DOES A MINI LAB MAKE GOOD FINANCIAL SENSE?

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Optek’s entry-level surfacing lab, the SFS (small footprint system) Pro Surfacing System, can be upgraded for higher-volume labs.

Find out if surfacing in-house is a good step for your optical shop to take.

Most eyecare professionals (ECPs) order their surfaced lenses from a local lab, either as edged and mounted, or as uncuts for in-house finishing. Many have already made the jump into in-house finishing for financial reasons as well as to provide enhanced customer service. However, as practices grow, ECPs often look into in-house surfacing as a way to reduce costs and improve customer service. They can also boost profits when dealing with insurance plan reimbursement rates.

MINI LAB FOR YOUR OFFICE?
How do you determine if an in-house mini surfacing lab is best for your practice? Start by tracking your lab bills for the last three to six months (the longer, the better). Creating a spreadsheet that shows the number of jobs you had surfaced during this period will be very illuminating. For example, list all the single vision, non-stock Rx’s, PALs and other

Schneider’s DSC Prolab works as a self-sufficient unit for all modern free-form and Rx requirements.

multifocals, specialty lenses, and any others that you had surfaced. Once you have this month-by-month listing, total the monthly charges you paid for your lab for these lenses. Once you add all the monthly lens charges, you should be able to determine your average monthly lens cost.

For your equipment needs, you’ll have either a monthly loan payment or a leasing fee. Then determine the amount of the payroll it will take per month to run this equipment, as well as the cost of the square footage this equipment will occupy and the utilities it will consume beyond normal office operations. Don’t forget the cost of consumables (surfacing supplies), too.

By adding up the estimated monthly cost for lens blanks, equipment, labor, rent, utilities, and consumables, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what this operation will cost you per month. Compare it to the actual monthly average you’ve been paying your lab for your lenses. The difference should be large enough to encourage you to put in a mini lab.

The two biggest questions you’ll want to answer are:
1. At what point will my investment in a mini surfacing lab pay for itself?
2. How much will it save me?

A good analysis will help you accurately answer these questions.

ASSESS AND ANALYZE
Most manufacturers of smaller surfacing systems will happily do a cost

The Axiom Surface Generator from National Optronics features a sleek ergonomic design with easy tabletop mounting.

analysis for you, and make some beneficial financial arrangements, whether you’re leasing or purchasing. They know you’re not a big commercial lab, and they have smaller “footprint” systems designed for smaller offices. Let them help you figure the answers to the return on your investment. For example, GPN created the Real-Eyez Profits Calculator exclusively for Santinelli International, Inc. to help ECPs calculate the costs and savings associated with finishing lenses in-office.

WHAT’S OUT THERE?
Several manufacturers have surfacing systems for the smaller lab or retailer. One of the smallest units is Fast Grind from Super Systems Optical with a 2-ft. x 2-ft. footprint. It doesn’t even need a separate generator as the one machine generates, fines, and polishes using a diamond pad and pre-blocked lens.

Coburn Technologies (formerly Gerber Coburn) offers Premier Lab, a complete surfacing and edging system that requires about a 10-ft. x 25-ft. space, and can handle just about anything. Individual components can also be purchased.

Optek has an entry level surfacing lab called the SFS (small footprint system) Pro Surfacing System. Upgrades are available for higher-volume labs.

Schneider Optical Machines has introduced the DSC Prolab—a fully integrated surfacing center including generator, polisher, laser marker and measuring unit, lab management, and lens design. The DSC Prolab works as a self-sufficient unit for all modern free-form and Rx requirements.

ANOTHER OPTION An alternative to in-house surfacing is a casting system. Casting systems have come and gone in the past, however the QSpex® Premium Lens System is a breakthrough technology that allows eyecare professionals to produce top-quality premium lenses on-site in about 30 minutes. All lens treatments are pre-applied by Qspex to the inside surface of each mold and the treatments become part of the lens during the polymerization process. The actual hands-on time required to produce a pair of lenses is less than five minutes, freeing up the individual operating the system for other office duties. The curing and annealing time is about 30 minutes. Treatments include anti-reflective, polarization, photochromic, and scratch resistance. The lens material is AQuity™ 155 lens resin, a proprietary lens material with a 1.547 refractive ind
ex, and an Abbé value of 40. Single vision and progressive addition lens designs are available. The unit’s footprint is small, and it can tuck away nicely into a smaller lab.


National Optronics has the Axiom Surface Generator that features a small footprint and a sleek ergonomic design with easy tabletop installation.

WHAT ARE PEOPLE SAYING?
“Not only does the Fast Grind system save me money, but it puts me in a situation where I can see a patient and an hour later, they literally have their glasses and are on their way. It literally cuts our overhead in half when it comes to producing lenses, even more so with premium lenses like progressives. It makes as good a progressive as I have ever used. I don’t have to worry about my patients struggling with adaptation. The cost of the Fast Grind machine is very comparable to an edger, but it does so much more for your practice than an edger because you’re able to supply patients with what they need more quickly. The savings on this instrument have just been huge—it has cut my lab bills in half!”
-Michael Mills, OD, Loris, SC

“The name of the game is service and I want to provide the best to the patient. We are using a Coburn system, and we do a lot of Trivex® material with it. We can do eyeglasses in one hour, start to finish. I have no complaints about return on investment. It is well worth the price. The system is very easy to learn. I am very picky about quality and service, and I have had no problems. It can run anything but glass.”
-Lino Alvarez, International Opticians, Coral Gables, FL

“We invested in an Optek lab to increase profitability, give patients faster delivery, and better control product quality. Average monthly lab bills used to run $15–$20K, and delivery took three to seven business days. Now with our Optek lab, average monthly production costs run $6–$8K, and we deliver the same day. Even high powers and prism jobs are no problem. We have been using Optek equipment for almost four years and wouldn’t change to another manufacturer for anything. Service and support from Optek is second to none.”
-David Bentley, Milligan Optical, Pinellas Park, FL

Adding a mini surfacing lab to your practice may be a great way to reduce costs and step up your service level.

Sharon Leonard is a licensed optician and contact lens practitioner in the Syracuse, NY, area.

WHERE TO FIND IT
Coburn Technologies,
formerly Gerber Coburn
800-262-8761 • coburntechnologies.com

National Optronics
800-866-5640 • nationaloptronics.com

Optek
800-524-5454 • optek-online.com

Santinelli International, Inc.
800-644-3343 • santinelli.com

Schneider Optical Machines
972-247-4000 • schneider-om.com

Super Systems Optical
800-543-7376 • superoptical.com

QSpex
888-259-9845 • qspex.com

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