Monday, 5 April 2010

Osram drives energy-efficiency efforts by example

(Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff)
By Erin Ailworth
Globe Staff / April 4, 2010

Rick Leaman assumed the helm of Osram Sylvania in October. As chief executive of the lighting manufacturer, which is the North American operation of Osram GmbH, a subsidiary of Siemens AG, Leaman runs Osram’s consumer, professional, and specialty business units in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. Leaman sat down with reporter Erin Ailworth to talk about energy-efficient lighting, the environment, and how he’s adjusting to his new role.

Osram Sylvania is a big player in the lighting world, and the company seems to be using that “street cred’’ to push its customers to become more eco-conscious when choosing among lighting technologies. Why?
Osram Sylvania is the number one lighting company in America. We’re on the forefront of driving energy efficiency. I like to say we’re working on the phase in [of environmentally friendly lights] and we have some exciting new technology available for consumers today. We have the compact fluorescent, which everyone is familiar with. And we’re moving toward LED [light emitting diode] replacements, and we have roughly 20 [types of] LED light bulbs. That’s where the future is going.
The fact of the matter is that lighting provides a great opportunity for energy savings. I see Osram Sylvania clearly leading this transition toward energy-saving products. I see Osram Sylvania’s role as one of educating the consumer and explaining the benefits of these energy-saving alternatives. We can provide better light savings — an impact to their wallet. We can also help save the planet.
The company publishes an annual report about consumer awareness of the lighting industry. How else does the company educate consumers about new, more efficient lighting technologies?
The LED gets a lot of play these days and we’re the number two LED producer worldwide.
With discussions like this we can start getting the word out. It’s important that consumers start to understand what impact lighting has [on the environment]. Some of these large buildings, the electricity bill due to lighting could be upwards of 30 percent of their bill.
We have an opportunity to improve energy efficiency, we have an opportunity to improve the lighting quality, we have an opportunity to do what’s right for the environment.
How is Osram Sylvania implementing those beliefs within the company?
[At Osram Sylvania], we have reduced energy over 22 percent over the last three years. We really push for recycling, trying to get cardboard out of the operation, plastics out of the operation. It starts internally. We are a company that not only provides energy-saving opportunities, we’re also a company that practices, so that in the communities where we work I think we’re a very good role model.
You moved into this position fairly recently. How is it going?
Realistically, I started at the beginning of July [working with predecessor Charlie Jerabek]. It’s a great time to be in the lighting business. There’s a lot of change happening and it’s a good opportunity to drive some energy-efficiency and green activities.
Tell me about your history with the company.
I have been with Sylvania for 25 years, so it goes back quite a while. Right out of college, I was in the steel industry and got caught up in that downturn. And when a lot of things went offshore, I got laid off, and so I was in the job market and I saw this company called Sylvania. And off I went.
What attracted you to the company?
Just the variety of the products and just the different markets that we were able to serve was really quite interesting to me. When I first got out of college, I was an industrial engineer and I did that for three years with US Steel. Then I moved to industrial engineering with Sylvania. Then I got recruited into the sales and marketing group, and that was the beginning of the upward movement.
What did your work at US Steel teach you that you’re now putting to use at Osram Sylvania?
The needs of the hourly worker. Early on in my career, I would say I got a good foundation to understand what motivates people and job satisfaction.