Swarovski Optik have long been associated with outstanding quality in the world of optics. Our buyer Matt Dugard was recently invited to their factory in Austria for a sneak-peak behind the scenes.
Swarovski Optik is a family run business, founded in 1949, and are market leaders in high-end optics. Renown for the quality on their binoculars and spotting scopes, we headed over to see what makes Swarovski Optik products so special.
The factory is situated in Absam - a stunning alpine valley just outside of Innsbruck (Austria), surrounded by snow-capped peaks and beautiful countryside. With an abundance of wildlife and alpine views, it is the perfect location for searching the far-off vistas – where better to test binoculars?
Our visit started with a brief overview of the history of the company. What became immediately clear is that Swarovski Optik is a company that prides itself on working to their values – they are intrinsic to the company and this was a theme that was reinforced throughout our stay.
Many companies claim this – it is, of course, a useful PR tool. With Swarovski Optik it soon became clear that this was instilled from the top-down. For example, we were told that sustainability was important. This was exemplified by the factory roofs - covered in grass to blend into the environment and decrease their carbon footprint. This grass becomes a temporary home to nesting birds, and is not cut until the fledgelings have flown the nest. A small detail, but it paints the picture.
After being debriefed on their product range (including the new CL Companion binoculars and the BTX eyepiece for their spotting scopes / digiscoping), we were let loose into the valley to put them through their paces.
It was a beautiful environment, and being able to examine it in detail from the valley floor, without having to hike from peak to peak, was very relaxing. We came frustratingly close to capturing a Finch perched on top of a tree (via digiscoping). With our Nikon D850 attached to an 85mm Objective Module with an ATX eye-piece, we finally pulled focus, and just as our finger inched toward the shutter button… it flew off! Frustrating, but that’s just nature for you.
During the factory tour it was clear that each part of the factory was uniquely designed for each manufacturing process. The workshops were well lit to allow easy inspection of each part coming off the production line, while the inspection areas were dimly lit with work lights on each bench to allow detailed inspection of lens elements free form unwanted light. The assembly area was more reminiscent of a medical facility with employees in lab coats - great care is taken to eliminate any chance of foreign particles finding there way into the finished product.
We saw lots of impressive examples of the manufacturing process, but a few stood out among the rest. Swarovski Optik have an apprenticeship training scheme where students as young as 15 are trained over the course of 3.5 years to become either Precision Opticians of Precision Engineers. We saw apprentice opticians sculpting glass by hand, using peddle powered turntables to shape and polish glass.
One task that these apprentices have to undertake is creating a glass inspection tool used to check the lens elements that come off the production line - this piece has to be so precise that it cannot be created by a machine. Throughout we were impressed by the cleanliness and organisation of the students - every tool had its place and there was never an item left out of place. Organisation is a value Swarovski Optik hold dear and is a requirement of any of their employees.
Sticking to these they ensure they produce outstanding products and have a happy and efficient workforce.
One of their values is that ‘People are at the heart of our business’ - this shows in their final product, and explains why they are a market leader in the optics business.
See our range of Swarovski Optik products
By Park Cameras on 24/05/2018
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