DOES IT MAKE SENSE TO INSTALL YOUR OWN FINISHING LAB?
CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING WHEN YOU’RE READY TO TAKE THE PLUNGE.
In a retail setting, labs help your business in more ways than one. Finishing labs can easily create a new identity for your firm, open-ing doors to everything from higher patient satisfaction rates to gaining more invested and well rounded employees.
Why Have a Lab?
The simple answer has three parts—turnaround time, quality and profits. Having a lab allows you to make glasses significantly faster than sending them away in a shipping box, having to wait and potentially dealing with daily calls from patients checking on their orders. With a lab, you can make glasses quickly, taking only a few minutes per job. Next up is quality. Just think and remember getting a pair of finished glasses back from lab XYZ, and they were nowhere near dispensable. With your own lab, you are the beginning and the end to every order. If there is a problem with how the glasses were made, the responsibility falls on you to make your system better.
Once seasoned, your lab will begin to hum, and you will ex-perience fewer remakes and dis-satisfied patients as you perfect the craft. As dispensing ECPs, we’re only as good as the last pair of glasses we made for a patient, and being the producer, you have complete control. A simple point to remind your staff is that if they wouldn’t wear it, then don’t dis-pense it.
The last part is a favorite of many; retail labs save you money! Profits are the lifeblood of any business, and a retail lab is one strategic way to protect your bot-tom line. With an in-house lab, you eliminate outside edging fees and can begin to order finished (extremely high margin) lenses. To calculate what a retail lab can save you, visit the service tab at Briot USA’s website for a Cost-Savings Profit Analysis.
Insurance Plan Considerations
For some, the number one reason to edge is added profit. Instead of paying someone to finish your lab work, edging the jobs yourself will save you money. While this is true, there is also a deeper profit ratio-nale. Not every profit can immediately be measured. Some man-aged vision care plans mandate that you send your frames to be finished at their facilities. When you own a lab, consider cutting everything rather than sending frames out. While it may not be a massive profit savings to ask insur-ance companies to send their lens-es to your office for cutting, what it does highlight are three specific points. The first is that you will get the lenses sent faster to you directly. There is a large amount of lag time when your frame gets sent to them, eventually opened, cut and returned to you. The second is quality. With your machinery and trained staff, you will not be a victim of receiving the unknown from insurance labs, which may have less than quality trained in-dividuals making your glasses.
The third reason is time, which adds up when you have to box up a job, find a call tag label, tray the work in the production area, and then take the time to receive, open, and finally inspect the job. Instead, your staff member could help you make more revenue. Not to mention the countless insurance patient calls to check on their order, or having to wait because the glasses arrived incorrect and had to be remade. In many cas-es, it’s just easier to cut the work yourself. Plus doing it this way will help you establish a consistent routine, prevent you from ever losing a frame at the lab, or lost in the mail, especially a patient’s own frame.
Vision insurance plans such as EyeMed will allow for you to bill directly through them. Equipment suppliers such as Super Op-tical International can help with this, especially with its FastGrind system, which allows you to op-erate as an approved in-house EyeMed lab. This will save you some serious money, rather than having to work exclusively with an affiliated insurance lab. When you have a lab in place you can opt out of particular insurance claus-es, which can net you some hefty monthly EOB revenue profits too.
Anyone can open a checkbook and order any type of lab they wish. Before doing so, however, it’s important to think it through. Issues with square footage and placement are critical. Think in terms of capacity, how much equipment you would like to have versus what you really need to-day. Then, blend this into a future forecast comparison where you expect to foresee your lab business in time. The latest and greatest in equipment will only be great if you can use it properly, and square footage is just as important as the placement. You need a lab that makes sense, allows for the proper amount of equipment, storage and assembly space. If you shoehorn a lab too tightly, it can create issues with organization and even cause unwanted remakes because there is not enough space to keep pa-tient orders straight.
The inverse also applies here. A lab that is too large takes away from other patient and possible revenue-generating areas, plus it squanders dollars that could be invested in other business sectors. The ideal space takes all of this into account. You do not have to pur-chase the most extravagant set-up. Several edging companies offermodular equipment designs that can help you expand your lab as you grow. Some even provide complimentary lab layout design services such as Optek Interna-tional and Coburn Technologies. For those considering adding a free-form lens processing mini-lab, Coburn Technologies also offers a wide array of equipment, including surfacing, finishing and more.
What to Watch Out For
Be ready for the fact that labs can make noise and a mess. Consider the footprint, layout and concerns such as water, odor and power. For those looking to minimize the amount of water needed, companies such as National Optronics produce a wide variety of dry cutting edger options. Those planning to use water will have to decide between direct water versus recircula-tion. Think about routine mainte-nance, how often the recirculation bucket will need to be changed, and where and who will do it.
The last thing you want is your equipment to ruin lenses from lack of clean water. Possible solutions include a maintenance schedule with an area nearby to dump and refill your bucket, or just go direct with clean water.
Next, consider odor control. Some lens materials such as high index and Trivex can create smell and even smoke while being cut. Plan for proper ventilation through the ceiling or consider deodorizing equipment. Santinelli International recommends its LED-200 Deodorizer to effectively remove odorous gasses during the edging process. This vacuum hooks into your edger’s vents and pulls the odors and smoke out of the chamber, clean-ing the air through an advanced charcoal filter system before circu-lating it back into the lab.
Who Will Run Your Equipment?
Placing the lab in the rear of a long building and expecting your technician to juggle multiple re-sponsibilities might not be the best idea. However, having an op-tician who can balance both lab and floor duties will cut down on labor. To maximize on employee skill sets, place the lab where it will allow for proper workflow.
Once you’ve considered the points above, you can then add items such as phones, computers and potentially even a glass win-dow that overlooks the retail or patient waiting area. This allows you to highlight your lab service equipment while also serving as a deterrent from frames walking away from your boards. Taking the time upfront to properly de-sign your retail lab will put you in the best position to edge the right way from day one.
Frank Gimbel, ABOC-AC, is an advanced certified optician and owner of Gimbel Opticians in Plymouth Meeting, PA.
WHERE TO FIND IT: Briot USA 800.292.7468 • BriotUSA.com • Contact@BriotUSA.com // Coburn Technologies, Inc. 800.262.8761 • CoburnTechnologies.com • CustomerCareCenter@CoburnTechnologies.com // EyeMed Vision Care 888.581.3648 • EyeMedVisionCare.com // National Optronics 800.866.5640 • NationalOptronics.com • NOPSales@NationalOptronics.com // Optek International 727.522.2301 • OptekInternational.com • Sales@OptekInternational.com // Santinelli International, Inc. 800.644.3343 • Santinelli.com • Sales@Santinelli.com // SuperOptical International/FastGrind 800.543.7376 SuperOptical.com Jennifer@SuperOptical.com