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70 years of company history

Zumtobel Lighting
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From a family business to an international lighting group

70 years ago the company, initially a family business, started manufacturing ballasts for the newly introduced fluorescent light fitting technology: in 1950 Dr. Walter Zumtobel founded “Elektrogeräte und Kunstharzpresswerk W. Zumtobel KG”. At the time, the replacement of incandescent lamps by fluorescent lamps marked the beginning of a new era in lighting technology and prompted to Dr. Walter Zumtobel start producing luminaires only two years later. His two sons, Jürg und Fritz Zumtobel, succeeded Dr. Walter Zumtobel in managing the company for more than two decades starting in the 1980s. Having served as CEO for 22 years, Jürg Zumtobel handed over the management to an external CEO for the first time in 2003 and took over as Chairman of the Supervisory Board. Since the IPO in 2006, the Zumtobel family has remained a stable core shareholder with a stake of today roughly 37%. In May 2020, the two long-standing Supervisory Board members Jürg and Fritz Zumtobel retired from the company. At the same time, Karin Zumtobel-Chammah was elected new Chairwoman of the Supervisory Board.

Today the Zumtobel Group has roughly 6,000 employees worldwide and is one of the leading providers of innovative lighting solutions, lighting components and related services in Europe. Roughly a third of all employees work at the home location in Dornbirn, making the Zumtobel Group one of the largest employers in the Vorarlberg region. Having trained more than 800 apprentices since 1964, the Zumtobel Group has a long tradition in and attaches great importance to training junior staff. Due to its outstanding commitment to apprentice training the company has been recognised with the “Outstanding Apprentice Programme” distinction, which is awarded by the Vorarlberg Chamber of Commerce, for more than 30 years.

“Our lighting expertise and the experience gained in our company’s 70-year history form the basis for the Zumtobel Group’s successful path towards the future. Thanks to our strong brands, their innovative products and lighting solutions and our long-standing know-how of the effect of light on people, we can build on proven strengths. Then as now, research and development is a fundamental prerequisite for sustainable success,” CEO Alfred Felder summarises and adds, “We see enormous potential for innovation and growth with light as a key element in digital communication. We have set the course in this direction and are delighted to make an active contribution to shaping the future of light.”

External growth leads to international presence

Having emerged from the core brand Zumtobel, the group today consists of the globally operating acdc, Thorn, Tridonic and Zumtobel brands, whose acquisitions have driven growth, the development of new market segments – for example with the acquisition of the German Staff Group in the 1990s – and internalisation. The Zumtobel Group has a global presence, which is reflected in its production sites on four continents as well as distribution partners in over 90 countries, and not least by the 70 different nationalities of the Group’s employees.

Innovation as a success factor

Driven by Dr. Walter Zumtobel’s technical background and scientific curiosity, innovation and sustainable thinking have characterised the long-term orientation of the young company from the outset in the 1950s – and have been firmly embedded in the entrepreneurial mindset until today.

The headquarters in Dornbirn is the research and development centre of the lighting group and serves as an innovation hub within the Zumtobel Group: with strong competence and a high level of technological expertise, a leading patent portfolio in Austria – more than 8,000 active intellectual property


rights, including 5,000 patents and 145 newly registered inventions in the 2019/20 financial year – the lighting group is one of Austria’s most innovative companies. In an increasingly connected and digital world, the company considers product innovation a fundamental requirement for sustainable success and therefore invests heavily in the development of new products.

Based on findings of the non-visual effects of artificial lighting, Zumtobel is currently developing a groundbreaking technology which allows LED lighting to imitate natural day better than ever before. In practice, this marks a new path in the artificial lighting of interiors, reconciling the human need for daylight with the increasing amount of time spent in artificial environments.

New Light Forum: long-term investment in the home location

In March 2019, the conversion of the old Zumtobel factory hall into a new Light Forum on an area of 4,000 square metres in Dornbirn’s Höchsterstrasse was kicked off. About a year later, just in time for its 70-year anniversary, the company has put the old building structure to sustainable use and created a unique place of light, where the Zumtobel Group can permanently display its full brand spectrum and potential as an international lighting company.

“As we are deeply rooted in the Vorarlberg region, it is important to us to contribute to the sustainable utilisation of an existing building by reusing the old factory hall,” says Zumtobel Group CEO Alfred Felder. “In doing so, we are making a long-term investment in the future of our company as well as in the further development of the regional economic area.”

As a meeting point and place of exchange, the new Light Forum will also be open to external users in the future, offering a space for art and culture in order to promote the interaction of society and business in urban space.

“Zumtobel comes from innovation. It has always been important to us to be close to our customers and to grow together with our customers. What my grandfather and also my father have always stood for is still very present today: always being open to the outside, being inspired from outside as a company while at the same time learning to delegate, to share knowledge in order to make more of it at the end of the day. That is part of our DNA. And that is also the idea of our new Light Forum: it should be an open space, a place of exchange and meeting people. It is extremely important that people from outside are invited inside so that we can create new lighting solutions for our customers together,” says Karin Zumtobel-Chammah, Chairwoman of the Supervisory Board of the Zumtobel Group.

The future of light is digital

In the era of digital transformation, software-based services and solutions are increasingly gaining importance. With its software competence centre in Porto, which opened in 2019 and is operated by the lighting technology subsidiary Tridonic, the Zumtobel Group invests in this rapidly growing business segment. The link for Porto is the headquarters in Dornbirn as a research and development centre. The Zumtobel Group has thus set its course for the new era of digital lighting.

70 years Zumtobel
70 years Zumtobel

In 2020, Zumtobel Lighting is celebrating 70 years of existence

View to the first Zumtobel Lighting factory in Dornbirn

Early days in our laboratories

Development of the products

Production facility in Dornbirn

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