NEW YORK—Essilor, the world’s biggest lens company, is also the biggest optical laboratory operator in the U.S. Since acquiring its first U.S. labs in 1996, Essilor has built a network consisting of over 90 locations that are part of its ELOA group or are independently-owned partner labs. Pete Lothes is in charge of the company’s lab operations. Lothes has spent his career in and around labs, first helping manage the family business in Columbus, Ohio and later heading Essilor’s Satisloh business unit, which is a leading manufacturer of lens processing equipment.

In his current role as SVP operations and supply chain, he oversees the production and distribution of tens of thousands of prescription lenses a day. He also manages relationships with suppliers of everything Essilor labs need, from uncut and finished lenses to manufacturing technology and systems to software.

Lothes recently spoke via Zoom with VM’s lens and technology editor, Andrew Karp, about the unique capabilities of Essilor’s labs. (The interview was conducted prior to Essilor’s announcement of its plan to acquire Walman.) He explained how Essilor’s high-volume labs can maintain a high level of craft typically associated with smaller labs. Lothes also described how Essilor was able to provide uninterrupted service to its customers during the February storms that crippled its Dallas facilities by shifting the workload to Essilor labs outside the region.