A Monthly Update for Optical Laboratory Owners and Managers January 2007

Made possible by an unrestricted grant from DAC Vision

Lab Advisor Debuts


Welcome to the first issue of Lab Advisor, Vision Monday’s new e-newsletter for optical laboratory owners and managers. Each month, Lab Advisor will deliver a timely mix of articles about finances, technical issues, sales and marketing and new products, all presented in a lively, quick-read format. Along with lens processing tech tips and case studies of challenging Rx jobs, you’ll find creative marketing ideas, lab news and profiles of lab pros who discuss how they put their skills to work. It all adds up to a useful, informative package you won’t want to miss.

We’re interested in your ideas and feedback. I invite you to contact me with any comments or suggestions.

Andrew Karp
Group Editor, Lenses and Technology
Vision Monday
(212) 274-7080
labadvisor@jobson.com

 
New Products
 
Tech Talk

Fashionable Finishing

These tips will help you process lenses for rimless designs and other smaller frame styles.

SIZING— If you want to do the smaller eye shapes, you need an edger that can go down by tenths of a millimeter. This way you can check the sizing. Even on a patternless edger, there will be touch up necessary for smaller eye sizes, especially when you are cutting cat eyes or octagons… CLEAN TRACING—It’s important to clean the demo lenses of rimless styles before you trace so there are no imperfections. It’s also important to clean the frames so there’s no dust or dirt in the bevels and eyewire before they’re traced. The smaller geometric shapes can be more difficult to trace and you have to have the tracing perfect… DRILLING—Counter-sync the holes to the screw. This allows the screw to fit more flush to the lenses. You don’t want the screw sticking too far above the lens. It also reduces the chance of cracking the lens when you put the screw in… CLEANING—Once a lens is faceted and polished, use a disposable cloth for the final cleaning. You don’t want to risk scratching it with any other debris. When you hand polish the lens on a polishing wheel, putting too much pressure can change the shape of the lens. Take periodic breaks and wipe off the polish to keep track of exactly how much of the lens has been polished. Also, if you run the polisher without polish, you can crack and chip the lens… POLYCARBONATE— Polycarbonate needs a light touch when polishing, otherwise it can heat up and warp. A smaller lens is less forgiving. If you apply too much pressure when polishing a polycarbonate lens, you can damage it…

Look for additional tips on processing rimless designs in next month’s edition.

 
IT Zone

Using Your Computer System’s Full Potential

It’s almost impossible to make a lens today without a computer system. But is your lab taking advantage of its computer system’s full potential?

“Today’s lab systems have come a long way from basic calculations and machine interfaces,” according to Steve Dombey, sales manager for C.C. Systems, a supplier of lab management systems based in Pinellas Park, Fla. “Computer systems, if used to their full potential, should be the backbone of your lab.”

Dombey cites a number of essential functions that can be optimized by using a good computer system: automating manual processes and reducing staff levels; maximizing efficiencies and growing volumes without adding more personnel; boosting productivity and accuracy with remote ordering and tracing; lowering costs due to automated inventory control with electronic ordering, receiving and physical counts; making less mistakes with customized management reporting and automated lens selection; improving customer communications with online job checking and instant messaging; improving quality control through the use of customized lens databases, tray tracking tied to quality control, and hourly breakage and production monitoring.

“It is not necessary to be a computer expert but you must get involved,” said Dombey. “Question everything. Demand the best from your computer supplier including training, support, installation, software and ongoing upgrades.”

 

 

 

Calculating Your EBITDA

Optical laboratory owners and management are familiar with the periodic review of changes in their balance sheet and operating statements as management tools. However, period over period changes in net sales and net income often do not reflect the actual operating results of the company.

A more reliable tool for measurement of how a lab has performed is an analysis of the Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization, which is more commonly referred to as EBITDA. It is for this reason that EBITDA is the cornerstone for determining business valuations, establishing lending covenants, and budgeting performance goals.

EBITDA is commonly adjusted to reflect period operations, with adjustments that will normalize the actual income in order to provide a more accurate picture as to how the business actually performed. Expenses which are unique to a closely held business, nonrecurring in nature and do not follow generally accepted accounting practices are usually added back to adjust the earnings higher. Accruals not reflected in the operations, such as changes in the discount reserve, warranty redo and the allowance for bad debt are often reductions to earnings.

Once lab management establishes EBITDA for a 12-month operating period, then future periods may be benchmarked off of the base year. This allows management to periodically measure real growth, adjusted for inconsistencies unique to a given period, as well as expenses not core to the business. In addition, it allows for an initial valuation of the business, coupled with periodic future valuations, which let management measure the effect of business decisions on the market value of their company.

Balance sheet decisions such as available working capital, liquidity analysis, capital asset purchases and commitments for additional debt or capital leases should also be analyzed in relation to EBITDA. In short, EBITDA more accurately reflects free cash flow available to operate the underlying activities of the business than net income.

Thomas F. Puckett is managing director and CEO of the San Diego based investment banking firm HPC Puckett & Company, which specializes in mergers and acquisitions of wholesale optical laboratories. Puckett can be reached via email at tfp@hpcpuckett.com. For more information about the company, go to their Web site at www.hpcpuckett.com


 

The Case of the Slim Fold Half-Eye

In today’s laboratory, since everything is computerized, it’s always tempting to let your lab software do all the work for you. However, some jobs need special attention and “human intervention,” as was the case recently at Tri-Supreme Optical.

“The account called to let me know they were sending a job and if we could even fabricate it,” recalled Mark Cohen, training and marketing manager at the Farmingdale, N.Y. lab. “If we could, it had to be as thin as possible. The Rx was: +7.50 -1.00 x 90, +7.00 -0.50 x 90 with a 63 pd. The challenge of the job was that it was going into a slim fold half-eye which measures 45mm with a 24mm bridge and a vertical measurement of 32mm.

“If we had let this job get processed without any intervention it probably would have been done on an +8.00 base in plastic,” said Cohen. “We would have surfaced it and once it reached our edging department, our bench department manager would have rejected it because the curve and thickness of the lenses would not allow the frame to fold.

“Since the job was sent to my attention, I spoke with both our surfacing and bench department manager before fabricating the job and we came up with several options. We decided to process the Rx in polycarbonate and on a +6.00 base. I then instructed our data entry operator on how to input the Rx. Not only was the surfacing easier to do but we had the job surfaced and edged in one day. I was very surprised that our bench department manager bought the job to me that day to show me how great it came out and how easy it was to fold and put into the case. A job well done by all. My only regret was having to send the job to the account because I really would have liked to keep it as a work of art."

Second Opinions

Lab Advisor asked two other labs how they would process this job:

“Our recommendation for this Rx is as follows: Essilor Thin & Lite Aspheric 1.67 with Crizal Alizé, computed for a 1.2mm edge on a 6.75 base curve, utilizing asphericity and flatter curves. Actual center thickness will be 4.0mm on each lens.—John D. VanNoy, president, general manager, Ozarks Optical Laboratories, Springfield, Mo.

“The appropriate way to handle this job would be to choose a base curve that allowed for minimal protrusion of lens on either side of the frame. Certainly the use of 1.67 index lenses would be the most beneficial to reduce overall thickness. A four-base, 1.67 lens would produce a back curve of roughly +1.50 (w/cylinder) while keeping the front curve at a manageable +4.00. Varying vertex distance and potential eyelash interference would be minimal and the frame would remain functional.— Jesse Arndt, sales and marketing manager, Epic Labs, Saint Cloud, Minn.

How would your lab do it? Let Lab Advisor know by emailing us at labadvisor@jobson.com

 

Victoria Lee Gammell of Rite-Style Optical

Every lab today needs to have a drill mount expert, and at Rite-Style Optical in Omaha, Nebraska it’s Victoria Lee Gammell. A 25-year optical lab veteran, Victoria has worked in most areas of the lab including the surface room.

“Having a broad knowledge of the steps in the production process taken before and after me helps me make decisions about the eyewear I assemble,” she said. One of the most important aspects of her job is entering the job data correctly, especially the size and configuration of the holes and notches that need to be drilled into the lens. “If the hole is too small, they would chip it out, and if it’s too big, the frame will be loose,” said Victoria, who does the drilling and mounting herself.

Victoria enjoys the challenge of doing custom jobs, which make up about 10 percent of her workload. She appreciates the creativity that goes into the design of the eyewear. “Three-piece mounts are so versatile, the possibilities are endless,” she said. “You can have lenses in the shape of a stop sign, a puzzle piece or anything.”

What type of job does she dislike? “What bugs me most are the placement of no-lines on a three-piece mount. I’ve seen them on a 17mm B lens with the seg heights at 15mm. I know that customer is going to be coming back, because the segs are placed too high.”

Is there a special tool that would make her job easier? “I’d like pliers that you could use to make adjustments without damaging the frame,” she said. “They would be plastic on both sides, and no more than 10mm wide. I’d use it to adjust for facial curves more accurately.”

 

LensTech's Fresh Idea

LensTech Optical Laboratory, an independently-owned lab located in Greenwood, Ind., recently developed a unique marketing program to bring more private pay customers to the independent ECPs it services. Based on the Marsh Fresh Idea Card—a discount shoppers card offered by Marsh Supermarkets, a local grocery store chain, LensTech created the Marsh Fresh Eye Deal Program. When a patient who does not have vision insurance comes to a participating ECP and shows their Marsh Fresh Idea Card, they can receive a 20 percent discount off their frame and lens purchase. The patient cannot use this with any insurance plans and must have the examination from the same office to qualify. All professional fees are excluded from the discount—only the frame and lens package gets the discount.

LensTech also developed a web site for Marsh customers to visit to help find a participating eyecare professional in their city at  www.fresheyedeal.com. LensTech gives participating doctors a 10 percent wholesale discount to share in the cost of the patient’s discount. As an added bonus, LensTech sends back a coupon from Marsh with the Rx worth $5 towards the patient’s next visit at Marsh Supermarkets.

“So far it has been a big success,” said LensTech co-owner Greg Dallas. “The non-insured patient gets a nice discount, and in many cases, the doctor gets a new family of patients, LensTech gets the Rx order and the doctor gets to give the patient a cost-saving coupon off their next grocery purchase at Marsh. “It’s a win, win, win kind of deal.”

According to Dallas, Marsh promoted the program and the Web site in its weekly coupon flyers, which reach 500,000 people twice a week. “I am not sure what a Yellow Page ad costs nowadays, but to get that kind of exposure for our customers at no cost to them is no less than a dream come true,” he remarked.

 

Transitions Names 2006 Lab of the Year Finalists —Transitions Optical has named three wholesale labs—the Optical Prescription Laboratory, Pelham, Ala.; Toledo Optical, Toledo, Ohio; and Ultra Lens Optical Laboratory, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.—as finalists for its Lab of the Year Award. All three have met the criteria of implementing creative marketing strategies; achieving solid percentage growth in volume and Transitions lenses market share mix; dedication to educating its staff and customers; and showing an overall commitment to Transitions products and programs, according to Transitions Optical.

The winning lab will be revealed at a recognition event during the 11th annual Transitions Academy at Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resort in Orlando, Fla. on Jan. 27.

 

Essilor Honors Varilux and Crizal Labs of the Year —Essilor of America honored the leading independent wholesale laboratory distributors of its Varilux and Crizal brands at a ceremony during its national sales meeting, held earlier this month in Banff, Canada.

Legends Optical 4.0 was named 2006 Varilux Lab of the Year. Four other labs—Pinnacle Optical, Optical Prescription Lab, Continental Sales and Balester Optical—were cited for Outstanding Performance in Varilux.

Luzerne Optical was named 2006 Crizal Lab of the Year. Four other labs--Legends Optical 4.0, Pinnacle Optical, Lab Italee and Davis Vision--were cited for Outstanding Performance in Crizal.

In addition, Essilor inducted new members into the Advantage Lab Pro President's Club for 2006, which honors top performers in each of three major regions of the country. Dominic Paresi of Balester Optical was recognized in the East region; Brad Brautman, Lab Italee, was selected for the West; Jessica Tanner, Optical Prescription Lab, was chosen for the Central region.
 

Eagle Optical Opens New AR Coating Center Eagle Optical, a member of Essilor’s Nassau Vision Group, recently opened an AR coating center at its Garland, Texas facility. The new center allows Eagle Optical to add its Synergy and Triumph AR coating to any lens material and design. Synergy and Triumph lenses are now available on nassau247.com, Nassau Vision Group’s product ordering site.

 

Becker Joins Precision Optical Products Mark Becker has joined Precision Optical Products as president and chief executive officer. Becker, pictured here with Precision Optical owner Lori Treadwell, joins the San Diego-based independent optical laboratory with sales, customer service, marketing and operations management experience. His background includes executive level roles with Sierra Optical, Shamir Insight and, most recently, Essilor Laboratories of America.

 

DAC Int’l Signs Consulting Deal with Walach DAC International has entered into a consulting agreement with Michael Walach of Quest Optical Specialty Lab for the purpose of developing direct surfacing lens processing technology. Walach has been an innovator and executive in the optical industry for over 35 years. He has developed numerous products ranging from lab calculation programs to microprocessor quality control instruments for labs to multifocal lenses.

 

Opera Scan

The Opera Scan from AIT Industries is a non-contact tracing and drill point recognition system that complements AIT’s popular CNC Opera Drill. Designed for ease of use, the system automatically provides trace point data plus drill point locations for both edging and drilling of drilled rimless eyewear. With its built-in VCA interface, the Opera Scan can operate as a tracer to capture 3D trace and drill point data from demo lenses using a sophisticated scanning system or it can act as a VCA server utilizing its Windows XP Embedded PC operating system to serve up a VCA drill or edger and store thousands of shapes. Using the Opera Scan, an operator can capture a shape and manipulate the shape by changing the box measurements prior to sending to a VCA server or an AIT edger using a touch screen interface.

(800) 729-1959
www.aitindustries.com

 
HydroEdge

DAC's HydroEdge Pad

DAC Vision’s new HydroEdge edging pad is specifically designed for processing hydrophobic-coated lenses. Slippage is a primary challenge when edging hydrophobic-coated lenses. The HydroEdge adhesive securely bonds to even the slickest of surfaces, according to DAC. A unique foam carrier offers “superb torque properties that virtually eliminate axis failures,” the company reports. The HydroEdge pad is available in a variety of shapes.

(800) 800-1550
www.dacvision.com

 

Definity Short PAL

Essilor of America is introducing Definity Short, a short-channel progressive addition lens (PAL) that maintains the characteristics of the Definity Dual Add design and can fit into smaller, more fashionable frames. Definity Short is ideal for presbyopes with an active lifestyle who prefer a fashion-forward look, according to Essilor. The lens offers several benefits including proprietary Dual Add technology delivering Ground View Advantage, a design feature located beneath the near zone that reduces the near add power to help minimize distortion and flatten the field of vision.

Definity and Definity Short are available with Crizal Alizé with Clear Guard anti-reflective coating. The lenses are distributed through Essilor laboratories and other authorized laboratories nationwide.

(800) 366-6342
www.essilorusa.com

 

Santinelli SE-9090 Express Plus Industrial Lens Edger

The next generation of Santinelli’s SE-9090 series of edgers, this new version offers up to 32 percent faster lens finishing than the SE-9090 Express and 55 percent to 64 percent faster than the original SE-9090 “A” model, while retaining its accuracy and Crystal Cut edge polish finish. As with its predecessor, the SE-9090 Express Plus is designed with exclusive dual spindle technology that allows for multi-tasking processes. The new model processes the smallest “b” dimension to-date, to between 21.5 mm without a bevel to 23.0 mm with a bevel, according to Santinelli.

The SE-9090 Express Plus is constructed of heavy-duty, industrial grade, non-corrosive components for 24/7 operation. It can edge high-index, Trivex, and polycarbonate lenses with consistently high quality. The unit can be fitted with Santinelli/Nidek robotic handling units and can also be paired with the company’s AHM unit for patented 3D drilling and 3D grooving functionality.

(800) 644-EDGE
www.santinelli.com

 

Anti-Slip Disc #1705

3M’s Anti-Slip Disc #1075, distributed by Signet Armorlite, is specially designed and formulated for edging hydrophobic coated lenses. The clear disc is placed between the slippery surface of the AR lens and a standard 3M LEAP III Pad to improve adhesion and axis stability.

The clear, 24mm x 44mm disc is placed between the slippery surface of the AR lens and a standard 3M LEAP III Pad to improve adhesion and axis stability. The disc eliminates need for special non-slip edging pad. The Anti-Slip Disc is packaged in quantities of 500. Free samples are available, including a brochure outlining instructions and tips for edging slippery lenses.

(800) 759-0075
www.signetarmorlite.com

 
In this edition...
DOLLARS & SENSE
Calculating Your EBITDA
THE RX FILES
The Case of the Slim Fold Half-Eye
FOCUS ON…
Victoria Lee Gammell of Rite-Style Optical
NEWS TO USE
LensTech’s Fresh Idea
LAB NOTES
Transitions Names 2006 Lab of the Year Finalists
Essilor Honors Varilux and Crizal Labs of the Year
Eagle Optical Opens New AR Coating Center
Becker Joins Precision Optical Products
DAC Int’l Signs Consulting Deal with Walach
TECH TALK
Fashionable Finishing
IT ZONE
Using Your Computer System’s Full Potential
BUYING GROUP & LAB ASSOCIATION UPDATE
New faces at Optical Resources
LensTech Joins Global Optics
 

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Buying Group & Lab Association Update

New faces at Optical Resources—Optical Resources ( www.opticalresources.net) has added two new members to its management team. Steve Noffsinger and Josh Halstead are the new co-general mangers for the buying group, and will be handling day-to-day operations.

Noffsinger, who brings with him 21 years of experience as a controller for a large hotel chain, will be focusing on accounting/finances and customer service. Halstead, who has had years of experience in public relations for emergency service departments, will focus on marketing and customer service.

John Halstead, the president of Optical Resources, says the addition is to “match Optical Resources growth and improve on an already exceptional service.”

LensTech Joins Global Optics LensTech Optical Laboratory of Greenwood, Indiana, has recently joined Global Optics. LensTech joined the family of Global members in November following an onsite visit of the warehouse facility in Green Bay, Wis.

LensTech looked to Global Optics in large part as a way to control their rapid growth and consolidate lens orders. “Now, having the opportunity to offer our customers the enormous variety of lens choices and in stock products available for immediate shipping that Global Optics brings to the table is invaluable,” said sales director Greg Dallas.