How Supplier Relationships Differ When Working with OLED Lighting [Video Interview]

June 13, 2022

Part Two of our interview series conducted at this year’s International Symposium on Automotive Lighting (ISAL) features experts from Audi, OLEDWorks, and STMicroelectronics discussing how working relationships are different from the norm when developing OLED lighting solutions. If you haven’t yet, make sure to check out our first video on OLED Technology for Communication and Safety. 


How do supplier relationships differ when working with OLED lighting? 


So the collaboration between all the parties is really critical to getting the design right. 


It has to be very, very close. 


And this is unusual really for a lot of lighting as it relates to vehicles, right? A lot of times there’s products and packages that are available that you integrate without the need for such close collaboration. 


Yes. Not everybody does this. We at Audi are always thinking in this way. We always try to keep in contact with OLED Tier 2 suppliers because, for us, it was always clear the light source is very important. With OLED technology, it’s not only the light source, it’s the styling. And so that’s even more important. But that was actually clear from the beginning, because when we started, from our first steps with our colleagues, we were sure we have to take technology from the supplier and our stylists together and then discuss what is possible. And at the end you get something that’s completely unique. And it is still unique. Nobody else has something like this because it’s a different way of thinking and a different way of developing a car. 


The standard fashioned way to go via OEM to Tier 1 to Tier 2 and having only this one loop of communication down and upwards is not the best approach because there are so many key factors to make the design fulfill what you as OEM’s would like to have, make feasible to have it cost-wise optimized, make the schedule fit for everybody from OEM to Tier 1 to Tier 2, which has its challenges. But the trilateral approach is really the key for everything.


I think this is really an important point that with OLED technology the light source is a styling surface. And based on this, we have a lot of interrelationship that we have, direct conversations with the OLED panel maker, because what you are doing is to create a substrate full of pieces at the end where we need a high density. And if we don’t have your expertise, we are commercially a bit lost. And I think this is also what you’re doing on a daily basis when you’re sending new designs at the end, which we can evaluate, I would say, in the first draft version. But then I think your processes are starting, you are doing your expertise and evaluating what can be done.


If you don’t have a partner who is willing to go the extra mile with you, if you don’t have a partner who is cheering you up when you’re down, if you don’t have a partner who is able to answer the technical questions we have to a high level and find solutions together, one person or one OEM as Audi would never be successful. We need a trustful relationship. So, on the Tier 2 and the Tier 3 side, we have to work together with our glass manufacturer from Corning, we have to talk together with our electronic experts from ST, we have to work together with OLEDWorks. But we also need Tier 1’s who are really trusting that this might be the right step.


For us, it was really a great experience and a great opportunity to work with these expert companies on a really impressive innovation for the automotive industry. ST’s strategic focus has been, for a long time, automotive lighting, and the digital OLED technology is the natural evolution path and brings really high value to the customer, to the OEM, and finally also to the end user. ST is enthusiastic to contribute to this project and the collaboration with the team. Overall, the period was really a fantastic journey together.

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