Optical Synergies, Inc.
A Monthly Update for Optical Laboratory Owners and Managers September 2007

Made possible by an unrestricted grant from Optical Synergies, Inc.

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Tech Talk

Surfacing

SURFACING ROOM PROTOCOLS, Part 3
Parts 1 and 2 in this series of articles on Surfacing Room Protocols examined how regular calibration and pressure checks, proper filtering 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.

FILTER THROUGH
Any time liquid comes into contact with a lens during surfacing, the liquid becomes contaminated with debris and particles from the lens. Generator and fining water, and polish are filtered to avoid contamination. Spoilage takes place when these filters are not cleaned and changed regularly. Follow manufacturer guidelines, remembering that some materials are more easily scratched by debris as well as create more debris, thus necessitating more frequent filter changes. Most filters will have to be cleaned at several points during the day.

KNOW YOUR INVENTORY
Each lens type requires different surfacing parameters. Lab managers have found that these parameters change from brand to brand, even if that brand is the same index, material, base curve and diameter. Complicating the situation is the range of indices available, each requiring different stroke rates, pressures, etc. Most of the new equipment handles the diversity, but only if the software has the correct data. When introducing any new lens types into your inventory, run several demo-lenses through your production line and verify that they were fabricated to spec. Even the introduction of a new base curve in a lens line can require new settings, and should be tested before making them available to dispensers.

CONSISTENT CONSUMABLE
Select brands of pads, polish, blocking compounds and other consumable that you are positive will maintain the quality of your products, and stick with these brands. Do not change brands without thorough testing of the product prior to introducing them to your production line.

NEW EQUIPMENT
Do your new equipment homework: Research before you buy.  Do not introduce new equipment without making sure it is compatible with your existing equipment, can be upgraded, and will interface with your computer system. Test the new equipment with demo-lenses before putting the machine on-line.

You can read Parts 1 and 2 in this series by going to www.visionmonday.com and selecting the Lab Advisor icon.

 
The Working Lab

Evaluating Customer Service, Part 2

Working Lab

Last month, The Working Lab looked at how customer service expectations for labs are changing. To experience how customers perceive their labs, readers were encouraged to shop their own lab’s Web site to determine how user-friendly it is.

So, did you check your Web site?  What did you find?  Could you easily place an order without speaking to anyone?  Did you know the price of the job you ordered?  Did you know when your job would be ready?  How did you feel?

Hopefully, you and all your customers are successful in working together electronically. After all, long gone are the days of telephone ordering and order faxing, right?  I went online and placed orders on several Web sites to see how they worked. If a telephone call was required, the order wasn’t processing, the order entry clerk was frustrated and she quit trying. So let’s review the simple differences that made it easier to work within one Web site than another.

To begin with, the ‘place an order’ button was on the side link or top link, or in the text on the first page, easy to find without much effort. The link went straight to a username and password, then to order entry. The order entry screen was easy to follow and forced a systematic entry so nothing was left out. Drop down lens options identified specials or new products and all the options associated with a lens would force choices. Clearly the efficiency and accuracy this offered would make any ECP happy.

The laboratory Web sites that were the easiest to work in actually use their lab management software system to do the work. Serving as a portal, the customer is actually linked into the lab’s data entry page or is downloaded into the data entry page at the lab.  This remote order entry system has become very popular in the past three to four years, as the use of the Internet has become a matter of fact in our daily lives.

As a customer, easy order entry isn’t the only benefit. The job can be tracked and in some cases actually stopped if necessary via online tracking. “An eyecare professional can start on the laboratory’s Web site and click to see a real time job status,” explained Dave Wedwick, president of Optivision, a lab software development company. “This is done by the lab integrating the remote order entry into their Web site pages and linking to their server.”
Wedwick goes on to explain that the labs manage the entry screen and lens data information through their server. Special promotions can be added and the labs can push those products through the lens data drop down.

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.

 

 

How Independents Can Avoid Being Trampled by ‘Elephants’

ContractAn industry veteran who I know and respect when commenting on the pricing and territorial conflicts of integrating lab consolidators quoted; “When elephants fight, grass gets trampled.” What could more accurately describe what independent lab owners, or in this case “grass” are facing today? The facts are that the consolidation is based in large measure on manufacturer’s desire to improve distribution, create synergies and provide product at a more competitive price, while still maintaining profit margins. What they have that the independent lab cannot hope to maintain, is the profit in the distributed product, massive economies of scale, specialization in management and deep pockets.

With exclusivity of product any transfer of ownership runs the risk of a termination of a competitive product line either by choice or in many cases by an unwanted termination of one or more distribution lines. This often results in highly competitive promotions, discounts, bundling of packages with services at reduced rates and in the end accounts taking advantage of all of the regional labs. The large burden falls on the independent lab in the region, caught between the "elephants’" determination to ascertain market share.

Couple this dilemma with increased valuations, future tax concerns and the advent of new technology and it can seem overwhelming to the independents; who often feel that it is prudent to sell their business rather than face the unknown. There are options, however. Strict financial management, reinvestment of capital, industry associations such as the Optical Laboratories Association (OLA) and buying groups all bring much needed relief. This requires financial discipline and a commitment to reinvest in the closely held business as opposed to large distributions and compensation packages to owners.

The primary differences between well run and struggling labs are often summed up by addressing their accounting practices, their reinvestment in plant and equipment, their operating system, their buying relationships, their ability to market and last, but not least, their access to capital. The independent that is not willing to address these areas and make meaningful commitments in both financial and management resources will end up being trampled rather than being strong, growing grass.

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.

Optical Synergies, Inc.
 

Restoring Binocular Vision

Rx FilesA customer of ours in Israel called with a job for a patient who hadn’t experienced binocular vision in over 12 years and had to drive with a patch over one eye. They were able to come up with a refraction to restore her binocular vision:

OD -26.00 -2.00 x 82 9^BD 18^BO
OS -24.75 9^BU 18^BO

We used 1.67 with a -6.00D front and obtained the prism through decentration. We ground the lenses to a 50mm blank size and marked them for blocking so they would be easier to edge. They were edged mostly by hand by a highly skilled customer of ours. [Laramy-K is an uncut-only lab.—Editor]

Of course, AR is also extremely important in a prescription like this. We used Zeiss Carat, putting the Zeiss Foundation hard coat on before edging and the AR afterwards to prevent slippage and ensure adequate coverage. The patient was in tears when she finally got to put them on.—Keith Benjamin, Laramy-K Optical, Indianola, Ind.

Second Opinion

In general terms I agree with Laramy-K’s concept. Here, at Quest, we would put the O.D. cylinder power also in the front, and would adjust the front curves in such a way to put the same spherical curves in the back. That gives better aesthetics (perfectly round, the same size back curve field). In a job like this it is important to know the frame type, frame size, and the fitting conditions. Based on that information we could make important decisions like myo grind on one side or both, the visual field size, CX myo curve, etc.—Michael Walach, Quest Optical Labs, Largo, Fla.

Optical Synergies, Inc.
 

Rodney Yancy of e.magine optical

Rodney Yancy

After graduating from law school at the University of Oklahoma and passing the Oklahoma Bar exam, who knew Rodney Yancy would end up in the optical industry. “When I graduated, my dad [Tom Yancy] made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. Besides, the optical industry is very similar to practicing law,” Rodney said.

When Rodney joined the laboratory in July of 2006 he was met with some challenges. The laboratory had been experiencing some back-end production problems. “People who are good at law are good problem solvers. I was able to use my problem-solving skills to solve production issues and increase laboratory efficiency,” Rodney explained. “With the help of other industry specialists, we were able to stop treating symptoms and start solving problems.”

Rodney has implemented a variety of positive changes at e.magine optical. His constant eagerness to learn and improve is balanced by his ability to prioritize. When asked to describe a typical day, Rodney chuckled, “I don’t have a typical day. My role changes so frequently that I never do the same thing. That’s one of the things I love most about my job.” After a year at e.magine optical, his do it right the first time mentality has improved efficiency throughout the entire laboratory and improved customer service.

Rodney’s innate ability to think long term while addressing short-term concerns helps him daily. Long term, emagine is focused on partnering with their accounts to help eyecare professionals grow their business. “We’re small enough that we can react to our customers needs by creating programs to help satisfy those needs.” In the last six months, Rodney has concentrated on creating exclusive practice growth programs designed to help their accounts grow. He is looking forward to launching these new programs this fall.

Although Rodney is responsible for the laboratory’s day-to-day operations, he often turns to his father Tom Yancy, president of e.magine optical, for advice. “It’s been really great working with him [Tom Yancy], and I’ve learned a lot because he is such a smart business person. It has also enabled us to spend more time together and has improved our relationship.”

Optical Synergies, Inc.
 

Precision Rewards Customers With ‘Hold ‘em’ Contest

Cards Dice
Graphics used in Precision Optical Group’s “Scratch for Cash Hold ’em Contest.”

Wholesale lab Precision Optical Group of Creston, Iowa, recently partnered with Transitions Optical to sponsor the “Scratch for Cash Hold ’em Contest.”

For every pair of Transitions lenses sold from April 1 to May 31, 2007, customers received a scratch card. There were four prizes available, so the chance to win something is what enticed customers to play. All game cards, even non-winners, were put into the grand prize drawing, a trip for two to International Vision Expo West in Las Vegas.

Dr. Simon and Amy Simon
Dr. Barry Simon and wife Amy Simon won a trip to International Vision Expo West.

Dr. Barry Simon, OD of Deerfield Optometric Center in Deerfield Beach, Fla., was the lucky winner.

“This scratch card promotion was a great success as many of our customers participated,” reported Shannon Waigand, director of sales and marketing. “It is so great to be able to give something back to our accounts as a ‘thank you’ for their loyalty. We know there are many other labs they can use, and when they choose to use us, that is a huge compliment.

“It was a fun promotion for everyone, and we plan to put another exciting promotion together this fall,” added Waigand.

 

VSP Makes First Investment in Outside Lab—VSP Vision Care, based in Rancho Cordova, Calif., recently made a minority investment in Perfect Optics, an optical laboratory near San Diego. The move marks the first time the managed-vision giant has invested in an outside lab; Perfect Optics is now part of VSP’s 286-lab contract network.

VSP also has two large, wholly owned optical labs in nearby Sacramento and in Columbus, Ohio.

Rob Lynch, VSP’s president and chief executive officer, said VSP may make similar investments in the future. “We’re always looking for ways to strengthen the private-practice eyecare delivery system, and we continue to look to develop stronger and deeper relationships with others that work with private practitioners,” he remarked.

Perfect Optics was established last year by managing partners Warren Meyer and Matt Schmidt-Wetekam—who will continue to manage its operations—in conjunction with minority owner Carl Zeiss Vision. The lab is one of the first in the U.S. to use digital surfacing technology, producing personalized progressive lenses onsite, according to VSP. The lab also offers lens coatings such as Teflon Clear Coat as well as Zeiss anti-reflective coatings.

According to Meyer and Schmidt-Wetekam Meyer, “Perfect Optics looks forward to delivering cutting-edge optical products and services to VSP doctors and members nationwide.”

Fred Howard, Carl Zeiss Vision’s president, the Americas, noted, “Perfect Optics will continue to be a center of excellence for service and innovation. Going forward, we will be able to accelerate our plans as we strive to exceed the requirements of our many partners.”

Eye Care Boot Camp
Pictured at a recent Robertson Optical Laboratories Eye Care Boot Camp are, left to right, attendees Jan Standard, Lauren Laico and Greg Griffith of Pelham Vision Center in Greer, S.C. and Chip Robertson, vice president of Greenville’s Robertson Optical.

Robertson Optical Offers Eye Care ‘Boot Camp’ for ECPs—Robertson Optical Laboratories is hosting an on-going series of Eye Care Boot Camps for eyecare professionals. Held on Saturday mornings, the boot camps are conducted at Robertson’s Greenville, S.C. lab, or if requested, at ECPs’ offices. Robertson Optical customers and prospective customers are able to participate by calling the lab and making an appointment.

Some opportunities explored at the boot camps include new techniques for effective communications between the practice and the patient consumer, how to improve photochromic sales, maximizing revenues through promoting additional products, enhanced “teaming” (discovering how to recognize each practice members’ gifts, knowledge and skills, especially those they enjoy, and building a successful team from those skills), and learning how to brand the eyecare practice, not just the products.

IcareLabs Joins Global Optics—IcareLabs has become the newest member of Global Optics. The St. Petersburg, Fla. lab, which ranked seventh among independent labs in Vision Monday’s 2006 Top Labs survey, is a distributor for all major lens brands. It has been independently-owned for almost four decades, “We are excited to be a part of Global Optics and look forward to banding together with other independents,” said IcareLabs president Skip Payne.

MJ Optical Web siteMJ Optical Launches Redesigned Web Site—MJ Optical, a full-service wholesale lab located in Omaha, Neb., has launched a newly redesigned website, www.mjoptical.com. The easy-to-navigate site offers many new functions including online ordering, online job tracking, national and in-house promotions and a variety of other new services.


FEA Industries Wins 2007 Corning SunSensors Contest—Corning announced the winners in its “SunSensors – SA Lab Partner” contest at Signet Armorlite’s Lab Partner meeting, held July 26 to 29 in Carlsbad, Calif. This year’s winners included Bill Heffner, owner of FEA Industries, and  Mitchel Hirsch, owner of M.H. Optical labs. Corning developed the contest to recognize Signet Armorlite’s lab partners’ strong support of the SunSensors brand over the years.

FEA Industries Wins 2007 Corning SunSensors Contest
Pictured at Signet Armorlite’s Lab Partner meeting are, left to right, Mitchel Hirsch, president, M.H. Optical, Lyle Rubin, North America sales manager, Corning Ophthalmic, Alexis Kharas, Western region representative Corning Ophthalmic, Bill Heffner, president, FEA Industries, and Bruno Salvadori, president Signet Armorlite (R)

Heffner of FEA Industries, a SA lab partner in Morton, Pa., had the top increase in sales for SunSensors lenses for all four quarters of the annual “SunSensors – SA Lab Partner” contest. SunSensors sales more than doubled for the year at FEA Industries.  For his successful efforts, Heffner won five high-definition televisions, a $5,000 cash award, and a prized Steuben Glass “Rising Star” award.  Heffner uses one of the HDTV’s to monitor customer orders and continue to grow his SunSensors® business.
Hirsch of M.H. Optical labs, a SA lab partner in Hackensack, N.J., had the second largest increase in SunSensors sales for the year. Hirsch won a 37-inch HDTV for his efforts and said he “is looking to take the Steuben award in 2008.”

After the 2007 awards were presented to the winners, Rubin announced the new 2008 “SunSensors - SA Lab Partner” contest to Signet Armorlite’s Lab Partners. The 2008 SunSensors program will include gift certificates on Apple products that will be awarded to contest winners throughout the year.  The 2008 annual SunSensors award also includes $7,500 and a Steuben Glass “Shooting Star” award.  All prizes were selected to tie into the high-tech, in-mass photochromic performance of SunSensors lenses.

 

Accolade in Thin&Lite 1.60 and Thin&Lite 1.74

Accolade in Thin&Lite 1.60 and Thin&Lite 1.74
Manufacturer: Essilor of America
Description: High-index PALs

Features: Up to 50 percent thinner, 50 percent lighter and three times flatter than standard 1.50-index plastic lenses, Thin&Lite 1.74 lenses are the flattest lenses available for myopes and deliver superior comfort, performance and cosmetic appeal. Up to 30 percent thinner and 20 percent lighter than 1.50-index plastic lenses, Thin&Lite 1.60 lenses also deliver comfort, performance and cosmetic appeal.

Availability: Accolade Thin&Lite 1.60 Clear and Transitions V (Gray and Brown) – This material is available as a semi-finished blank lens. The power ranges for this product are: -10.00 D to +6.00 D up to -4.00 D cylinder, add +0.75 to 3.50.

Accolade Freedom Thin&Lite 1.60 Clear and Transitions V (Gray and Brown) – This material is available only as a full job with a choice of one of the premium Crizal products (Crizal, Crizal Alizé, Crizal Alizé with Clear Guard, or Crizal Sun) through an Essilor Processing Center. The power ranges for this product are: -10.00 D to +6.00 D up to -4.00 D cylinder, add +0.75 to 3.50.

Accolade Freedom Thin&Lite 1.74 Clear and Accolade Thin&Lite 1.74 Clear – This product is available only as a full job with Crizal Alizé with Clear Guard through an Essilor processing center. Power ranges for this product are: -12.00 D to +8.00 D up to -4.00 D cylinder, add +0.75 to 3.50.

(800) 366-6342
www.essilorusa.com

 
Budgetool Nose Pad Adjusting Pliers #3030

Budgetool Nose Pad Adjusting Pliers #3030
Manufacturer/Distributor: Western Optical Supply
Description: Economically-priced pliers
Target Customer: Dispensers, ophthalmic technicians

Features/Functions: Designed to safely and easily adjust all types of nose pads. Cupped jaw for cradling the pad is matched to slotted jaw for securely bracing the nose pad box and arm. Makes repositioning the nose pad easy.

(800) 423-3294
www.westernoptical.com

 
EOS Wrap PAL

EOS Wrap PAL
Manufacturer/Distributor: KBco
Description: 8-base polarized polycarbonate PAL designed for oversized fashion and performance wrap frames.
Target Customer: Presbyopes who enjoy outdoors activities.

Features: 8-base lens can accommodate prescriptions ranging from -4.50D to +2.50D. Lens comes standard with Super WearGard factory hard coat applied. Can be processed at any prescription lab.

Availability: Polycarbonate material. Colors include KBco Gray-C, KBco True Gray, and KBco Brown-C. Polarized lens blank is oversized, 83mm with 3mm of decentration.

(800) 722-8776
www.kbco.net/WrapSolutions


 
Hoyalux iD Lifestyle

Hoyalux iD Lifestyle
Manufacturer: Hoya Vision Care, North America
Description: Hoya’s newest PAL to feature Hoya Free-Form Design Technology
Target Customer: All presbyopes

Features: Integrated Double Surface Technology separates functionality and performance of front and back surfaces.
Customized horizontal power progression on back surface widens visual zones at all distances. Balanced View Control technology integrates front and back surfaces.

Availability: Materials options include Hilux 1.50, Hoya Phoenix, Eynoa 1.67. AR options include Super HiVision or HiVision with View Protect. Design options include Hoyalux iD LifeStyle for standard frame sizes and Hoyalux iD LifeStyle cd for smaller fashionable frames.

(866) 812-8893
www.hoyavision.com

 
iRX Polaroid 1.60

iRx Polaroid 1.60
Manufacturer/Distributor: Specialty Lens
Description: 1.60 high-index, polarized PAL
Target Customer: Active-lifestyle presbyopes

Features: Crisp, wide distance area with a smooth transition from distance to near.

Availability: Smoke (gray C). Chocolate (brown C) before the end of the year. Rx range is -10.00 to +6.00D.

(800) IRX-LENS
www.irxlens.com

 

 
In This Edition...
DOLLARS & SENSE
How to Avoid Being Trampled by ‘Elephants’
THE RX FILES
Restoring Binocular Vision
FOCUS ON…
Rodney Yancy, e.magine optical
NEWS TO USE
Precision Rewards Customers with ‘Hold ‘em’ Contest
LAB NOTES

VSP Makes First Investment in Outside Lab

Robertson Optical Offers Eye Care ‘Boot Camp’ for ECPs

IcareLabs Joins Global Optics

MJ Optical Launches Redesigned Web Site

FEA Industries Wins 2007 Corning SunSensors Contest

TECH TALK
Surfacing Room Protocols,
Part 3
check THE WORKING LAB
Evaluating Customer Service Today,
Part 2
 

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Optical Synergies, Inc.
 
Spotlight on LabTalk

In LabTalk’s cover story for September, Leaping Over Hurdles to Increase Polarized Lens Sales, we identify obstacles to selling polarized lenses and find solutions to leap over roadblocks and increase your sales of these important lenses. Check out this excerpt:

"Problem: Prejudging the Customer:" Some dispensers prejudge sales prospects and therefore avoid suggesting polarized lenses altogether. “Many times, dispensers make up their minds that a polarized lens may not be a good fit so they do not offer it,” said Johann Van Zyl, director of sales-Americas for Younger Optics. “They either don’t know enough about the features and benefits of polarized lenses so they feel uncomfortable dispensing the product, or they prejudge the person and have already written them off as a sales prospect.”

Solution: Encourage ECPs and dispensers to proactively target every customer. “The truth is that selling polarized lenses is really not that complicated,” said Chris Bailey, KBco marketing manager. “In fact, retail outlets have absolutely no problem selling them—most likely because they are regularly talking about them and demonstrating them. The fact is that when customers try polarized lenses, they can see the benefits right away,” added Bailey, “and I don’t know that I’ve ever heard about a customer who has worn polarized lenses in the past who opts to go back to traditional tinted sunwear. Once the first sale is done, labs pretty much have a customer for life.”

To read the entire article, “Leaping Over Hurdles to Increase Polarized Lens Sales,”
log onto LabTalk Online. Here you will find the article listed under the Features section. If you are searching after Sept. 28, you can find this article in the ARCHIVES in the LENSES section.