The new Volvo C40 relies on LED lighting technology from Wieselburg-based automotive specialist ZKW. The headlight of the all-electric electric crossover has a pixel module with 84 individually controllable LEDs. The high-tech light illuminates the road particularly efficiently, adapts dynamically to traffic and avoids dazzling other road users. A front camera and radar permanently scan the road, allowing up to five vehicles to be blanked simultaneously. The design of the high-quality pixel LED light is unique: the hammer-shaped light arc sets visual accents that are distinctive for Volvo. “For Volvo, we develop distinctive headlight designs that impress with their innovative technology and memorable appearance and increase road safety,” explains Dr. Wilhelm Steger, CEO of the ZKW Group.
The ZKW Group filed a total of 74 innovations for international patent in 2021 – 41 of which were new entries. This puts ZKW in second place in Europe among all Austrian companies that have filed inventions. In Lower Austria, the lighting systems specialist leads the 2021 patent ranking. At the top of the patented developments are high-resolution LED lighting systems and sensor solutions that mark the path to autonomous driving. “Research and development are of central importance at ZKW. Innovative solutions are crucial in order to bring premium lighting systems to the market and stay ahead of the competition,” explains Dr Wilhelm Steger, CEO of ZKW Group GmbH.
ZKW has received no less than three top-class awards in recent months. At the German Innovation Awards, the lighting systems specialist’s “Black Box” won in the “Excellence in Business to Business – Machines & Engineering” category. The fully automated robot station accelerates and simplifies the processing and quality inspection of headlight lenses. In addition, the ZKW sites in Krušovce (Slovakia) and Dalian (China) received awards for their excellent delivery reliability and quality. ZKW Slovakia received the “GM Customer Care and Aftersales On-Time Shipping Award 2021” from General Motors, while ZKW China received the “Outstanding Contribution Award” from vehicle manufacturer Geely. The awards reward the lighting systems specialist exceptional performance in Europe and China. Despite pandemic-related restrictions, ZKW was able to fulfill its supply contracts with GM and Geely on time, reliably and in high quality. “We are particularly pleased with the awards because they reward the efforts of our employees for customers worldwide,” explains Dr. Wilhelm Steger, CEO of the ZKW Group.
As of May 16, 2022, Dr. Wilhelm Steger has taken over the position as CEO of the ZKW Group. The renowned manager most recently worked as a top management consultant in the automotive industry and in the private equity environment. He has more than 25 years of management experience in the automotive industry – including well-known companies such as Siemens VDO, Continental Automotive, Delphi, Panasonic Automotive & Industrial Systems Europe and Nidec AMEC Europe. Wilhelm Steger replaces the previous ZKW CEO Oliver Schubert, who successfully led the company for six years and has decided to take on new professional challenges. “My goal is to secure a future-proof and stable development of the ZKW Group as a system supplier for premium lighting systems on the international market. At this point, I would like to express my sincere thanks to Oliver Schubert for his commitment to ZKW,” said Dr. Steger.
The all-new Range Rover illuminates the road with a new type of lighting system from ZKW. The “Digital Light Processing” LED headlights not only produce stepless, glare-free high beams that automatically block out oncoming or other road users. The smart, digital front lighting also enables animated images to be projected onto the road. In addition to the “Digital Light Processing” modules, stripeZ light modules are also offered, which are significantly smaller than conventional LED headlights – with the same performance. This enables a particularly slim design as well as a wide range of new functional options. “The digital headlights on the new Range Rover reflect our current developments and technologies. Intelligent lighting systems increase comfort, enhance road safety and mark the way towards autonomous driving,” explains Oliver Schubert, CEO of the ZKW Group.
ZKW is a partner of the Swedish electric vehicle manufacturer Polestar. The aim of the “Polestar 0” project is to develop and launch a completely climate-neutral automobile by 2030. For this ambitious project, the Wieselburg-based lighting systems specialist will develop electronic and electrical components for Polestar. ZKW is also converting to CO2-neutral production worldwide by 2025. This goal is to be achieved with energy savings, waste avoidance and the switch to green electricity. “As part of the joint project, we are investigating the potential of the circular economy to reduce the ecological footprint of our products to zero in the future. We are therefore stepping up sustainable, environmentally friendly production. By 2038, all our products are to be manufactured in a climate-neutral way,” explains Oliver Schubert, CEO of the ZKW Group.
Last year, ZKW implemented the cloud-based B2B marketplace Ariba as part of the Hercules project. This is a highly innovative implementation, and one of the most comprehensive thus far, even for the international implementation partner Apsolut GmbH, which is represented by a site in Vienna. By doing so, ZKW not only succeeded in accelerating the purchasing and approval process through digitization, but also made it more user-friendly and transparent. That was why the Wieselburg company was chosen as a finalist for the SAP Quality Award in the category of “Business Transformation.” The award has been handed out each year since 2006 for customer projects that meet the jury’s ten quality criteria. The assessment primarily covers an evaluation of strict project planning, as well as concentration on fast and cost-efficient implementation which is closely in line with the SAP standard. In addition, the results of the project must generate measurable added value and meet the demand for shorter introduction cycles and fast value creation. Hubert Buchsteiner, Group Vice President of Purchasing of the ZKW Group, is proud for the company to take its place among the finalists. Particularly because the entire team faced unexpected challenges during the parallel implementation of Ariba and S4/HANA: “The Covid 19 wave hit us shortly before the SOP in June 2020. We had to switch over to working from our home offices within a very short time. Despite these more difficult circumstances, we were able to implement all of the requirements in a timely manner and activate the new system for 1800 users. Of course, that is why we are particularly proud of being one of the finalists for the SAP Quality Award.”
After around a year of construction, the new ZKW logistics center in Wieselburg is now in operation. The highly automated warehouse system at the former parking lot on Scheibbser Straße guarantees a fast and efficient supply of materials for the entire production site. Additional assembly lines have been connected to the new system each week since mid-October. The goal is to have all 28 production lines linked to the logistics center by the first quarter of 2022. The smart warehouse not only provides additional storage capacity, but also clears up former storage areas to be used as new production space. “Thanks to the new logistics center, in the future the entire flow of goods – from receipt to manufacturing – will be fully automated and will include no extra steps to move goods into or out of storage. Now it takes just 15 minutes from the time materials are ordered on the assembly line to the time the required parts arrive” says Stefan Hauptmann, General Plant Manager for ZKW Lichtsysteme Wieselburg.
ZKW installed the first version of the pioneering LED Matrix light in the Opel Astra in 2015. Now, the next stage of development is ready to launch: With a total of 168 LED elements (84 per headlamp), the “Intelli-Lux” Pixel Lite developed by the Wieselburg lighting specialists delivers a precise and fluid lighting gradient tailored to the specific situation at hand, without creating glare for other road users. The light module and electronic components are integrated into the extra-slim front headlamps. The Intelli-Lux precisely cuts out oncoming vehicles in just milliseconds. The other areas continue to be illuminated with full high beams. “The intelligent Pixel Lite used in the new Opel Astra is setting new standards in the compact class. It provides adaptive support to the driver, ensures driving comfort, and delivers more road safety” explains Oliver Schubert, CEO of the ZKW Group.
ZKW has been manufacturing high-quality lighting systems for the NAFTA region in the Mexican city of Silao since 2016. Now, the lighting specialist is expanding the location by an additional 21,000 square meters. This step increases the production area to a total of 35,000 square meters. In addition, the company plans to hire over 600 new employees, in order to expand its staffing levels to 1,600 by 2023. The location produces front headlamps and auxiliary lamps for clients such as BMW, Ford Lincoln, Freightliner, General Motors, Mercedes Benz, Navistar and Volvo. The planned production volume is 2.2 million units per year. “The goal of the second phase of expansion is to significantly increase capacity at the site, and increase competencies in the Design, Engineering and Research & Development areas. In doing so, we value a multicultural, integrative and sustainable corporate culture” explains Jan Seumenicht, General Plant Manager of ZKW Mexico.