Entertainment electronics – The current Interview

Television screens are getting flatter and bigger.
“The Days of CRT
Are Far from Over”

Dr. Udo Ungeheuer, responsible for the Strategic Business Unit Display Solutions on the Management Board of SCHOTT GLAS, talks about the future of TV glass components and SCHOTT’s evolution to a full-range provider of displays.

The demise of television based on cathode ray tube (CRT) technology is constantly being predicted. How near is the end?

Dr. Ungeheuer: It is a well-known fact that those whose death is predicted often live longer. The cathode ray tube is a prime example of this. SCHOTT and its partners in the industry believe that this mature technology will remain literally “on the air” at least for the current decade. The TV tube is enjoying remarkable market growth worldwide in 2002, with an estimated production of almost 160 million units. We expect the TV tube to expand its market position in the long term because of its value for money, even though a whole number of new display technologies are trying to break into the market.

Does the same apply to PC monitors?

Dr. Ungeheuer: The situation here is somewhat different. As a result of the worldwide crisis in the IT/telecommunications industry, the segment has suffered a decline of 30 percent. Innovative LCD displays were equally affected, but they were able to emerge from the slump stronger than before and have since been able to increase their market share.

Is development work on cathode ray tubes still being carried out?

Dr. Ungeheuer: More than ever. We have seen a high rate of innovation with cathode ray tubes in the last ten years. Intensive development work has enabled the CRT to fend off the new display technologies, and it continues to offer customers additional benefits. However, the high rate of innovation can only be maintained in collaboration with strong partners. Examples of our product innovation include completely flat screens as well as lighter and less bulky funnels. We have also shown ourselves to be a reliable partner in improving production processes.

Speaking of improved processes – is there a potential for improvement in what is now a mature CRT production process?

Dr. Ungeheuer: Of course. We are constantly working on improving our processes, from new melting technologies to finishing. As part of the recently introduced EFQM process, we have also identified new potential, which project groups are already working to optimize. We also see great promise in the field of logistics, in which SCHOTT has made a name for itself with its innovative ideas. These include the introduction of KAN-BAN – the “warehouse on wheels” concept – and the transfer of our internal logistics operations to an outside service provider. In all our considerations, customer benefit is always at the top of our priorities.

But SCHOTT is also investing in LCD displays. Are you not creating competition within your own organization?

Dr. Ungeheuer: SCHOTT is developing into a full-range display provider. Special glass for CRT tubes and thin glasses for display applications complement each other in our portfolio. Apart from investing in the classical CRT area, we have developed new processes for manufacturing thin glasses for LCDs. At the beginning of September, we celebrated the inauguration of a TFT melting tank in Jena with our potential customers and partners. A measure of the faith we have in the future of CRT is the fact that, in the last three years, we have invested double-digit millions of euros in our CRT glass manufacturing operations in Germany and the Czech Republic, primarily in expanding capacity and increasing efficiency. There are already firm plans for more investments in the years to come.