2013 marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of Basler AG. Norbert Basler established the company in 1988, pursuing his dream of using machine vision to revolutionise the quality assurance process. His vision is now clear to everyone: Basler has become a leading global manufacturer of industrial cameras, with annual revenues of around 56 million € and an ambitious growth strategy.
Yesterday: A keen eye for a key technology
The Basler story stretches back to 1988, when Norbert Basler and a partner founded the company with a starting capital of 2,000 Deutsche Marks (approx. 1,500 USD). The idea for the business: image processing. The first real success came as Basler began developing systems to test optical storage media, and was able to win large clients like Sony, Warner and PolyGram. Over time other product lines were added, including systems for inspecting gaskets and LCD glass. Basler started developing its own cameras in 1996. “We were dissatisfied with the quality and reliability of the cameras supplied by external vendors for our image processing systems, and therefore decided to develop our own,” Norbert Basler explains. “We then launched the cameras onto the market in 1998.” The action initially taken for own use only has evolved over the last 15 years into a successful business model. In light of the more favorable growth outlook for the camera business, Basler has phased out its systems offerings over the past five years, now exclusively producing cameras for use in industry, video surveillance, medical and traffic applications. That small start-up in 1998 has become a profitable and fast-growing company with a portfolio of international clients and over 350 employees. Founder Norbert Basler serves as the chairman of the supervisory board, and as the majority shareholder, still plays a central role in the company.
Today: Clear visions for the future
Dr. Dietmar Ley, Chief Executive Officer at Basler, joined the firm in 1993 and has been in charge of charting the firm’s course at the executive level since 2000. Both as a leader and an engineer, he is thrilled by the developments of the past 25 years: “Technologically there’s been enormous process during this period. Image processing now pervades our lives. A majority of all industrially-produced products are now inspected using image processing. In the medical field, image processing is used as a diagnostic tool, while traffic control systems use image processing to make traffic flow safely and more smoothly. Our technology plays an important role in daily life, even if its work generally goes unnoticed. Image processing is making our lives simpler and better right now, and will do so even more powerfully in the future as the technology continues to improve.”
Basler was one of the first companies to put modern CMOS image sensors onto the market, to integrate powerful and user-friendly interface technology such as Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire and USB 3.0 into industrial cameras, and to take a leading role in the establishment of image processing standards such as GenICam, GigE Vision and USB3 that have gone on to global success.
Basler’s influence goes beyond its portfolio of products. It is also active in its social work, including programs to support the next generation of young workers, and campaigns to promote a healthy work/life balance. The company enjoys a tremendously positive reputation as an employer and is strongly committed to projects for schools and regional initiatives. In addition, Basler is a founding member of the The Stormarn Work and Family Initiative, a coalition of companies committed to supporting families in caring for children and elderly dependents, and was awarded a certification from the renowned Hertie Foundation in 2011, verifying their family-friendly policies.
Norbert Basler and Dietmar Ley see the company as well positioned for the future. “I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved by establishing a trusting working environment and by emphasizing long-term thinking, and the major opportunities that we’ve opened up for the coming years,” Chairman Dietmar Ley emphasizes. “This comes thanks to our willingness to take risks and our capacity to accept constant change as normal — and most of all, thanks to our employees, now numbering more than 350 worldwide, and their extraordinarily strong identification with our company, their creativity and their hard work.”
Basler has also established its own YouTube channel, offering a small glimpse behind the scenes at Basler through product videos and company portraits.