Thinking of surfacing lenses in-house? Here, three retailers who successfully do their own surfacing discuss its benefits and why the initial investment can save money while turning a profit.
Dan Knauss, owner of GV Optical in Santa Barbara, CA, decided to surface lenses in his shop as a response to increased production costs from suppliers.
“As we began to see the industry change from multiple suppliers of uncut Rx lenses to a few large suppliers, we anticipated the cost of production to rise significantly: fewer suppliers meant less competition for our account,” he said. “The choice to fabricate our own lenses made sense. In addition, we wanted to provide quick production times without sacrificing quality.”
Knauss chose Optek International’s Oasis (Optek Advanced System for Integrated Surfacing) MAX Surfacing System for the job, a complete, fully computerized surfacing lab system.
“The space requirement for this lab is small, and we were able to install and operate the lab in our current office layout,” he said. “Equipment can be noisy, but we found this to be surprisingly quiet.”
The result? “Within a short period of time we were recognized as a location with the unique ability to produce eyewear on site,” Knauss said, adding that customers like the idea of their eyewear produced by staff they know.
With Oasis MAX, GV Optical can produce 25 to 30 uncut lenses prepped for edging and now has two full-time technicians. The shop’s goal, Knauss said, is to provide customers with eyewear within three business days and will even give same-day service to clients with an urgent need.
On the other side of the country, Dawson Vision in Dawsonville, GA, uses Coburn’s SPX Pro Generator for about one to seven surfacing jobs per day (finished jobs can be produced at a rate ranging from 20 to 30 per day). Lab Manager Tony Mergard said surfacing lenses there instead of outsourcing jobs is efficient and cost-effective.
“You can get the job done quicker and it costs less,” he said. “Eventually, the equipment pays for itself over time.”
Mergard also said an in-house lab automatically creates a high standard of customer service.
“For one, you can do a lot more having a full service lab rather than just a small finishing lab,” he said. “It provides on-site service with much quicker turnaround times. People who don’t have a lab just don’t have an upper hand.”
In Elko, NV, Sean Fericks, practice manager of Speedy Specs, started the business in 2004 as an optician-owned dispensary with a surfacing lab, carving out a niche as a first-class opticianry with a full-service production lab in this small mining town.
Since then, Speedy Specs has grown to include full optometric services and regional safety eyewear programs with accounts all over the state and one in Connecticut. With the addition of a Vision-Ease MyCoat machine in 2014, the lab can produce AR and mirror coatings, and in 2018, Speedy Specs purchased Schneider Optical Machines’ Nano line.
“These purchases have enabled us to produce the best customized products for our patients and our safety eyewear accounts,” Fericks said, adding he chose Schneider based on quality, space concerns and affordability. “The Schneider Nano line is remarkably affordable. For a modest investment, our lab has the capability of our larger competitors. We can do anything they can do, from free-form and high prism to quality AR and mirror coatings to customized drill mounts and shelf bevels.”
For Fericks, the Nano line’s fully customizable laser engraver and its ability to produce lenses up to +/-18.00D are two of its best features.
“We are now able to offer next-day service on nearly every patient order,” he said. “From wrap-compensated Wiley X progressive orders to custom mirrored sunglasses and drill mounts, we produce in-house the same quality as our larger competitors.”
In considering adding surfacing equipment, Fericks said retailers must consider staff. “Quality equipment is of no value unless you have quality staff,” he said. “Do not attempt to start an in-house lab unless you have experience in the field. Lab technicians should not do optometry, and optometrists should not do lab work. Both are specialized fields and require extensive training.”
|EQUIPMENT OPTIONS FOR IN-HOUSE SURFACING
COBURN TECHNOLOGIES: SGX PRO SURFACE LENS GENERATOR
• Suited for small- to medium-sized labs
• Processes CR-39, high index, polycarbonate and Trivex
• Operates on a Windows 7 platform
• Upgraded interface includes touch screen monitor
• Ability to utilize USB loading and backups
OPTEK INTERNATIONAL: OASIS MAX SURFACING SYSTEM
SCHNEIDER OPTICAL MACHINES: HSC XP NANO GENERATOR
Coburn Technologies, Inc. 800.262.8761 CoburnTechnologies.com CustomerCareCenter@CoburnTechnologies.com Optek International 727.522.2301 OptekInternational.com Sales@OptekInternational.com Schneider Optical Machines 972.247.4000 Schneider-om.com