People in Lighting: Jean-Luc Lambert

Jean Luc Lambert - Schréder Urban Deco Business Segment Manager
Jean-Luc Lambert
Business Segment Manager - Urban Deco

Companies are defined by the people who work for them: for over a century, Schréder has been at the forefront of lighting thanks to its employees worldwide. Throughout 2021 we’ll be focusing on the people who make Schréder what it is, including their career path, landmark projects and their thoughts on where lighting is headed next.

Jean-Luc Lambert is Schréder's Urban Deco Business Segment Manager. He joined the company back in 1988, after studying electro-mechanical engineering and a brief stint working on fluids in Belgium’s world-renowned beer industry. Since then, he’s lit roads, public squares, tunnels and bridges worldwide, as well as helping cities create their own identity with customisable lighting solutions. Here, he reflects on his career at Schréder so far.

When I joined Schréder, they invested in the very latest technology: computer-aided design...

It was a huge investment: the EUCLID software from Matra Datavision they bought cost 1 million Belgian Francs, enough to buy a house at the time. At the time, it wasn’t straightforward to send huge files or ensure compatibility with other systems, but it still changed everything - we could send the designs straight to the toolmaker for the high-pressure moulds of aluminium and plastic injection. The Floodlight Radial "RD2" was the first lantern we designed on it, and it really stood the test of time.
 

I joined a special R&D team, which gradually expanded...

I came into the company as part of the R-Tech R&D Centre, a small unit down the road from the Schréder factory, which had more than 600 employees. When I joined, there were eight of us and a secretary in the research division, and now we are more than 100 worldwide! We work on projects for the whole group, having grown along with the company as a whole.
 

Changing to LED lighting was a paradigm shift, like the mobile phone or the shift to digital photography...

There was a lot of internal discussion about how to do it, and we were given a budget to figure out our approach while a colleague supported our traditional lighting. At the start, the technology itself was expensive and not really optimal for road applications. So instead, we decided to create a high-end decorative product, the PERLA, which we wanted to be the jewel of lighting. We designed it to be as luxurious as possible, with LEDs as the diamonds in the crown!

PERLA shines like a jewel in the night

Now it’s the opposite and LEDs are the most affordable options to light streets, motorways, tunnels - all areas including large stadium to airports, really.


Different countries adapt at different rates...

Italy, for example, switched public lighting to LED very early on. During my time at Schréder, things have evolved to be more centralised, but there’s still a strong local aspect to what we do. 
 

Once I took 14 flights in 10 days to discuss projects on three continents...

We were lighting projects in Egypt, Dubai, Johannesburg, Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and finally Auckland and Christchurch. So, each time I had to meet the local team, explain our new products, and discuss projects with customers. It was exhausting, but fascinating.
 

But it’s also been very satisfying to work closer to home...

Place Saint-Lambert, the main square of my hometown, Liège, underwent a huge renovation lasting several decades overseen by Claude Strebelle. The new design created a huge pedestrianised area, which we lit with a new luminaire called the Mysterieuse,  that was inspired by comic-strips and designed for that space specifically. That was more than 20 years ago, but they’re still looking great!

The Mysterieuse luminaire, designed by our own Jean-Luc Lambert, has been lighting Place Saint Lambert for over 20 years


My role at Schréder has evolved over time...

It was becoming unrealistic for me to follow the whole process from A-Z with each project I was working on, so we increased the R&D team with engineers and draftsmen. Finally, in 2005 I took the responsibility for all the Group's developments and to launch two spin-offs, one in Colombia to increase our business across Latin America - I speak a little bit of Spanish - and one in China to expand Schréder’s presence in Asia. It was great, but a lot of travelling.
After a Marketing training at the INSEAD, I joined the Group marketing team in 2008, just as LED technology was becoming a big deal and therefore a real opportunity.


We’re working on customisable solutions now, especially the FLEXIA range...

It’s very important to some cities to keep the same style of lighting but with their own touch. The FLEXIA range can be mounted on multiple configurations to provide elegant solutions for smart cities: poles, specific brackets, suspended or catenary wires across streets for all city applications. We’ve created bespoke systems with fancy crowns and various accessories to match the town’s identity… all based on the same connected platform so this " unique character" is more affordable than you’d expect.


What I’m proudest of is working in an area that brings real pleasure and comfort...

If you can make people safer, if you can make life more social and the cities more beautiful and attractive, that’s my little contribution to making the world a better place. It’s also really satisfying to see your work in action. We were on a day out on the train in Belgium and I pointed out to my children that we’d lit the train interior…. They went and told their whole class on the next school trip!  

The other thing is that Schréder is a real community - not only working with my direct Belgian colleagues but also worldwide. Particularly, when I celebrated my 30th working anniversary at Schréder last year, my boss wrote and performed a song for me! That’s something really special.