History of Raytheon ELCAN Optical Technologies
Raytheon ELCAN Optical technologies is one of the world’s oldest and most renowned names in precision optical systems. Its history is woven from the combined histories of accomplishment that not only define who we are and the way we work, but also the promise of what we are capable of accomplishing in the future.
A tribute to human resilience, ingenuity and Canadian potential
50 years ELCAN 1952 - 2002
World War II had ended only a few years ago and Germany was still recovering from the horrific devastation and the postwar miseries. The suffering of the civilian population in the eastern area of Germany that was overrun by the Soviet army was particularly severe. The family-owned Leitz factory in Wetzlar, West Germany had suffered only minor damage, but there was still a shortage of certain raw materials, sot hat the resumption of the production of civilian products was progressing rather slowly. The frightening thought that the Soviets could be at their doorsteps within hours of a new conflagration caused the company patriarch Ernst Leitz II and his sons Ernst Leitz III, Ludwig Leitz and Guenther Leitz to realize the desirability of a safer location for the company, a second repository for its archives and for a core of experienced workers who could carry on the firm's tradition of superb craftmanship in the he event of the loss of the main plant.
An exploratory team consisting of Dr. Ernst Leitz III and administrative assistant Karl Seng (who spoke flawless British English) traveled extensively for many weeks in search of an appropriate location. Perhaps it was also in the back of their minds that twice before, a wholly owned Leitz subsidiary had been expropriated with no compensation and no subsequent restitution. Canada stood out because of its cultural base, its great resources and its proximity to major markets for Leitz products. The contacts with Canadian authorities led to a choice of three possible locations: Smith Falls, Ontario, Granby, Quebec and Midland, Ontario. Taking into consideration such criteria as reasonable proximity to major transportation facilities (airports, harbors, rail), a terrain and community somewhat similar to that of the parent company in Wetzlar, spacious real estate and attractive costs, the exploratory team selected Midland as the site for the new subsidiary factory. Later on, an over-zealous observer noted that "Midland" has the same number of letters as "Wetzlar", so that it would fit nicely in the he traditional Leitz logo...
As in a classic tale of success, very rudimentary makeshift beginnings in a curling rink steadily evolved into a world class, state-of-the-art facility with extraordinary research and development capability and a highly sophisticated precision manufacturing organization.
Because of government restrictions on funds that could be taken out of Germany at that time, the citizens of Midland assisted by making funds available for the acquisition of land and for the construction of the first company building, as did Walter Carveth, the long established Leitz representative in Canada. Midland families graciously put up the new immigrants in their homes until they were able to find their own accommodations. The owner, publisher and editor of the Midland Free Press Herald, William H. Cranston, was a tireless supporter of the fledgling enterprise. The first president was Guenther Leitz, the youngest of the Leitz brothers, assisted by the enterprising Walter Kluck, who was to become president later on, after Leitz Wetzlar Administrative Director Horst Siegfried had served a term as president.
What the new immigrants, many of whom were accustomed to having a good, frosty glass of beer after a hard day’s work, had not anticipated is the fact that Midland at that time was a “dry” town – no alcoholic beverages were permitted. That problem was very discreetly solved by the formation of a social club on the second floor of a store on King Street in Midland. Alas, it was not long before the local constabulary “got wind” of it, and the activities were back to Coffee and Kuchen and the singing of traditional folksongs…Fortunately, those restrictions have long since been lifted.
During the company’s growth period, the key responsibilities were shared by three Walters: Walter Bauer for Manufacturing, Walter Kluck for Marketing and Walter Mandler for Research and Development. Inevitably, this prompted waggish tongues to refer to the plant as “The Walter Works”.
The mid-70’s were significant within the Leitz organization for the merger with the Wild company of Heerbrugg, Switzerland. This new partnership allied Leitz’s unparalleled experience with the dynamism of a relatively young and aggressive company to form the Wild Leitz Group of Companies with its worldwide commercial and technical network. The ELCAN brand name (standing for Ernst Leitz CANada) was introduced by Walter Kluck (one of the original pioneers) for commercial markets, Canadian military and US Navy aerial reconnaissance applications.
In November 1990, the Hughes Aircraft Company, California, purchased Ernst Leitz (Canada) Ltd., and the Company’s name was changed to Hughes Leitz Optical Technologies Ltd. Hughes Aircraft also announced the closure of a sister operation in Des Plaines, Illinois, Hughes Optical Products Inc. (HOPI), and relocated their equipment/machinery and technology, valued at $5.5M to Midland. In June 1994 Hughes Leitz was ISO 9001 Registered.
In December, 1997 Hughes Aircraft Company and Texas Instruments sold their defence businesses, to Raytheon Company, Lexington, Massachusetts, which included Hughes Leitz Optical Technologies Ltd. Because of the company’s global reputation for excellence and technical expertise, the organization took on the ELCAN brand and became known as ELCAN Optical Technologies.
ELCAN’s continuing success led to the strategic integration in 2000 with a US optical manufacturing facility that Raytheon had acquired from Texas Instruments. In 1997, Raytheon co-located three Texas Instruments legacy optics groups into one powerful enterprise, the Dallas Optics Center of Excellence located in Richardson, Texas. These three groups each having more than 35 years of experience were the Optics Manufacturing and Materials (OM&M) Group, the Optical Design Group (ODG), and the Advanced Optical Materials Lab (AOML). This was augmented in 2000 with the addition of the Digital Display Group, another former Texas Instrument business unit.
The unified operations make ELCAN the largest and most fully integrated North American company with complete opto-electro-mechanical capabilities. ELCAN’s continued growth resulted in the integration of a Spanish printed circuit board manufacturer into the ELCAN family of companies in 2003, thereby enabling ELCAN to increase its capabilities to serve its customers.
(Adopted from the Prologue to the book produced for the 50th Anniversary of ELCAN in Canada by Rolf Fricke, Leica Historian)