Sola — A 50-year-old Journey Retold

For more than 50 years, Sola has been offering superior lens products and designs, coating technologies, lab processing services, to give you world-class customer service

finger_Ian_HR finger ladyNow a division of Carl Zeiss A.G., Sola International Inc. designs, manufactures and distributes a broad range of
eyeglass lenses, primarily focusing on the faster-growing plastic lens segment of the global lens market, which the company helped develop in the 1960s. Sola’s strong global presence includes manufacturing and distribution sites in three regions including North and South America, Europe, Australia and Asia. Since its establishment in 1960, the company has produced more than two billion lenses and today, with the Carl Zeiss Vision-Care Group, sells approximately 110 million lenses annually.

Sola’s brand portfolio concentrates on four product segments: progressive lenses, photochromic lenses, coated lenses, and plastic lenses. Their primary research and development centre is located in Australia, and Sola prides itself on its particular expertise in the development of new lens materials and designs.

The majority of their mass manufacturing is located in hi-tech but low-cost production zones including Mexico, China and Brazil. Complementing these three sites are six specialised facilities located in France, Italy, Ireland, Venezuela, Australia and the United States.

From these locations, product flows to primary distribution centres located in California and Kentucky, the UK, Brazil and Australia.

Sola was founded in 1960 by a group of Australian opticians, who while working in a garage in Adelaide, helped pioneer the use of plastic lenses. The research team began their work in 1956, hoping to find a replacement for glass lenses.  The incorporation of their company, Scientific Optical Laboratories of Australia, in 1960, heralded a revolutionary development in the eyeglass lens industry.

Sola received considerable publicity in 1968 when Captain Walter Shirra, commander of the Apollo 7 spacecraft, chose Sola light-weight lenses. The first astronauts to land on the moon in 1969 also wore Sola lenses.

Sola grew for nearly two decades before it was acquired in 1979 by its first corporate parent Pilkington PLC, a glass manufacturer based in England. By the end of the 1980s, Pilkington was awash in debt and still reeling from a hostile takeover attempt made on the company in 1987. In late 1990, Sir Antony Pilkington announced the company would begin selling peripheral assets, which eventually led to the sale of Sola.

Sola’s next parent company was AEA Investors Inc., an investment firm that included only the most powerful of the world’s CEOs, the leaders of IBM, Exxon, General Motors, and a short list of other industry behemoths. AEA paid $315 million for Sola, gaining the company’s manufacturing and distribution sites in North and South America, Europe, Australia and Asia.

Sola debuted on the New York Stock Exchange in February 1995, raising $81 million from Initial Public Offering (IPO) of stock. In the wake of the IPO, Sola announced two acquisitions that would help it go a long way ahead. The larger of the two acquisitions was that of the worldwide lens division of American Optical Corp. Sola revealed in May 1996 that it had agreed to pay $107 million for
the purchase of American Optical Corp. Less than a month later, in 1996, Sola announced the $16 million purchase of Neolens, Inc. Neolens was one of the few companies with the technology to produce polycarbonate lenses, a type of plastic that could be fitted
directly into eyeglass frames.

A monumental event in the history of Sola occurred at the end of 2004 when the German optical group, Carl Zeiss, and a Swedish private equity firm, EQT Partners AB, announced they had reached an agreement to acquire Sola. The transaction was valued at $1.1 billion, 30 per cent more than Sola’s stock value when the deal was announced.

Today, Sola is a brand of the Carl Zeiss Vision Care Business Group, totally owned and controlled by Zeiss.

Sola has a rich history of innovation, particularly in lens designs. Progressive addition lenses are the premium choice for people affected by presbyopia (a natural ageing of the eye) because they offer vision correction for all correction zones from a single pair of glasses and provide a seamless transition from one distance to another. Sola sells over $245 million of progressive lenses annually.

Sola continues to promote general purpose progressive lens designs with the SolaOne family, (including freeform customised lenses SolaOne HD). SolaOne HD progressive lenses are available in a full range of thin, lightweight lens materials and treatments to maximize vision and suit lifestyle. Its anti-reflection coatings eliminate lens reflections. The Sola range is completed by the special design for small frames, Sola Compact Ultra HD.

Mr Gurmeet Singh
Mr Gurmeet Singh – Business Development Manager of Lutfi Opticals

Sola also recognises that the competitive strength in the ophthalmic lens industry requires manufacturing competency in a broad range of materials, particularly polycarbonate and other high-index substrates. Therefore, significant investments were made in their polycarbonate manufacturing capacity to meet the market’s increasing demand for this material.

In addition to being a manufacturer of ophthalmic lenses, Sola is also a supplier of world-class lens coatings and treatments. Significantly enhancing the performance of their lens products, these coatings and treatments include:
• Scratch resistant coating that prolong
the life of lenses
• Anti-reflective coatings that allow
more light to pass through the lens for
improved vision
• Photochromic treatments that darken
the lens when it is exposed to direct

In the Middle East, Lutfi is the authorised distributor for Sola and AO for UAE, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar. They follow standard operating procedures as per Sola’s guidelines and use the best hardware such as Schneider to ensure that customers are assured of the highest quality.

Mr Mahmood Zafar - Senior Manager of Lutfi Opticals
Mahmood Zafar – Senior Manager of
Lutfi Opticals

Mr Gurmeet Singh – Business Development Manager of Lutfi Opticals, says, “Since we partnered with Sola, we have initiated the
process of making the Middle East market aware of the technological superiority of Sola. I am sure the market will notice our efforts in making Sola as a brand to trust and rely on in the years to come. The USP of Sola is that it’s a technologically superior product and is being positioned in a way that still makes it affordable to the end consumer.”

“At Lutfi we have always kept pace with technology. Partnering with Sola for their products — which includes the latest freeform technology, is another step towards this,” adds Mr Mahmood Zafar – Senior Manager of Lutfi Opticals.

Perennially ranked as one of the world’s largest lens makers, Sola continues to set higher standards in lens design and material development by doing what it knows best — manufacturing excellence.

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