A Monthly Update for Optical Laboratory Owners and Managers May 2007

Made possible by an unrestricted grant from DAC Vision

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Tech Talk

It's on the Bevel

Following are some beveling guidelines for different types of jobs.

Polycarbonate: Select the polycarbonate setting or the “soft bevel” or “fragile” setting. The goal with soft lens materials is to reduce torque by decreasing clamping pressure and slowing wheel speeds to help avoid spoilage. Polycarbonate should be rough cut dry and beveled wet to reduce swarf (a gummy build-up from lens material removed in cutting). Wet edgers with a poly setting provide the wet-dry cycles automatically.

Trivex: Use the Trivex setting or check with your equipment manufacturer and the lens manufacturer for processing recommendations. Although some labs use the polycarbonate setting, others use the fragile lens setting. It’s best to get expert advice for your machine.

Polarized: Use the fragile setting to minimize risk of delamination. Automatic edgers do a good job placing the bevel. Thick high-minus lenses may require adjusting the bevel forward to avoid any exposed edges on the front rim.

AR Lenses: Anti-reflective lenses, loved by patients for their visual and cosmetic benefits, are the nemeses of the lab world due to their slippery hydrophobic surfaces that can slide off axis during processing. Crazing and cracking may occur, especially with a thin high-index lens, and the result is a very expensive redo. Newer edger models now offer a hydrophobic setting that automatically adjusts process variables to avoid slippage during the bevel cycles. Several suppliers offer self-adhesive protective pads that can be applied to the front and back surfaces of the lenses, under the chucks, to protect the lens from scratches and reduce slippage.

 

 

The Future of the Independent Lab?

Independently owned optical laboratories have been under a barrage of changes to what, up to a dozen years ago, otherwise had been a reasonably predictable business. Major decision making today needs to consider economic cycles, the effect of consolidation in the industry, positioning by third-party providers and the ever concerning retail market share. Now we can add to the list a Congress intent on increasing taxes, discounts in pricing by manufacturer lab groups and vendors pushing even higher priced equipment.

Sound bad? Relax, there is now, and in the reasonably foreseeable future should be, a place for the independently owned laboratory. Where there is change, there is often opportunity as well. The entrepreneurial structure, when blended with all of the available tools to management, can be a very strong force. For this reason, owners, now more than ever, need to align themselves with others through such organizations as the Optical Laboratories Association (OLA) and a solid buying group that provides not only pricing opportunities but inter-company management support, thus allowing for strength in numbers and the best shot at economies of scale.

In earlier articles, I have addressed the need for management to fully understand the underlying financial performance of their independently owned lab. To survive and grow, lab management must develop the same financial controls and decision making tools as their much larger competitors have in place. Only then can the lab owners make fully informed short- or long-term decisions as to purchasing, marketing, pricing and even whether to retain or sell the business.

While on its face it seems unfair, independent labs must in fact be better at what they do than their larger competitors, since they lack both the cost structure and associated capital to compete on an even field. Therefore, service, efficiency, quality and product differentiation all need to be as good as or better than the competition. Add to that a need for informed financial decisions and a flexible business plan. Lab owners cannot rely on current market conditions to continue without interruption and as such must have a fallback plan in place. This plan should have associated cash reserves, smart or structured growth, provisions for cutting overhead in the event of a slow down; and detailed information that provides unit or variable pricing that keeps pricing competitive but also profitable. So the answer is; yes, there is a place for independent labs, only they need to work a little harder and a lot smarter than the competition.

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


 

Remote Tracing... Bad Shapes, Costly Mistakes

QC Optical Lab has had repeated issues with remote tracing orders and faxed orders that seem “normal.”

“The job may be a simple Rx, -2.00, complete AB measurements, DBL, etc.,” explained Bruce Hengle, co-owner of QC Laboratory, which has locations in Portland, Ore. and Spokane, Wash. “We start on the lenses to offer a quick turnaround time, and then the frame comes in.”

Clearly, that’s when the problems start. Today’s popularity with large frames and in particular, wrap frames is causing problems to those labs that try to service their accounts by getting a head start on processing the lenses.

“Large frames or wrap frames need to begin with an 8 base lens,” explained Hengle. “Now, anytime we get a 55 eye or larger, customer service calls the account.”

Customer service asks for the base curve of the lens on the frame. Often the accounts don’t know the base curve and have to use a lens clock to determine it. “It isn’t unusual for the person sending in the job to not know what a lens clock is,” commented Hengle. “With the wrap frames and larger frames, we’ve had to educate our accounts to understand base curve sizes and how to measure the frame they are going to send us.”

“We can reduce our waste by spending the time with our accounts,” Hengle added. “If they understand and send the information we need on the job, upfront, we can meet their expectations for turnaround time.”

Hengle continued to explain that many of the frames were not intended for prescription lenses, so his lab team has had to get smart and creative. “We use the dry cut edger, 6E, from National Optronics, to process wrap and large frame sizes.” These edgers offer the opportunity to change the mode of operation and the cutters to match the frame.

“These frames are labor intensive,” Hengle adds. “But we have to be competitive and the more we work with our accounts, the more they will work with us.”

Linda Little is an optical industry veteran and writer who specializes in laboratory and technical topics. She can be reached at 214-215-5453, or at llittle@considercelina.com.

If your lab has a technical issue that you’d like to discuss, please contact Linda Little.

Second Opinions
“Yes, like any other lab, we’ve had this problem. We finally had to take the stance that with jobs like these, we have to have the frame before we start processing the lenses. They have found that starting the job without the frame can be an expensive mistake with the cost of premium lenses these days. Customers have typically given us the wrong frame measurements, wrong seg heights, wrong pd’s and even wrong Rx’s; forcing us to have to remake the lenses. We explain to our customers that by investing just one day to send in the frame with the correct information can save several days of having to remake and reprocess the lenses. Most of our customers are okay with this.” —Mark Cohen, Tri-Supreme Optical, Farmingdale, N.Y.

“We do not offer remote tracing, for precisely the reasons that QC Optical stated above. We have experimented with it in the past, and found that often times more problems were created than solved. This was further compounded by the point that in the managed care world, we do not bill the providers for the materials supplier. There is no way to hold them [eyecare providers] financially accountable for unacceptable shapes that are submitted by their office.” —Michael O’Connor, Davis Vision


 

Charlie Luedtke, Soderberg Ophthalmic Services

“Providing my customers with products and services that are dependable, quality minded, and bottom line orientated. Also, to be the sales professional that is called when there are new business opportunities.” This is the philosophy of 2006 Soderberg Sales Rep of the Year, Charlie Luedtke.

Charlie Luedtke began 24 years ago working in inventory control at Midwest Vision Center/Central Eyewear in St. Cloud, Minn. after three-and-a-half years in supervisory positions elsewhere. “I have had very unique opportunities in the optical industry and great bosses who have been instrumental to my success and my opportunities to grow,” explained Luedtke. He moved to Twin City Optical during the fast growth phase in the optical industry to serve as the corporate inventory manager before he took a turn in sales for Rodenstock.

“I love sales,” Luedtke exclaimed when asked about his move to an external position. His father was the biggest influence in his move from an internal position to an outside sales position, supporting his decision along with his wife of 25 years (in July), Sue, his three grown children, and five grandchildren. “I have been fortunate to have worked for and continue to work for some of the best companies in the industry. I’ve had bosses who were forward thinking, willing to utilize and encourage my strengths, and willing to work with me while I became acclimated and began to show results.”

When asked about his recent award of 2006 Sales Rep of the Year, Luedtke quickly comments that he did not start 2006 to win an award. “I focused on the basic aspects of my particular business,” he explained. “With the support of Sue Ebner, my boss, and Craig Giles [vice president and general manager of Soderberg], I kept my goal of improving the bottom line of my account base, helping my customers to accomplish their goals.”

Luedtke was quick to add that his customers are not necessarily aware of his award. “I’m still a pup at Soderberg, there are some very experienced people with real longevity here,” he explained. Luedtke has worked for the ophthalmic division of Soderberg for the past five years, promoting laboratory services, frame products and optical accessories to independent eyecare professionals. His territory is “about the size of Texas,” encompassing all of North Dakota, northwest and western Minneapolis, 90 percent of South Dakota and a “little swing” into Eastern Montana—the largest geographic territory at Soderberg. This territory is also the smallest population base of any territory at Soderberg. “But the customers are very loyal,” he commented. “I love my territory, it can be a challenge in the winter, but when I consider what upstate New York, the East Coast and elsewhere have been through this winter, I have it pretty good.”

Crediting his peers, his bosses and management at Soderberg and Walman, Luedtke feels he works for the best company and adds they are a much more focused team. Under this organization Luedtke has achieved a great deal of recognition for his sales efforts, and yet, he continues to look for ways to improve his accounts’ bottom line. “It isn’t about me; it is all about them [his customers].” I think that sums up his philosophy about life in general.

—Linda Little

 

Homer’s Piggyback Promotions

Homer Optical uses the “piggyback” concept to leverage vendor national promotions. The idea is to re-inforce the vendor’s program with Homer customers, help customers meet criterion established by the vendor to win, and offer an extra reason for that customer to do business with Homer.

Peggy Conway, Homer’s sales and marketing director, offers this recent example of how the lab piggybacks onto a vendor’s program.

“Essilor’s Imagine Italy promotion, which ran from May 1 to Aug. 31, 2006, was a goal-driven program that provided rewards based on Crizal and Varilux growth,” noted Conway. “Homer’s Taste of Italy, July 1 to Dec. 31, 2006, was a goal-driven program for Varilux and Crizal. It rewarded both maintenance and growth of goal, [chances to win a trip to the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas], and paid extra for customers who achieved a 10 percent growth. Homer sales consultants also had a $500 incentive tied to the success of their customers enrolled in Taste of Italy.

According to Conway, Homer realized a 10 percent growth in Varilux and Crizal usage from this group of customers. Two Homer sales consultants won $500 for achieving 10 percent-plus growth in their respective territories, and four eyecare professionals won a trip for two to the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas.

“We’re following a similar strategy in 2007,” said Conway. “Essilor’s Crizal Clear Choice kicked off on May 1, and Homer launched Make May your AR Len$ Month. For every 25 pair of AR lenses ordered during May, we’ll automatically send the eyecare professional a $25 Homer Optical gift certificate. Monthly specials will continue for the balance of 2007.”

 

Essilor Expands Education for IDD Advantage Labs—Essilor of America, Inc. (EOA) is offering its Independent Distribution Division (IDD) Advantage Plan labs an expanded Advantage Learning program designed specifically for independent lab sales reps. The program includes three components: Knowledge, Skills, and Apply.

Advantage Learning Knowledge courses, launched in March of 2006, consist of up-to-date product and market trend courses. Skills courses in selling are being launched this spring, followed this fall by an ECP education with certification program called Apply.

Once independent sales reps successfully complete all the Knowledge courses available, they become certified as an Advantage Lab Pro. The Advantage Lab Pros will also receive training on delivering effective in-office training to their accounts. After successfully completing Knowledge courses and certification as Advantage Lab Pro, independent sales representatives maintain their certification by completing the Annual Recertification Exam in January of each year.

 

Dr. John Bonsett-Veal, OD, president-elect of the Wisconsin Optometric Association, speaking to seminar attendees at Cherry Optical’s “What’s New University.”
Transitions Sponsors Cherry Optical’s Annual “What’s New U”—More than 650 eyecare professionals joined together for Cherry Optical’s 2007 “What’s New University” event, held March 24 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Sponsored by Transitions Optical, the annual event is one of the largest single-day optical events in the country, drawing a wide range of optical industry professionals, from opticians, to optometrists, to general office personnel. This year’s University theme was “Unlock Your Independent Advantage.” Eyecare professionals received information and advice on communicating with today’s patients and the reasons why they choose an independent for their eyecare services. Attendees were invited to participate in 32 courses and four workshops, with topics including glaucoma treatment, freeform progressive technology, business courses and insurance billing updates. Additionally, more than 70 exhibitors were on hand to discuss their new products.

Cherry Optical is an independently-owned optical laboratory located in Green Bay, Wis.

 

Joe Reed, an instructor at Cherry Optical’s “Your Eyes University,” assists Charlene Wark in a drill mount frame adjustment workshop.

Cherry Optical Sponsors "Your Eyes U." For ECPsCherry Optical’s second annual Your Eyes University, held April 14 at at the Ford Conference and Convention Center in Dearborn, Mich., created an opportunity for over 500 optometrists, opticians and other professionals to earn CE credits free of charge. The event, sponsored by Cherry Optical and Transitions Optical, offered participating ECPs their choice of five courses approved by the Council on Optometric Practitioner Education (COPE), three TPA forums, four courses approved by the NCLE and 26 courses approved by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO). The course offerings included Transitions Optical’s “Ocular Effects Associated with Medications and Healthy Sight Counseling” courses, presented by Transitions education faculty member, Paul Berman, OD. Tim Fortner from Transitions presented a seminar called “Telling the Best Story,” which offers best practice tips for ECPs. Additionally, more than 50 exhibitors were on hand to present their new products.

Cherry Optical is an independently-owned optical laboratory located in Melvindale, Mich.

 

Pictured at the recognition ceremony at Kansas City Ophthalmics headquarters in Independence, Mo. are, left to right: Rick Dietz; Jason Jones; Henry Bode; Sonja Ballard; Traci Armanees; and Brandy Thompson.
Kansas City Ophthalmics Named 2006 CZV Premier Transitions Lab—Carl Zeiss Vision and Transitions Optical have recognized Kansas City Ophthalmics of Independence, Mo., as the 2006 Carl Zeiss Vision Premier Transitions Lab. This annual award is given to the Carl Zeiss Vision Lab that demonstrates the strongest commitment to growing its business with Transitions lenses.
“Throughout 2006, Kansas City Ophthalmics consistently proved its commitment to Transitions by ensuring that Transitions played a key role in all aspects of its business—from marketing and promotions, to training and educational events,” said Connie Falvo, sales director, Transitions. “They fully supported our ongoing efforts to create an educated consumer who understands the importance of healthy sight, and served as a valuable partner in providing eyecare professionals with the resources and training they need to further educate their patients about this topic and grow their business with Transitions lenses.”

 

Essilor Varilux Ellipse 360°

Essilor of America (EOA) is releasing Varilux Ellipse 360°, its latest, digitally-surfaced progressive lens. The lens is designed specifically for small frames and combines a short corridor design with the latest digital surfacing process. It offers wider fields of vision, less distortion and improved acuity than other short corridor designs, according to Essilor.

The front-side design of a Varilux Ellipse 360° lens is aligned with the back of the lens using proprietary software, known as Point-By-Point Prescription Mapping, to create an optimized back-side design. This optimized back-side design is then applied with 360° Digital Surfacing, a patented manufacturing process.

360º Digital Surfacing maintains the integrity of the Varilux Ellipse lens design, which offers a wide viewing area, with 85 percent of power achieved at only 9.5mm. Varilux Ellipse lenses offer a full 140º field of vision. The lenses are designed specifically for presbyopes wanting smaller, stylish frames that require a fitting height as low as 14mm.

Varilux Ellipse 360º lenses are systematically available with Crizal, Crizal Alizé or Crizal Alizé with Clear Guard. Essilor is expanding its traditional Varilux Ellipse lens line, which is now available in Thin & Lite 1.60 in both clear and Transitions V in gray.

(800) 366-6342
www.essilorusa.com

 

KBco Eight-Base 1.67 Spherical SFSV
KBco is introducing a polarized 1.67 high-index semi-finished single-vision lens. The lens is manufactured using MR-10 resin, which is better suited for drilling and rimless applications. The lens blank is extra thick, with a 13.5mm edge thickness, which will aid labs that surface a minus prescriptions for wrapped frames. The eight-base 1.67 spherical SFSV is available in KBco True Grey and KBco Brown-C.

(800) 722-8776
www.kbco.net

 




Optima Color Free AR

Optima is introducing Color Free, a patented AR treatment that eliminates the residual color casts typical of many AR lenses.

According to Optima, Color Free AR is virtually invisible. It allows 98.7 percent of light transmission compared to 98.2 percent transmission for most other AR lenses. (Each tenth of a percent represents significant visual improvement to the eyeglass lens wearer.) The wearer gains cosmetic advantages and benefits from improved night vision, true color fidelity, better contrast sensitivity, reduced glare from back surface reflections, improved eye contact for better communication and reduced eye strain in work settings.

Color Free AR also features Optima’s new flash process, CFT (Cryogenically Flash Treated), which is applied post-hydrophobic- oleophobic to provide a tighter molecular bond. The process makes the treatment more durable and repellent to exterior effects, Optima reports. Further performance enhancements include a hard coating that utilizes a thermally cured dip coating process which enhances durability and matches the coating and substrate to eliminate birefringence.

(800) 621-1216
www.resolutionlenses.com

 

Signet Armorlite Kodak Precise Short

In response to the continuing popularity of smaller, fashionable frames, Signet Armorlite is introducing the Kodak Precise Short progressive lens. Kodak Precise Short features a powerful progressive design that gives wearers comfortable viewing and easy adaptation, according to Signet. Available in June 2007, Kodak Precise Short offers the shortest corridor of 13mm; the lens has a fitting height of 13mm to 19mm and is available in 1.67 high-index, InstaShades PolyClear (gray and brown), PolyClear and standard resin.
Kodak Precise Short uses Signet’s Vision First Design, a technology that allows patients to experience a smooth gradation of power, gentle binocular balance, broad field of view, and quick object recognition.

Direct Digital Surfacing ensures prescription accuracy is delivered from the designer’s specs directly into the mold. With the combination of Vision First Design and Direct Digital Surfacing, Kodak Precise Short provides a visual experience comparable to a single vision lens.

All Kodak progressives are eligible for PracticePlus, an ongoing support program designed to enhance the practice of independent eyecare professionals. Members receive funding, staff training, marketing expertise and technical assistance to ensure customer satisfaction and to promote a strong practice. To enroll in PracticePlus, visit www.practice-plus.net or call a Signet Armorlite lens consultant at 800-950-LENS.

(800-950-LENS)
www.signetarmorlite.com

 

Western Optical Supply DigiOmeter (#2061DP)
The DigiOmeter provides digital accuracy when measuring interpupillary distance (PD). Measurement options include PD and right/left monocular distance. The unit measures distance between the pupils focusing on the light spot reflecting off of the patient's retina. Using highly accurate linear sensor, the reflection is bisected vertically to take the reading. An easily visible wide-angle LCD numeric readout eliminates operator error and increases measuring accuracy. The DigiOmeter automatically turns off after two minutes on standby.

Data range: binocular PD 46-82mm; monocular PD 23-41mm; distance range: 300 to infinity; indication, rounding and asymmetric Error: <.5mm; power source: DC6V (four AA batteries); size: 232mm length x 163mm width x 71mm height; weight: 28 ounces.

(800) 423-3294
www.westernoptical.com

 

 
In this edition...
DOLLARS & SENSE
The Future of the Independent Lab?
THE RX FILES
Remote Tracing...Bad Shapes, Costly Mistakes
FOCUS ON…
Charlie Luedtke, Soderberg Ophthalmic Services
NEWS TO USE
Homer Optical's Piggyback Promotions
LAB NOTES

Essilor Expands Education for IDD

Transitions Sponsors Cherry Optical’s “What’s New U”

Cherry Optical Sponsors "Your Eyes U" for ECPs

Kansas City Ophthalmics Named CZV Premier Transitions Lab

TECH TALK
It's on the Bevel
   
BUYING GROUP & LAB ASSOCIATION UPDATE
COLA Hosts Spring Meeting

OSC Expands Membership
 

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Buying Group & Lab Association Update


COLA Hosts Spring Meeting, Presents Good Fellow Award

—Bringing together optical laboratories from California with industry experts, the California Optical Laboratory Association held its annual meeting in Temecula for two days of activities and presentations.

(l to r) Corrine Hood, Katz & Klein, Dave Heglund, Vision Service Plan and Carol Babcock, Carl Zeiss Optical catch up on industry news at the Good Fellow reception.
 

COLA president, Keith Grossman, welcomes the crowd to the Good Fellow Award presentation.

 
After the COLA business meeting and an update on Optical Laboratories Association activities by OLA president, Ed Dietz III, representatives from Satisloh, National Optronics and Santinelli gave presentations on the latest in finishing equipment and processes. Kevin Paddy, manager of finishing products, Satisloh provided the labs with concrete examples and information on how to make their finishing department more profitable. Susan Polson of National Optronics conducted a question and answer session covering improvements to the finishing process, while Steve Swalgen of Santinelli focused on the differences and synergies for retail and wholesale lab finishing.
 

Last year’s Good Fellow recipient, Richard Salenger (l), Vision-Ease, presents the 2007 winner, Mike Francesconi of Katz & Klein with the perpetual trophy.

 
During the COLA president’s reception and dinner, Katz & Klein’s Mike Francesconi was awarded the 2007 Good Fellow Award. The award is presented annually by the West Coast Good Fellow committee to an individual who is respected and admired by his or her peers and who truly represents a “good fellow.”
 

Dawn Miller, OD and the president of the California Vision Foundation presented the Lab of the Year, California Vision Project to Elite Optical. Accepting the award for Elite Optical is Anthony Gonzales, Bartley Optical.

 

In addition, the California Vision Foundation presented its Lab of the Year to Elite Optical of Visalia, Calif. Twenty-two optical laboratories participated in the program that provided eyewear to almost 3,000 patients in 2006. —Christie Walker, editor, Lab Talk, www.labtalkonline.com.

 
OSC Expands Membership, Names Pugh as Membership Director
 

Optical Supply Co-Op (OSC) www.osclabs.com reported that Richmond Optical has joined as a wholesale member. The lab, based in Hayward, Calif, is owned and operated by Ron Furr. The addition of Richmond Optical brings OSC’s total membership to 42.
Also, OSC has appointed Jana Pugh as membership director. She will be responsible for overseeing all marketing, data analysis, promotions and consulting services for OSC member laboratories. In addition, Pugh will be a key contact in servicing suppliers with pricing and reporting.

OSC is an alliance of independent wholesale laboratories located throughout the country. The group’s goal is to provide members with a competitive advantage in service, pricing, marketing and education.