| BIG PICTURE
Optek’s Oasis MAX surfacing system
| BRAND NEW
Coburn’s SGX Pro generator
| SMALL AND FAST
Super Optical’s FastGrind surfacing machine
| SUPPLIES APLENTY
This how-to guide will help you build your new optical lab from scratch.
Your practice has made the strategic decision to build a surfacing lab, but you just can’t charge forward without a plan. From the layout to the logistics of managing supplies, a lot of work needs to be done before cutting that first lens. What are the major categories and considerations your project plan should have? Read on to find out.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Once you’ve figured out the budget for your space, shop around for the best price and have the property owners compete for your business. Be sure to include enough space for growth while maintaining a comfortable workflow.
Work closely with equipment manufacturers to help configure the workflow of your space, as they have a lot of experience with this. Also be sure to get feedback from your staff and, if feasible, bring in a consultant.
Include dedicated space for people to go behind closed doors, such as offices for high-level employees and a break room for meals and downtime.
EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES
Do the research, shop around, and buy top-quality equipment and consumables from manufacturers who will stand behind them, such as Coburn Technologies, Inc.; DAC Vision; National Optronics; Optek International; Satisloh North America, Inc.; Schneider Optical Machines; and Super Optical International.
Some equipment may need to be put in place by special riggers and may need to maneuver through difficult spaces. At one laboratory, we had to go through the block wall of another business, which required moving electrical and plumbing lines.
You must also plan for the storage of consumables and tools, with consideration for the continued growth of your business. Worktables and counters are important and come in handy for several things, including equipment maintenance. If the surfacing lab plan does not have a conveyer system, consider rollers and pushcarts to help with the workflow.
Make sure an industrial sink is available and that plenty of air lines run through the facility. The air compressor should be large enough and have a good filtering system to limit moisture and particles.
THE DOTTED LINE
It’s important to find the right manufacturers and suppliers and have formalized, written agreements with them. Also, create policies and procedures for all of your lab processes, as it’s very important to document them in print. If there is a change in staff, the new employee can reference the plan to know how something should be done or how a relationship with a manufacturer or supplier is constructed. And remember that even though they are in print, these documents can be adapted if needed.
Hiring the right staff can be one of the biggest hurdles for any business, but especially for a new surfacing lab. Write clear job descriptions, then look for the right individuals. You’ll want experienced surfacing personnel from either wholesale labs or retail optical offices with surfacing departments. I’ve also found that individuals with technical experience and military backgrounds can be a good fit. Keep in mind that digital equipment is very user-friendly, so a technically skilled and self-disciplined person can be easily trained.
THE TECHNICAL SIDE
Information technology is sometimes the most under-thought part of a digital surfacing lab plan, but it’s crucial for the lab’s day-to-day operations. You’ll want your IT department to get involved early in the planning stages. If the practice does not have adequate IT resources in-house, consider bringing in a consultant. Make sure you have the right components that can handle all your applications, as well as lab growth and advancements in technology. You’ll need the right amount of computers, printers, servers, and scanners placed in convenient locations. Optical Lab Software Solutions Inc. specializes in lab management software for digital surfacing labs.
Every practice is unique, so you may need to add other elements to your plan to suit your requirements. Remember that a formal project plan is crucial to ensure that no aspect of your lab has been overlooked, and to easily track the status of the project and modify it as needed.
Mark Johnson is the Director of Optical Services at Virginia Eye Institute in Richmond, VA.
WHERE TO FIND IT:
Coburn Technologies, Inc. 800-262-8761 • coburntechnologies.com
DAC Vision 800-800-1550 • dacvision.com
National Optronics 800-866-5640 • nationaloptronics.com
Optek International 727-522-2301 • optekinternational.com
Optical Lab Software Solutions Inc. 503-731-9715 • olsssystems.com
Satisloh North America, Inc. 800-866-5640 • satisloh.com
Schneider Optical Machines 972-247-4000 • schneider-om.com
Super Optical International (Fast Grind) 800-543-7376 • superoptical.com