Most of Lothar Kölschs core business is in his mind. (Images: K+S optics)
Most of Lothar Kölschs core business is in his mind. (Images: K+S optics)

K+S optics

Unique Selling Point

K+S optics is one of the hidden champions of the optics region. The company’s location really is rather hidden just the other side of the Hessian border. What makes it a champion is a unique selling point that cannot be copied.

To give them an edge over their competitors, many companies rack their brains about how to tweak or develop their core business with so-called unique selling points. That’s not an issue for Lothar Kölsch, because most of his core business is in his mind. And as he happens to have a particularly clever mind, his unique selling point is his knowledge and experience, his intelligence and circumspection.

These skills are essential and no amount of calculating or simulating can replace them in lens design. “Nowadays, optics are often designed by letting the computer do all the work. You type in data and specifications and wait to see what the computer makes of them,” explains Lothar Kölsch. “Looking at the resulting optics, an experienced lens designer can see that, although the computer didn’t get its sums wrong, the result is far from being an ideal solution.” Lothar Kölsch does not content himself with such deficits. And this is where his experience and knowledge comes in.

Optics R&D from the very beginning

In 1978, Lothar Kölsch obtained a diploma in engineering and was snapped up by Carl Zeiss in Oberkochen. “The main reason why I as a geodesist graduate started my career as an optical engineer was the fact that there were hardly any professionals specifically qualified for optics in those days,” Kölsch remembers. “I found it a terrifically exciting area of work with a wide variety of tasks.” Kölsch worked in the Optics R&D department for Zeiss, studying the theoretical principles of zoom objectives and the design of optical systems.

Seven years later he came to Wetzlar to manage the Photo Optics R&D department of the then Wild Leitz Wetzlar GmbH. In 1990 he moved to Leica Camera, where he set up the optical design and aspherical technology department. In the turbulent nineteen nineties, a decade of frequently changing shareholders and managing directors at Leica, Kölsch did important work in the technical and strategic development of cameras, lenses and sports optics before leaving the company in 2002 as Head of R&D.

Particularly broad range of services

After that, Lothar Kölsch went his own way, first with a partner and since 2013 as the sole director of K+S optics. His long and intensive experience, he says, has taught him a thing or two, particularly relating to his area of specialism. So when it comes to “leaving the beaten track and finding innovative solutions”, he can draw on in-depth knowledge. And the optics designer offers a particularly broad range of services encompassing interferometer and measurement objectives, binoculars, telescopic sights and spotting scopes, camera lenses and special surgical eyeglasses.

His main customer base is naturally in the Wetzlar region, but his excellent reputation has spread as far as the USA and Canada. “I’ve just spent a few days there defining the optical specs for a new product on behalf of a customer,” Kölsch relates. This close cooperation with customers is extremely important, he says, because the optics in all the above-mentioned areas of business are always embedded in a highly complex technical and mechatronic system. “There has to be a seamless integration of product design, electronics and optics, so the sooner I as an optics designer am involved in the product development process, the better.”

Top-level competition as competitive advantage

Kölsch has noticed that the increasing system complexity has gone hand in hand with growing demands on quality and performance. “German manufacturers in particular are turning to these traditional values to beat the competition from outside Europe.” For Kölsch, this top-level competition is a clear competitive advantage and a particularly useful trump card in cooperation with the optics companies in the Wetzlar region, no matter whether it’s a question of high-volume products or special optics manufactured in small quantities.

Every assignment requires a specific solution – Lothar Kölsch cannot offer off-the-shelf solutions. “Each customer has an exact idea of where his product has to be on the performance scale. There are a large number of specifications that may be important for one customer yet irrelevant for another.” Generally speaking, however, the optics are designed with the next technology cycle in mind, so that they do not have to be re-developed every time. Basically, that applies to all digital imaging technologies, where sensor developments are much more short-lived than optics.

So K+S optics supports the product development process from the first idea to the marketable product. Lothar Kölsch advises companies, compiles feasibility studies for innovative product concepts; he calculates and tests prototypes, inspects and checks – until the desired product is launched. And he does all this from his office in the peaceful village of Rudersberg – a hidden champion that may only be a small dot on a geographical map but features large in the optical landscape.


Weitere Informationen:

Quality and performance: The demands in lens design are growing.
Quality and performance: The demands in lens design are growing.