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A MONTHLY BRIEFING FOR OPTICAL LABORATORY OWNERS AND MANAGERS October 2011

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E-commerce, The Race for Market Share (Part 2)


Recently, I had the pleasure of moderating an e-commerce panel at the Optical Laboratories Association annual meeting in Las Vegas. The following are topics from the conversation that I feel will be valuable information for your business.

A company should look at a number of options when choosing an e-commerce platform. But before you do, it is important to understand what you are planning to do online. Is your strategy to maintain your current customer base or to acquire customers?

What is interesting today is the number of available solutions that have recently emerged. You have for example, MyOnlineOptical from Essilor and Eyeconic from Vision Service Plan. A company should balance the features provided such as emails, newsletters, or callback systems when choosing a platform.

The primary goal should be to extend your brand and the experience that you have in your store, laboratory, or practice. There is no need to reinvent your company for e-commerce; if it works offline then it should work online. Laboratories should work with the customers to strengthen their brands and help the retailer or ECP improve the relationship they have with their consumers.

A perfect example would be iCoat. As a lab, iCoat began looking at e-commerce as an opportunity with their partners. They first took a look at themselves to see who they are and where they excel. Then they determined what area of e-commerce to go after, rather than taking a broader approach to e-commerce. In their case, iCoat's company is very coating centric. They are very well known for creating a premium coating and licensing. This was an area where their skills as a lab would have real value. In their research, they found the sports arena to have a substantial need for high-end wholesale services. This niche is logical with iCoat's intellectual properties such as coatings, scratch resistance, mirrors, and so on.—Hunter T. Puckett is Vice President and General Counsel, HPC Puckett & Company. Based in San Diego, Calif., HPC Puckett & Company specializes in mergers and acquisitions of companies in the optical sector. You can send comments or questions about this article or any other Dollars & Sense articles to Hunter T. Puckett at hpuckett@hpcpuckett.com.

This article is the second in a series on wholesale labs and E-commerce. Click here to read the first article in the series.

Participants in the OLA panel on e-commerce are pictured above. From left to right are Arman Bernardi, iCoat; Steve Baker, Eyefinity; Pierre Fay, Tocquigny; Stan Pavlovsky, Vision Direct; Hunter Puckett, HPC Puckett & Co.; Bryan Schueler, Walman Optical.


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Luzerne Becomes First Independent Lab to Install Hoya Free-form Technology

Luzerne Optical Laboratories and Hoya Lens of America announced that Luzerne Optical is the first independently-owned optical laboratory to install the Hoya Free-form process in its Wilkes-Barre, Pa. facility.

Luzerne, based here, has been digitally processing lenses in-house since 2009. Now with Hoya Free-Form technology, the lab can offer customers more options for their patients. Hoya's iQ lens series uses aspheric and atoric curves on the back side of the lens to offer enhanced visual acuity, reduced distortion and wider fields of vision.

"As an independently owned lab, we feel it's important to offer our customers a wide range of quality products," commented owners Neil and John Dougherty. "We believe in Hoya lens technology and are confident our in-house processing of the iQ lens series will provide the quality and quick turn-time our eyecare professionals need."

Luzerne Optical Laboratories is the largest independently owned, single location wholesale optical laboratory in the U.S. Luzerne is a family owned and operated business and has been servicing the eyecare industry nationally, as well as internationally since 1973.

ICareLabs Goes Digital

IcareLabs recently installed a digital surfacing department featuring Satisloh equipment and Vision Star LMS. The St. Petersburg, Fla. lab can now offer a wider range of products, including digitally designed lenses such as Essilor Ideal, Definity, Varilux DRx and Enhanced, as well as provide greater precision and efficiency. Along with its in-house Crizal AR facility, the new digital surfacing lab gives IcareLabs the ability to provide a fusion of high quality products and premium Crizal coatings.

"This new acquisition is a monumental step forward for IcareLabs," said Skip Payne, co-owner and president. "It is consistent with our philosophy of continually striving to offer our customers the best technology design in the market at a competitive price. IcareLabs is dedicated to providing its customers with a variety of brand lenses and lens treatments. By being an independent full-service lab, we now have, with in-house digital capabilities, another way in which we can further satisfy the needs of our customers."

B-Lite Joins OSC Network

B-Lite Optical of Fountain Valley, Calif. has joined the Optical Supply Co-op (OSC) network. The lab, located in Fountain Valley, Calif., is owned by Richard Dang. OSC now has 32 member labs, including B-Lite.


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Focus On

Diversified Ophthalmics' Ronald Cooke, Jr.

By Judith Lee

If you ask Ronald Cooke, Jr., he might say, "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

As chief operating officer of Diversified Ophthalmics, Cooke recognizes the importance of investing in new technology and retraining workers to keep the optical laboratory competitive. Yet, much of what Diversified is doing to compete is the same as what they've done for three decades.

"We are not a price house, we are a service house. We train our sales force to go in and help our customers run their businesses better. Along with eyewear, we offer soft lenses, gas permeable lenses, computer products—just about anything an eyecare practice needs, and we've been doing that for 30 years," Cooke said.

As an independent lab, Diversified always has had the advantage of staying nimble and responding to changing trends in the marketplace. The lab recently brought free-form digital surfacing in-house and also introduced industrial edging to enable edging of wrap frames.

Cooke noted that in the ever-changing world of optical manufacturing, it helps to have friends.

"Implementing free-form digital was a difficult challenge, but it was made easier by our lab partners in the Global Optics group. Toledo Optical gave us a laundry list of things to look for when the equipment arrived, when it was installed. They and Harbor Optics were also helpful when we implemented the designs," Cooke said.

The lab has had in-house anti-reflective coating for eight years, and Diversified is looking now at upgrading its AR offerings.

"This is the way we operate. We are always anticipating what's next. We also work on a constant improvement program, such as improving job turnaround and improve turnaround, decrease breakage, and so on," Cooke noted.

To smooth the way for change, Cooke suggested that labs put an emphasis on their due diligence before the purchase of expensive equipment.

"Always do your research. When you are considering a purchase, get out there and talk to other labs that have the equipment. There are a lot of options [for labs] and you need to crunch the numbers and find out what you need to know," he said.

Another continuous process is retraining the work force. Automation has freed up some workers, whom Diversified then retrains for other positions that will contribute to efficiency. One position that was eliminated was the task of loading an edger. Now that person is working on the front end, getting jobs into the system faster, and "floating" to other positions as needed.

The Diversified sales team will be working directly with customers to raise their comfort level with digital surfacing, including a program that allows customers to try digital lenses.

The company has invested in its website, which now contains a considerable amount of specific and general information. Diversified has been pointing customers toward the website via verbal encouragement and email, and expects to ramp up its social media presence in 2012.

Just as it always has, Diversified is sharing that initiative directly with its customer base.

"We help the [eyecare] offices use social media to bring in consumers," explained Cooke, "because we see even more value for them in social media than for us."



LabTalk Spotlight

Social Media: It's Not About You

By Cathy Ives and Shirley Platzer-Stocks

Really, social media is not about me? It is true, thank goodness although we did have to figure this fact out for ourselves, at first we thought it was about us! But we soon learned it was more about our whole optical community. Social media is a great way of reaching a lot of people very quickly, which is why it has rapidly become a major marketing tool. But like any tool, no matter how good the tool is, it is only as good as the skills of the person using it and has to be done consistently.

We soon learned that people are quickly turned off unless they are 'engaged' and interested in the message or if there isn't any give and take. It is like a conversation, we soon get tired of the "bore" who only talks about himself no matter how interested we might be in the topic of conversation. Maybe you think you don't need to use social media for your business but this is where it is not about you! You should embrace it and here is why:

  • 73 percent of people are on social media daily
  • 90 percent of marketing people know that social media is important
  • Your competition will be using social media. They will be using it to reach your customers
  • Your customers are already using social media

Check out the entire article on LabTalkOnline.com where the authors will concentrate on the stats for the top two social media tools—Facebook and Twitter—where you'll get immediate results.


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Make What You Say Pay

What's in Your Smile File?

The economy is a mess. The Middle East is in convulsions. Europe is teetering. And corporate budgets are tightening. It's enough to drive a person to drink. However, a better option is to check your "Smile File."

A "Smile File" is a collection of letters, emails, or conversations with past or current clients that tell you how great you and your products or services are and what a difference you made in their lives and business success. The positive reinforcement that comes from reviewing these helps re-energize you to carry on, regardless of the world around you. (It's like your kids suddenly bursting out with, "Mommy, Daddy, I love you." The clouds part. The sun shines. Your heart warms. And you're ready to take on their next challenge. The same is true in business. It doesn't make the problems go away, but it does put the wind to your back. )

No 'Smile File?'

You work hard. You have helped people. You deserve to periodically acknowledge that. Don't rest on your laurels, but don't ignore them. Past successes help you see and create even more successful futures.

Recommendation: In the spirit of releasing the endorphins that make you feel good and ready to take on the world, check out this video on YouTube. You don't see this quality too often. And I dare you not to have a smile on your face, when it is finished!

Words Matter: Make What You Say Pay!
—Anne Miller

©2011, Anne Miller, author, “Metaphorically Selling” www.annemiller.com.

NEW PRODUCTS

EasyForm Integrated Digital Free-form Processing System

Manufacturer: Augen Optics
Description: All-inclusive equipment package that gives laboratories a way to compete in free-form for a modest investment. The proprietary system includes the Augen EasyForm FF-V3 Digital Surfacing Generator, Augen FF-SB Speed Blocker, Augen FF-2LP Digital Free Form Polisher, and Augen LFL 2020 Laser Engraving System with adjustment mount and semi-visible imprint applicator. In addition, the package includes Augen Lens Design Software, giving laboratories the ability to produce free-form Augen HDRx Trinity Progressives and HD Single Vision lenses onsite.
Features:
The EasyForm system produces both conventional and free-form lenses. In addition to the Augen Optics progressive and single vision lens designs, users can produce any lens design that can be mathematically rendered. Augen offers SV Spherical 1.0 lenses to give labs the capability of producing custom free-form products.
Availability: Purchasers of the EasyForm system must commit to use Augen lenses for free-form production and pay a minimal "click fee" each time they produce an Augen free-form pair. Augen provides installation and technical support services for the EasyForm system.

www.augenoptics.com; (866) 284-3611


PhotoFusion

Manufacturer: Carl Zeiss Vision
Description: Proprietary self-tinting lenses.
Features: On average, the lens clears up to twice as fast and darkens up to 20 percent faster than previous self-tinting lenses offered by Zeiss. The technology is based on patented photoactive molecules that unfold when exposed to UV light, thus darkening the lens and providing UV protection.Zeiss reports that PhotoFusion lenses are very clear indoors and very dark in sunlight. The lenses provide 100 percent protection against UV rays up to 400nm, excellent color consistency and they retain their self-tinting ability for the life of the prescription.
Availability: All Zeiss, SOLA, AO and VSP Reveal customized lenses, including progressives and single vision, as well as GT2 by Zeiss and GT2 Short by Zeiss. Broader availability coming soon.

www.photofusion.zeiss.com


OAC 25

Manufacturer: Coburn Technologies
Description: Compact, ion-assisted vacuum deposition anti-reflective coating system. Optimized for retail use.
Features: Specifically designed for lower volume environments that require the widest variety of AR coating options in the smallest available footprint. The OAC 25 is over 30 percent smaller than competitive systems and offers a very small in-lab footprint.

www.coburntechnologies.com
(800)COBURN-1


Optiwheel

Manufacturer: Optiwheel
Description: New grinding wheel technology for all plastic lens manufacturers.
Features: Engineered for edging plastic lens materials, Optiwheels feature a unique "raised" abrasive surface of small carbide cutting structures placed into a repeating pattern and brazed to a grinding wheel body. These razor sharp cutting structures penetrate and remove plastic similar to tiny milling cutters. This new design allows Optiwheel to remove material at a higher efficiency rate with lower surface temperatures. Independent studies from leading edging equipment manufacturers claim Optiwheel has improved edging productivity from 200 percent to 500 percent while maintaining smooth edge quality.


Distortion-Free Optics

Manufacturer: Hoya Vision Care and Avantek
Description: Unique lens design, material, treatment and mounting system combination that offers light weight eyewear that is free of distortions.
Features: Distortion-Free Optics integrates four key components—lens materials, design, treatment and mounting system. First, Phoenix lenses are made from the lightest available lens material, offer crystal clear vision and unmatched strength. Second, Hoya Free-form design technology ensures the highest visual acuity. And third, Hoya's Super HiVision EX3 anti-reflective treatment provides the ultimate in scratch resistance, reflection protection, and clean and clear performance. The fourth and final key element is the Avantek patented mounting—the first system that is completely stress-free to preserve the precision optics of the Hoya Free-form lenses. In addition to eliminating the need for obstructive screws, wires or rims, the Avantek Mounting System offers superior durability in comparison to drill mounts.
Availability: Ultra lightweight and fashionable Distortion-Free optics are available in eight colors and 8 lens shapes with two eye sizes.

www.thehoyafreeformcompany.com

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Send us news about your lab's new products, services, special events, tech advances or personnel changes.

Andy Karp

Andrew Karp
Editor, Lab Advisor
akarp@jobson.com

 

Christie Walker

Christie Walker
Editor, LabTalk
cwalker@jobson.com

Visit LabTalkonline.com for additional articles of interest about labs.

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