LED Linear – A new concept of light
First impressions can be misleading. You would never be able to tell from the company headquarters of LED Linear in the Neukirchen-Vluyn business park that a globally successful company is housed in this small, concealed building. The firm was launched in a garage in 2006. Since then it has grown by an average of 135 percent every year. Production operations have now been relocated to 3,500 m² in Duisburg, and the formerly one-man-show now has 100 staff.
When Carsten Schaffarz became self-employed, many people thought he was crazy. Not because they didn’t trust him to run his own firm, but because of the product, LED. The new lighting technology was conquering more and more market share all round the world, but the Chinese already dominated the market with cheap products. How would ‘Old Germany’ compete? The clue is in the second part of the company name, which could easily be overlooked because it’s not perhaps immediately clear what LED Linear means. The company based in Neukirchen-Vluyn does not supply light bulbs with LED technology that light up a room at several points, but integrates LED elements into linear parts that are flexible or rigid and can replace much more than just normal neon tubes (T5). Many people did not see the potential of this product at first and mocked it as “Christmas lighting”. But now the products from Neukirchen-Vluyn are in demand worldwide and regularly win design and technology awards every year. They were used for the German national garden show in Koblenz, the Fullerton Pavillon, a floating restaurant in Singapore, and on cruise ships such as the Equinox at the Meyer Werft shipyard. And everyone has probably already seen the LED lighting wrapped round the granite stones at Friedrich-Ebert-Platz in front of Germany‘s Reichstag building in Berlin – live or on television. Of course, the Google Tech Campus in California and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai have the technology too.
Dr. Michael Kramer has been on board since 2009. The mechanical engineer was previously managing director of the LED division of Europe’s largest manufacturer of light components. A recent business studies graduate, Schaffarz worked there after a brief “excursion” to Deutsche Bank. That’s how the two got to know each other, and together they came to the conclusion that the innovation on the rapidly growing LED market could be served faster and more effectively with their own company than in a large corporation selling many different products.
Today the company slogan confidently claims “We think lighting”. And despite all the prophecies of doom – “they must be mad” – the former employees have never regretted becoming self-employed, not for a second. The doctor of engineering and the business studies graduate are both creative minds and complement each other perfectly. While the entire country was celebrating the fairytale World Cup in Germany in 2006, Carsten Schaffarz was tinkering about in his garage in Rheinberg developing new products. Dr. Kramer became a shareholder, and in 2009 came fully on board. Both say that doing everything themselves back then, all the tasks that are usually shared among many in large companies, was a massive challenge. There were all the odds and ends as well, like writing invoices, packaging up parcels, going to the post office. But after a year the garage was too small, and the growing company moved to Moers into the Eurotec technology park. They reflect on the early days with pride: “We generated revenue from day one.” The small business got off to a great start. The simple idea of stretching out individual light points linearly proved to have a very promising future. It already became obvious in 2005 that LED was going to revolutionize the lighting market. The technology saves a great deal of energy and is longer-lasting than conventional light bulbs.
With high-quality Japanese LED technology, German craftsmanship and American standards, LED Linear is a global success. In 2010 the young company moved to Neukirchen-Vluyn, production began in a hall measuring 800 m2, and in 2012 it rented a 3,500 m2 hall in Duisburg. Here the company develops and produces individual lighting systems based on the modular principle. The modular construction kit fills a thick catalog which opens many possibilities for architects, designers, and light planners. The technology from Neukirchen-Vluyn is also now available in selected light stores such as “Licht im Raum” in Düsseldorf. Lamps are possible and can be made from one meter to 10 meters. While the technological possibilities for fluorescent tubes have been exhausted, LED technology continues to evolve. Even today energy savings of 65 percent for school classroom lighting are possible. In future lighting will become even more intelligent: lamp sensors will respond flexibly to movements and lightness outside. The mentality of end customers will have to shift somewhat in future too, for even high-value luxury kitchens are still being equipped with conventional light elements.
The young company exports around 80 percent of the products it manufactures. This year it accomplished a turnover of 15 million euros. Out of the 100 staff, 35 work at the company headquarters in Neukirchen-Vluyn, 45 at the production site in Duisburg, 20 worldwide in sales. They are very pleased with the location in the Niederrhein for its connections to the autobahn network. The Internet connections could be expanded further, especially for Duisburg. As for the business park in Neukirchen-Vluyn, they would like to see fresh professional cuisine on offer as an alternative to fast food.
As at: September 2014
LED Linear GmbH
Tel. 02845 98462-0
Fex 02845 98462-120