founded in 1972 in the Israeli Shamir Kibbutz of Upper Galilee, as the first factory to emerge amid the many agricultural activities, the company began by focusing on the production of bifocal glass lenses, before moving on to develop the first progressive lenses in the late seventies. For a long time, our company’s core business was offering semi-finished products to laboratories, starting off with a basic product to then develop increasingly technologically advanced items.

Which markets are most important to you?
After an initial pioneering “era”, the company entered a new phase twelve years ago when it introduced “free-form” technology and started to set up some manufacturing laboratories, beginning with one in Portugal which is now the largest in Europe. At that point, our business model evolved into maintaining marketing or production operations in each country, creating subsidiaries that dealt directly with independent opticians or chains: this policy included the subsequent acquisition of Visual Lenti in 2009, which is based in Padua and has a laboratory in Bergamo.
When the company was listed in 2005 on the US tech stock market Nasdaq, our pace and speed of growth changed considerably: a key decision in terms of our considerable innovative capabilities. With the capital gained from this transaction, we accelerated our acquisition of well-established companies, as well as the opening of totally new laboratories under our ownership. But the kibbutz spirit was in our blood, and we wanted to go back to being a privately-run company. We therefore opened our doors to the world of Essilor. After the delisting of Shamir from Nasdaq, the French giant purchased 50% of the shares of the Israeli company in 2011, while the remaining 50% stayed in the hands of approximately 350 members of the kibbutz. However, Shamir retained control of all research and development activities, as well as its know-how.
The consolidation of our company in Italy is also shown by the 2017 opening of a laboratory in Naples, one of nine companies worldwide working on the development of InoTime – high quality lenses produced with the best materials and treatments, designed in the R&D department of Shamir Optical, but with a strictly Italian-based production and fast delivery times. Furthermore, the company is planning to expand its Padua plant too. This project will take around one year, and involves a complete overhaul of all our production and internal workflow processes. We have purchased a new building of 2500 square meters to add to our existing 1500-square-meter plant, a confirmation of our intention to continue investing in Italy.

This year you will be at MIDO once again. What do you think of this event?
MIDO is an important appointment for the company, being one of the most influential events in the optics industry. Being present at MIDO means not only participating but setting oneself ongoing goals and facing new challenges relating to market changes.

What are you presenting in Milan at MIDO?
The new Autograph IntelligenceTM progressive lens, which adapts to the varying demands of presbyopia. This lens is based on the concept of Visual AgeTM, i.e. bearing in mind that as people age, their vision habits change. In order to design this lens, Shamir launched a large research program using Big Data, elements of artificial intelligence, and analyzing five million prescriptions for lenses. As I said before, Autograph Intelligence takes into account the different visual requirements of eyes in each age group: each optical design is subdivided into 12 unique design concepts that allow increased customization, in order to provide the ideal solution for each wearer.