President of Schneider Optical Machines’ U.S. operation since June of 2008, Kurt Atchison has a long history in the optical field. He started as production supervisor at Omega Optical in 1990 then took a sales job with Coburn in 1996, starting his now 21-year career on the equipment side of the business, which included nine years with Satisloh, three in the role of vice president of sales and marketing.
JOHN SAILER: How long has Schneider been in the U.S., and what was its entry into the market?
KURT ATCHISON: Schneider ent-ered the U.S. market after pioneering the digital surfacing method in the late 1990s. We established a permanent location in Dallas in 2004 and have expanded twice to our new 26,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art facility here in Frisco, TX, just north of Dallas.
SAILER: Schneider made its name in digital processing for wholesale labs. How long has it also been offering in-house equipment for retail eyecare professional practice labs, and what products does it offer them?
ATCHISON: Since 2006, we had “smaller lines,” but they weren’t really geared to retail. In the last few years, we’ve created specialized retail-based technology that culminated in the new Nano Line. We’ve had success through the right sized and priced technology and the right packages and support to succeed in small operations.
SAILER: The Nano line is designed with retail eyecare professional practice labs in mind. What makes it different and sets it apart in the market?
ATCHISON: We had great success with our Prolab system previously, but it had certain limitations. To invest today, retail labs want to be certain they can produce the same lenses as the big guys. The Nano line shrinks the same innovations down to retailers’ needs without any limitations on quality. This brings into play any lens type, including sophisticated branded lens products. There is no other retail-focused technology for the price that assures the capability to make any type of lens on the market.
SAILER: Schneider announced remote virtual reality troubleshooting capabilities at this year’s DigiCON event. Can you describe how that works and if it can be used by retail eyecare professional practice labs using Schneider equipment?
ATCHISON: Our new CMMS Modulo system, or Virtual Technician, fits well for small operations. It goes well beyond guided menus and easy push button operation. Any service requirement is identified automatically. What to do, how to do it and what’s needed to do it are all presented in a control center environment. And using VR glasses, any remote location has the benefit of a trained technician alongside them virtually. The days of guesswork, callbacks and extensive training requirements are in the past.
SAILER: What other news was announced at this year’s DigiCON event that was directed at retail eyecare professional practice labs?
ATCHISON: The Nano surface line, sized and priced right, with full capabilities to match the large labs and lens brands is part of the story. But the ability to produce top quality AR coating at the retail level is also a must. Our new RPT coating system answers this need for fast response AR coating. Its technology solves the problem of fast response coating that produces beautiful lenses with durability and perfect color uniformity.
SAILER: Personally, Kurt, what is your background in the optical field, and what are your continuing goals for Schneider in the North American market?
ATCHISON: I started as a production supervisor at Omega Optical back in 1990, so I learned how to make lenses and later how to work with doctors and opticians. In 1996, I took a job in sales for Coburn and started a now 21-year career on the equipment side of making lenses. Having been president of Schneider U.S. for nine years now, I’ve seen us evolve into the industry leader. Our focus has been on providing total solutions for lens production. Having been known in the invention of digital surfacing and technology for the higher volume labs, I expect to see the new retail technology like Nano and RPT grow and become the go-to technology for the smaller producers. With industry consolidation, the smaller operations need a competitive edge, and Schneider would like to lead the way.