Shore Lens Company
A Monthly Update for Optical Laboratory Owners and Managers August 2007

Made possible by an unrestricted grant from Shore Lens Company

New Products
 
Tech Talk

Surfacing

SURFACING ROOM PROTOCOLS, Part 2
The first step in minimizing spoilage in the surfacing process is implementing protocols to ensure there is a consistent approach to processing lenses. Last month, Lab Advisor examined how having a calibration schedule, working as a team, keeping equipment clean, keeping tools and products organized and keeping a consistent room temperature can
greatly reduce spoiling risk. Here are some additional protocols your lab should consider using, if they’re not already doing so.

CHECK PRESSURE
Most equipment runs on air pressure from an air compressor. Check these gauges at several points during the day. Also, use a quality air compressor for consistent pressure. You will want an industrial model that will remain consistent shift after shift.

SURGE PROTECTION
Fluctuations in electricity, although unnoticeable in basic appliances, can disrupt computers and sophisticated equipment. Most, but not all, new equipment features a built-in surge protector. Check with your manufacturer on the specific surge protector capabilities of each equipment. They will be able to suggest suitable types of surge protectors to purchase if required.

SYSTEM CHECK
Software is key. Software tells you what is in your inventory, what’s your rate spoilage, calculates prescription parameters and transmits this essential data to the equipment. However, when incorrect calculation data are entered, glitches and other software related problems are also common. Software based spoilage can be the hardest to identify. Minimize the risk by routine system checks
.

 
The Working Lab

Evaluating Customer Service Today, Part 1

laptop

One of the mantras of the customer service movement of the late ’80s and early ’90s was, “the customer is always right.” Although it seemed like a good idea at the time, people eventually began to question whether customer satisfaction cost too much to achieve. After all, customers aren’t always right, and meeting customer requirements can be at times be impossible to achieve.

Now, fast-forward to the 21st century. Quality improvement concepts in vogue 15 or 20 years ago have been replaced by ISO standards, Six Sigma standards, Goldratt’s Theory and other manufacturing models that focus on ways to improve efficiency and reduce costs in production processes. Today’s business lingo doesn’t even include a word about quality or customers.

What does customer service mean to optical labs today, and how are labs offering it? One way to judge how an optical laboratory approaches customer service is through its Web site.

A quick review of optical lab Web sites reveals it is often difficult for prospective customers to understand what a lab’s customer service standards are and what the lab does to ensure those standards are met. Although Web sites I viewed offered lots of information, making it easy for new, potential customers to find out information was a problem. A new customer/or existing customer may bring new requirements to the table. How are those integrated into your process?

For example, some selling and marketing-oriented Web sites require customers to input certain technical information to order lenses and process jobs. But the process for obtaining this information may not be intuitive or may be based on assumptions that do not necessarily take into account the customer’s needs.

To find out if your lab’s Web site suffers from usability problems, see how easy (or difficult) it is to order a job yourself. Shop your own Web site. Paying attention to the customer interaction points will keep any company smart and competitive; in the optical industry, it will make a difference between successful labs and those that are not doing so well.

Next month in Part Two, we’ll examine creative examples of programs that use technology to satisfy customer needs.—Linda Little

Linda Little

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.

 

 

Estate Tax Laws:
The Time to Act Is Now

WarrantyAn independently-owned optical laboratory is by its very nature a closely held business. In most cases the business is a corporation, owned by related parties or active participants in the laboratory operation. What those shareholders often overlook is the effect that changes in the estate tax rules and rates can have on the business. The impact is twofold; first, in the unforeseen event of a death of a shareholder, and second in the transition of the business from one generation to the next.

Through the year 2008, a tax credit exempts estate amounts up to $2 million from federal estate tax. Without a change in law, this amount will rise to $3.5 million for estates of decedents who die in 2009 and in 2010 the federal estate tax will be repealed. However, the exemption reverts back to a mere $1 million in 2011, with tax rates as high as 60 percent and it is 2011 and thereafter that exposes taxpayers to the highest risk level.

The time to review the impact of the taxation on estates is now. Many lab owners do not have any concept of the effect on their heirs, their business or their employees from meaningful federal estate taxes and state inheritance taxes. To do nothing risks that the business may have to be sold and that there is insufficient capital to pay a 45 percent to 60 percent federal tax, coupled with varied state inheritance tax obligations. Advance planning can include division of assets between spouses since they can inherit unlimited amounts tax free, the use of a “bypass” trust and an active gifting plan utilizing both annual and the one time $1 million per spouse gift tax exemption.

Good business planning dictates a succession plan as well. Utilizing the tax laws in effect now may minimize the cost of transfers from one generation to another. Current law allows for there to be annual gifts of $12,000 per person without a gift tax. Therefore a husband and wife can gift to each child or employee and their spouse up to $12,000 each without a tax being owed. At this rate, $48,000 per year per child or employee (with spouse) can be shifted tax free to the next generation. In addition, unlimited gifts may be made to a spouse and subsequent thereto as much as $1 million each or $2  million in the aggregate may be shifted to the succeeding generation tax free.

To implement this process the owners should develop a solid business valuation, determine liquidity and minority ownership discounts and then coordinate the plan with their advisors including their estate planning attorney.

Thomas F. Puckett is managing director & CEO, HPC Puckett & Company. Based in San Diego, Calif., HPC Puckett & Company specializes in mergers and acquisitions of wholesale optical laboratories.

Shore Lens Company
 

Surfacing Spectralite Velocity: A Second Opinion

Rx FilesIn last month’s Rx Files, we reported on a new method FEA Industries has developed for processing Zeiss Spectralite Velocity lenses. It has resulted in a drastic reduction in the number of surface waves on the lab’s low plus and minus lenses, according to FEA Industries chief executive officer, William Heffner, III. This month, Dennis Johnson of Soderberg Optical offers a second opinion.

“We always add .12 minus to tool,” said Johnson. “Cool the lenses for half an hour after blocking. Cut on polycarbonate speed in the generator. Fine for two minutes on white DAC pad #pdr1520n. Then, fine for one minute on DAC plum pad #pdr1300n.

Davis_Vision_Highmark“We don't cut any thinner than 1.8,” he added. “This seems to give us good results.”—Dennis Johnson, Soderberg Optical, St. Paul, Minn.

Shore Lens Company
 

Audrey Reed, Director of General Services, Essilor

Audrey Reed
Audrey Reed

Audrey Reed has been in the optical industry much longer than her energy, enthusiasm, and appearance would let on. Her good natured approach to every position she’s held over the years, has built her a following of patrons loyal and respecting of her knowledge and her fairness.

 So… who is she and what does she do, you ask? She is probably the purchasing expert of the industry when it comes to wholesale laboratories, retail chains and optical manufacturers. Vendors and suppliers know the key role she has served in determining the products that will be purchased, in what volumes, and for what price. And heaven help you when something doesn’t go according to plan. She has been known to get a shipping vendor to go back to work to get a package delivered when it wasn’t handled properly the first time.

But Reed has changed the concept of purchasing from buying at the best price to procuring the right products and services to meet the needs of her immediate customers (laboratories) so they can satisfy the requirements of their customers, the eyecare professionals.

“Audrey has been instrumental in finding creative solutions to make our lives easier,” explained Stan Balka, general manager of Meridian Optical Lab in Phoenix, Ariz. “For example, she has been able to bring together all the branded lens sales to be reported by sales territory, by lab and by ECP.” Although this may not sound important, it is significant that the suppliers now can have detailed sales reports and the sales reps and ECPs don’t have to spend their time tracking sales to earn the points toward supplier driven marketing promotions. She has put packages together, involving the lens manufacturers, consumable suppliers and the lab general managers to identify the requirements, costs, delivery and selling prices.

Reed is responsible for procurement: for facilities—including the start to finish build of the 84,000-square foot new campus construction in Dallas that took one year to complete and furnish; for the Essilor travel group; and for the Dallas distribution center. She also serves as the Global Coordinator for Special Olympics and is on the President’s Advisory Council for Special Olympics, Texas.

No matter what you ask her about, she is passionate about her work.
“I would rather have you speak to my customers and promote them,” Reed’s response was when asked for an interview. “I am responsible for meeting their needs. That’s my job.” And her customers agree.

Shore Lens Company
 

Global Optics’ Click It to Win Promo

Click  to Win Flyer

“Click It to Win” is a new promotion from independent wholesale lab group Global Optics. Global members encourage their accounts to order lenses through LenStock.com, which gives them a chance to win a 30 MG Apple iPod. Eyecare professionals are sponsored by their primary labs and are supported by their sponsoring lab for their processing needs.

Between June 1 and Dec. 31, 2007, the LenStock computer system will randomly select 10 order numbers to win the iPod. The more LenStock orders placed, the more chances to win. ECPs learn about this promotion through communication from their sponsor labs and are encouraged to contact their lab for questions and information.
 
“Click it to Win offers eyecare professionals [the opportunity] to take advantage of our exceptional service as well as have a chance to win,” explained Ed Dietz, president of Dietz Laboratories, a Global member. “We offer numerous opportunities for our member labs to offer special programs to their customers, building loyalty and relationships.”

 
Pearl_Rems

Scott Pearl, left and Jeff Rems display Digital Eye Lab’s marketing materials and lens packaging at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, N.Y.

Digital Eye Lab Targets Freeform Market —This spring, Digital Eye Lab, a prescription lab specializing in digital surfacing, opened its doors. Located a half-hour north of New York City, the lab produces a select group of the latest digitally surfaced designs, including Seiko Succeed Internal Freeform, Shamir Insight Autograph and Autograph Short. Digital Eye Lab has also been selected by Indo to be the first U.S. manufacturer of its LifeMade line of progressives. It is gearing up to add the LifeMade Inicia, which is optimized for emerging presbyopes, and Expert, a lens for experienced progressive wearers, to its product mix.

Scott Pearl, managing director, said Digital Eye Lab’s role is to, “be a guide into and through freeform” for its accounts. “As the entry point for freeform, we want to provide the easiest way for our customers to have access to it. We take away the penalties for using freeform, such as longer wait times. We minimize redos. We work with known manufacturers to provide a choice in materials and design,” he said.

Digital Eye Lab represents not just a new venture, but a foray into an entirely new business sector for its parent company, Optical Distributor Group (ODG), a major national distributor of soft contact lenses.

“Part of our plan was always diversification,” said Jeff Rems, president of ODG. “We wanted to provide non-fashion products to grow our customers’ bottom lines.”

Ultra Lens Opens AR Coating Facility—Ultra Lens Optical Lab in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., recently opened a new Satisloh-equipped AR coating facility. “With the opening of our AR coating lab, we now offer our customers a new level of service and quality when it comes to the AR category,” said Danny Singer, chief operating officer of Ultra Lens.

According to Brian Peterson, vice president of Satisloh, “Ultra Lens’ MC380H AR lab produces an oliophobic and anti-static AR lens that is amongst the best in the marketplace. Ultra Lens is current the only independent Florida lab that has this process.”

The expansion into in-house AR represents the latest advancement in a multi-year process of technology upgrades to the lab. In the past 18 months, Ultra Lens has installed both new surface and finishing technology in an effort to stay on the cutting edge of laboratory services.

VisionWeb and Carl Zeiss Vision Partner for Electronic Ordering— VisionWeb and Carl Zeiss Vision announced that all 15 Carl Zeiss Vision laboratories are now connected to the VisionWeb network. The new connections will enable direct ordering of prescription lens products through VisionWeb’s eyecare product ordering service.

Eyecare providers may now order prescription lenses from any of the 15 Carl Zeiss Vision laboratories electronically, via the VisionWeb site and many of the practice management systems integrated with VisionWeb. VisionWeb will offer eyecare providers ordering through the VisionWeb site full access to features that help streamline the ordering process, including online order status and tracking. VisionWeb customers who are members of buying groups will continue to receive their buying group discounts when ordering to Carl Zeiss Vision laboratories through VisionWeb’s eyecare product ordering service.

The VisionWeb network connection with the Carl Zeiss Vision laboratory group include Carl Zeiss Vision—Kentucky (formerly SOLA Technologies), Carl Zeiss Vision—Northwest (formerly Optical Plastics), Cumberland Optical, Southeastern Optical, and both Vision Systems Ophthalmic Laboratories, B&W Optical, Carl Zeiss Vision—Northeast (formerly Northeast Lens Corporation), Great Lakes Coating, Kansas City Ophthalmics, Laser Optics, North Central Ophthalmics, both Siouxland Ophthalmic laboratories, and Specto Optical.

Applied

CFM850 Optical Coating System
Manufacturer: Applied Multilayers Ltd.
Description: High-throughput optical coating system

Features: Process uses reactive magnetron sputtering technology to produces coatings of precision quality. 0.5m-diameter drum lens carrier and up to four 1m linear magnetrons provide uniform AR or mirror coatings on more than 160 lenses. In-chamber super-hydrophobic process is also included. Drum is removable to improve throughput. Versatile process can be used to deposit metal-oxides, metal-nitrides, as well as pure metal coatings. Process is room temperature and can be applied to glass and hard coated plastic substrates; process is computer controlled and layer thickness is set using time only.

+44 (0)1530 830545
www.applied-multilayers.com

 
Zeiss Sola

SOLA Compact Ultra HD in 1.67 and Transitions Gray
Manufacturer: Carl Zeiss Vision
Description: Short-corridor, direct-surface progressive lens

Features: 13mm minimum fitting height allows progressive wearers to select from a wider variety of smaller, fashionable frames. Fitting height is made possible by advanced corridor design that delivers, “unsurpassed reading area at all fitting heights…excellent binocularity, low skew distortion, and peak astigmatism that is lower than many leading short-corridor progressive lenses,” according to Zeiss. Offers benefits of semi-finished Compact Ultra, but uses direct surfacing and a sophisticated design approach to customize the lens surface for all aspects of the individual patient’s prescription. Largest possible areas of clear vision with the lowest levels of unwanted astigmatism.

Availability: 1.67 clear and Transitions gray lenses, and includes premium AR coating. Carl Zeiss Vision has recently expanded Compact Ultra’s semi-finished material availability to include Transitions brown in hard resin and polycarbonate. Also available semi-finished in clear and Transitions gray in 1.67, polycarbonate and hard resin.

(800) 555-7652
www.carlzeissvision.com

 
easytop bifocals

Easy Top Bifocal
Manufacturer: DAC International
Designer: Quest Specialty Lab
Description: Freeform bifocal

Features: No line, no image jump and no blend zone as you move your eyes from distance viewing to reading. No progressive corridor, just a “door” to the seg and immediate full add power. The Easy Top Bifocal is intended as a replacement for bifocal lenses or for small vertical dimension frames where PAL corridors are too long for the patient to get full ad power vision. Designed and patented by Michael Walach of Quest Specialty Lab, the Easy Top Bifocal can only be manufactured on DAC International’s RxD Generator with Specialty Lens capability. As with all designs in DAC’s Specialty Lens Menu, this lens is turned on the back side of spherical fronts.

Availability: All materials, .50 to 4.00 add. (For add powers over 3.50, some restrictions regarding seg size and seg line width might apply.) The license for cutting Easy Top Lenses can be purchased from DAC International as an option to the DAC Surfacing System.

(888) 373-3027
www.dac-intl.com

 
Varilux

Varilux Comfort and Varilux Ellipse in 1.60
Manufacturer: Essilor of America
Description: High-index progressive lenses

Features: Up to 30 percent thinner and 20 percent lighter than standard 1.50-index plastic lenses. New, improved MR8 substrate offers advantages over the previously-used MR6 substrate, i.e. higher Abbe Value at 41, lower density of 1.30, and 100 percent UV protection. Also available in Transitions.

(800) 366-6342
www.essilorusa.com

 

 
Vision-Ease

80mm Plastic SFSV Lenses
Manufacturer: Vision-Ease Lens
Description: Expanded base curve availability and increased lens thickness of plastic semi-finished single-vision (SFSV) 80mm lenses.

Features: The thicker lenses and base curve extensions meet more prescription needs and are well-suited for freeform progressive lens processing, according to Vision-Ease. Lens edge thickness on plastic SFSV 80mm 6.25 and 8.25 base lenses has been increased, making them ideal for wraparound frame styles.

Availability: Plastic SFSV 80mm lenses are now available in 5.25 and 7.25 base curves. The full base curve availability is now 2.25, 4.25, 5.25, 6.25, 7.25 and 8.25.

(800) 328-3449
www.vision-ease.com

 
In This Edition...
DOLLARS & SENSE
Estate Laws: The Time to Act Is Now
THE RX FILES
Surfacing Spectralite Velocity: A Second Opinion
FOCUS ON…
Audrey Reed, Director of General Services, Essilor
NEWS TO USE
Global Optics' Click It to Win Promo
LAB NOTES

Digital Eye Lab Targets Freeform Market

Ultra Lens Opens AR Coating Facility

VisionWeb And Carl Zeiss Partner For Electronic Ordering
TECH TALK
Surfacing Room Protocols, Part 2
check THE WORKING LAB
Evaluating Customer Service Today Part One
 

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Shore Lens Company
 

LabTalk Preview

In LabTalk’s cover story for July/August, Reaching for the Stars—Achieving & Maintaining Stellar Customer Service, you’ll learn about some of the “best practices” in use by some of today’s leading optical laboratories. Check out this excerpt:
“One strategy is to provide business reports that your customers may not be producing on their own. For example, track customers’ current sales versus prior year, as well as growth patterns and individual sales categories (e.g., percentage of anti-reflective treatments, photochromics and progressive lenses).

LabTalk Spotlight

“This service provides a lot of value because not every independent practice is computerized, or savvy enough to dissect their business this way,” said Manso. “By providing that kind of input, your lab becomes a business resource and not just a product supplier.”

Peggy Conway, director of marketing at Homer Optical in Silver Spring, Maryland, wholeheartedly agreed. “Our sales reps regularly meet with customers to analyze their business—where their sales are up and where they’re down,” she said. “Then we try to figure out how we can help them grow through training, promotions and rewards. Many of our customers don’t take the time to run these reports themselves, so we’re really supplying a value-added service.”

To read the entire article, log onto www.labtalkonline.com then under FEATURES, go to the article “Reaching for the Stars: Achieving & Maintaining Stellar Customer Service.”