Business

Versailles factory scores a North American first

VERSAILLES — The Osram Sylvania lamp plant in Versailles is now making a new energy-efficient fluorescent light, a potentially huge energy- and money-saver for offices, arenas, stores and any place that uses banks of overhead lights.

The Versailles plant showed that it could make the Pentron T5 lamps, the industry word for fluorescent tubes and light bulbs, cheaply enough to beat out competition from Osram Sylvania's overseas plants, said Stephanie Anderson, spokeswoman for the company.

"Currently, there is no T5 lamp production in North America. This is the first one," Anderson said.

Until production began recently in Versailles, the T5 lamps used in North America were imported from Osram Sylvania plants in Europe and China, where wages and other production costs are often lower than in the United States.

A $30 million assembly line has been installed at the Versailles plant, which makes 210 million lamps of various types each year. Twenty to 25 employees work the T5 line, which will produce more than 10 million lamps a year.

T5 refers to the fluorescent tube's diameter, about five-eighths of an inch, said Peter Lawler, general manager of Osram Sylvania fluorescent production in North America.

"We are hoping for a second T5 line (to be added) in 2010," Lawler said. Space has been reserved in the 515,000-square-foot plant for that line.

The plant also makes the older T12 and T8 lamps, said Osram Sylvania CEO Charlie Jerabek, who was in Versailles on Monday for the official activation of the new line.

The T12s and T8s are larger and require more electricity to produce less light than the T5, Jerabek said. In many cases, fewer T5 lamps are needed to equal the light from older lamps.

Big-box stores, government facilities and other major users of fluorescent lights can save thousands of dollars a year with the new lamps, he said.

"These days there are a lot of companies that want to call themselves 'green,'" Jerabek said. "They can go green while we're going red, white and blue," a reference to the American plant's success in winning the T5.

There will be no immediate increase in employment, Anderson said, but the T5 is expected to preserve existing jobs and might lead to increases in employment later.

The plant has about 550 workers. An additional 250 work at an adjacent glass plant that makes fluorescent tubes and at a distribution center. The company also employs 225 at a halogen lamp plant in Winchester.

Osram Sylvania has 25 plants in North America. It is operated by Osram GmbH, a subsidiary of Siemens AG, a German company that is one of the world's largest electronics makers.

Osram Sylvania has 9,500 employees worldwide and reported revenues of $633.3 million in 2007.

  Comments