ALEX INCERA has been President of Coburn Technologies, Inc. since January 2011 when the management team purchased the company from Gerber Scientific, Inc. Prior to joining Coburn, Incera was President of Gerber Coburn and Vice President of Gerber Scientific, Inc. Before joining Gerber, Incera held an engineering management position at Instron Corporation in Canton, MA. Incera earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering with a concentration in control theory from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Columbia University, as well as a bachelor’s degree in math and physics from Providence College. Here he discusses where Coburn Technologies is headed.

Ed De Gennaro: How has the separation from Gerber Scientific worked out?

Alex Incera: As we separated ourselves from our parent company, we had to recreate our infrastructure to work better in an independent environment. Under Gerber, many departments were shared between the different divisions of the company, such as manufacturing and service. Now all of these elements have been re-consolidated and brought under one roof again (figuratively speaking). It has been a challenge, but the end results are much better now that we have no longer have to share resources and can focus exclusively on the ophthalmic market.

EDG: What is Coburn Technologies’ greatest competitive advantage?

AI: I think the diversity of our product offering and market segments is one of them. For example, we sell lab management software, blocking systems, generators, finers, polishers, finish blockers, edgers, tracers, and a broad range of consumables. We also offer service for all of those products. Additionally, we support a broad range of market segments like labs, retailers, integrated retailers, chain retailers, and independent eyecare practitioners. I think this horizontal product range and vertical customer segments’ diversity is unique and gives us a distinctive position in the marketplace.

There is also an advantage in the way our R&D Engineering and Service work together. We bring innovation to the marketplace in a way where we’re able to support our customers’ successful implementation and use of those products. The result of that strategic advantage is manifested in our install base, and we have one of the largest install bases in the industry.

Our new independence as a company gives us a tremendous competitive advantage, too. We’re not responsible to a third party so we can make decisions that are in the best interests of our customers, our employees, and our company.

EDG: What indicators do you use to help retailers understand that it’s time for them to get into surfacing?

AI: Volume is an important question to ask. We also ask how many lenses they’re sending out to labs. If they have a finishing shop within their facility, how many lenses are they edging? How many of the lenses they sell are free-form lenses? How many of those lenses have AR applied to them? All of these things are connected to their patient volume, but the main focus is on the patient volume that is driving prescription free-form lenses that will need surfacing and edging.

In other words, we help the retailer estimate the volume of patients they have that require free-form lenses that will have to be produced by outsourcing to a surfacing lab. If they don’t have edging in their office, how many of their jobs will require edging? If they do have edging, how many of those jobs still need to be sent out? All of these and other factors connect back to if the eyecare professional has the traffic to produce a minimum of about 10 to 15 jobs in their shop a day. If the answer is yes, then they’re a good candidate for free-form surfacing and processing in their shop.

EDG: Where would you like to see Coburn Technologies be in five years?

AI: Our ambition is to be the preferred partner to our customers. In many ways, we are there today but there are still areas in which we want to expand and improve. For instance, we want to develop more new products through the highly skilled team we have here at Coburn, but also by establishing new partnerships and acquisitions so we can continue to give our customers the solutions they need faster and more effectively.

In terms of new products, we introduced the LaunchPad™ system concept at Vision Expo last year, which made it possible to process free-form lenses in a smaller space and smaller investment.

With partnerships, we brought on a new, higher performing finishing line through cooperation with Huvitz of Korea. We also established a strategic partnership with Opti-Tech of Germany to sell anti-reflective coating systems, and have successfully placed several units here in the U.S.

In acquisitions, we recently acquired the intellectual property of a product called UVMAX™, a highly effective lens coating that we’re now bringing to the laboratory space. We’ve also acquired a significant intellectual property portfolio to deploy new hardcoating technologies to the coating equipment install base.

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