It's all changing at Zeiss

September 16, 2008

Recent acquisitions, division restructuring, and management changes prove that Carl Zeiss Meditec is very much committed to change. Ophthalmology Times Europe spoke with CEO, Dr Michael Kaschke about the challenges that he faces in an ever evolving market.

Recent acquisitions, division restructuring, and management changes prove that Carl Zeiss Meditec is very much committed to change. Ophthalmology Times Europe spoke with CEO, Dr Michael Kaschke about the challenges that he faces in an ever evolving market.

A member of the executive board since 2000, Dr Kaschke took Carl Zeiss Meditec public in 2002 and, more recently, was appointed Chief Executive of the firm. High profile acquisitions, such as the Acri.Tec deal last year, have posed immense opportunities, but also big challenges.

"We have entered into new territories; we really have made big steps forward into new arenas and, at the same time, we have strengthened our core business," Dr Kaschke said. "But, there is a great deal of growth potential for Carl Zeiss Meditec, which has not yet been fully achieved. We need to accelerate this process," he admitted.

The strength of the Zeiss brand in the diagnostics arena is virtually unsurpassed; however, Dr Kaschke and his team now have a big task - to transfer this reputation to the rest of the business.

Connectivity is key

Connectivity of devices is a big focus for Zeiss. According to Dr Kaschke, doctors want simplicity and, in order to give them this, Zeiss must commit to providing seamless workflow solutions. This means developing software that connects its devices. "With the width of the Zeiss portfolio, we are in a unique position to provide this," said Dr Kaschke.

"We have the systems, now we need to add the extra layer on top; the network connectivity solutions," he added. Zeiss has already begun with the addition of the Callisto software system to its Opmi Lumera microscope.

"The Zeiss brand supports three concepts: precision and superior optical quality; demonstrable outcomes; and simplicity. If we can create a simpler and superior procedure in the marriage of our systems and products, then we are being true to our brand," said Dr Kaschke.

Lens business bolstered

Naturally, as part of this enhanced product offering, who can forget last year's acquisition of German lens maker Acri.Tec. Although Zeiss already had some lenses in their product portfolio, this strategic move well and truly catapulted the company into the IOL market, giving them a significant increase in market share, literally overnight.

The Acri.Tec acquisition brought with it the Acri.LISA and the Acri.LISA toric IOLs, which have now become the flagship products of the lens business. "We have doctors all over the world that sing the praises of the these two lenses, so we are in the process of rolling it out internationally," said Dr Christian Muller, head of Zeiss's lens division.

"The lens is perceived very positively in Europe. Our target was to come up with superior and proven clinical results, which then should result in superior patient satisfaction and the Acri.LISA toric is a perfect example of that. This lens addresses multifocality, it's a microincision lens so there is no induced astigmatism during surgery, and it has a wide range of natural astigmatism correction," said Dr Muller. "It's our flagship product and it's the only lens available in the world today that offers this complete solution," he added.

"We believe we have the S-class of the IOL market," enthused Dr Kaschke. Although he admits that merging the Acri.Tec business into Zeiss's existing business has presented a challenge, he believes that it is a healthy challenge and one that has already made a positive impact on the firm.

Of course, Zeiss is not resting on its laurels. Although it believes it now has the best lenses on the market carrying its name, the market doesn't sit still. In fact, three new lenses will be added to its portfolio by the end of the year. Specifically, the firm is about to launch three yellow IOLs: Acri.Lyc 44YLC, Acri.Smart 46YLC, and Acri.Lyc 47YLC.

There has been much controversy surrounding the need for a colour filter on IOLs but, as David Morin, Product Manager at Zeiss, told OTE, if the customers want it, it's their job to provide it. "There has been a lot of demand for a yellow lens, particularly in Germany," he confirmed.

The new lenses are based on existing, clear models, which have been marketed for some time and have proven efficacy. The filter is a natural chromophore which actually mimics the filtering qualities of the natural, young crystalline lens, thus filtering violet light.

According to a report published earlier this year in the Journal of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, the lenses have excellent filtering properties. They also have high biocompatibility, strong resistance to Nd:YAG treatment and, in the microincision 46YLC model, no surgically induced astigmatism.

Asia advantages

"The lenses will be available in Europe by the end of the year. They will then be rolled out into the Asia-Pacific market," confirmed Mr Morin.

According to Dr Kaschke, Zeiss has experienced phenomenal growth in the Asian markets. "We have invested in partners in Asia-Pacific; we're making lots of investments in this market and the growth rate, even in this past year, supports our decision," he confirmed.

Naturally, expansion into Asia is no easy task and requires a different approach to that employed elsewhere. "We have made very conscious efforts in these countries to help them establish a training or deployment system. For example, we introduced the concept of service in India; service is not necessarily a philosophy in India. We made it clear, that if we wanted a sustainable ophthalmology system in India, we have to buy into the concept of service because, otherwise, what good does one of our products do if it's broken in the corner of an OR?" he questioned. "We have embarked on a challenge to provide education and to change mindsets," he added.

According to Dr Kaschke, seeing how doctors work in India has actually allowed him to learn himself. "Simplicity is something that countries, such as India, can teach you," he said.

And he admits that Zeiss is now focusing on providing this simpler, proven, and fully integrated solution to its doctors across its whole portfolio of products.

"We have to keep the pace but, at the same time, we have to do a better job of integrating our existing products and devices in order to create a better solution for our customers. We are committed this," he assured. "Certainly, growing the portfolio and adding to that the workflow solutions, is a challenge. Getting the entire organization up to this new challenge, is also a challenge," he concluded.