Gerber Coburn
A Monthly Update for Optical Laboratory Owners and Managers February 2007

Made possible by an unrestricted grant from Gerber Coburn

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Fashionable Finishing, Part 2

Last month Lab Advisor offered tips to help you process lenses for rimless designs and other smaller frame styles. Here are some additional pointers.

POLISHING— On a polishing wheel, you’re using heat and friction. When you stop, the polish hardens and dries. Wipe the hard polish off before you put on any kind of lens cleaner. You can get the hard polish mixed with the lens cleaner and scratch the lens… ROLL & POLISH— When rolling and polishing a lens, you have to be extremely careful with the sharp edges, because if you roll too much, you can cause gaping. Some high minus prescriptions will experience prism rings with the roll and polish, but anti-reflective coating will eliminate or minimize the rings… LENS GROOVING— Lens grooving should be the last step. A roll and polished edge looks great with nylon rimless, but you are reducing the thickness of the edge, sometimes by as much as 25 percent. This will effect where the groove is placed. The groove should always be in the center of the final edge thickness. You can do some touch up and polishing after the groove, but very little… LENS FROSTING— Place the frostings in the temporal portion of the lens so it doesn’t obstruct vision. Frost the lens, then facet it and polish the edge. Cover the frosted portion with surface saver tape when tinting.

IT Zone

Using Software to Sort Out Rxs

Directing Rxs down the right path has always been a process that needs to be managed at the optical laboratory. “Rxs historically have been sorted, and thus directed, by different requirements: lens material; day ordered; uncut or edged, and “rush” jobs,” said Dan Lundberg, software consultant for Digital Vision Inc. (DVI), a supplier of lab management software based in Portland, Ore. “This sorting has been achieved by various means including tray colors, tray tags and stickers, clips, and tennis balls. The lab’s software played only a small role in this process.”

In recent years, this sorting process has become infinitely more complicated. New materials may or may not need backside coatings. Some AR coatings “prefer” an edged lens; others work best with an uncut. What path do the “frames-to-come” follow? A software system needs to play an active role in managing these processes.

“Another factor that has become huge is the subcontracting of work,” Lundberg observed. “Over 20 percent of the average lab’s production is done elsewhere. Identifying these orders and their handling [ordering and receiving] are processes to be automated.”

Within the lab, Rxs need to be directed to the proper surfacing and finishing lines. All of the robotic lines have limitations that require certain jobs to be processed by conventional methods. Conveyor systems interfaced with the lab’s software can be used to address these limitations, according to Lundberg.

“Computer software can excel in handling the diverse sorting requirements for a busy lab, allowing the lab manager best use of resources,” he noted.




How Much Debt Is Too Much?

Dollars and SenseOptical laboratory owners are under increased pressure to purchase new and enhanced equipment. Decisions range from upgrading equipment or adding automation to innovative process reform. Along with these decisions comes the need for purchase capital, and an analysis of the added cost in relation to a return on investment.

If the process is not complicated enough, customers are looking for the lab to not only provide the product with the highest level of service, but expect it faster and at highly competitive pricing. Capital expenditures that are financed either through capital leases or debt facilities need to be weighed not only by efficiencies to the lab, but in relation to the financial health of the business.

The question then becomes, how much debt is too much debt? A determination should be made as to how much cash is available to comfortably service current as well as additional debt. The business’s free cash is calculated by determining it’s Earnings before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization, or EBITDA, less maintenance capital required, less extraordinary expenses and in this case less accrued income taxes.

In determining the total debt and associated debt service to the business, lab owners should include all forms of Scheduled Debt, including but not limited to senior debt, purchase money financing, capitalized and equipment purchase leases and credit lines. After calculating total debt service costs and principal payments, the lab owner can then determine if the free cash is sufficient to comfortably service the debt.

Generally speaking, labs that have a ratio of 1.4 times or greater free cash to debt service costs are likely to have sufficient liquidity to service current debt and still have adequate working capital to grow the business. A beginning liquidity test is whether the lab’stotal Scheduled Debt exceeds 10 percent of the last 12 months net sales. Debt is restrictive and should not be incurred lightly. In a market where the lab must often be the efficient cost provider, excess debt may adversely impair growth and artificially deflate reasonable all end operating margins.

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 [email protected]. For more information about the company, go to their Web site at

Gerber Coburn

Solving the Inspector’s Dilemma

Interstate Optical in Mansfield, Ohio recently serviced an account who had a patient that worked as an inspector and had to see above and below at specified distances. “He wore progressives which worked perfectly straight ahead and below but couldn't see above, of course,” explained lab president John Art. “The account originally ordered a pair of double D lenses, but the patient didn’t like them. The lines bothered him, the lower seg didn’t work as well as his progressives and the separation between the segs was not large enough. We ended up making a progressive with a cement-on seg at the proper power and placement for the working distance at the top of his progressives. This solved his problem and worked fine.”

Second Opinions

“We probably would have done the same thing. The solution makes perfect since. The only other possible thing they could have done is bond two progressives cut in half edge to edge. However, I believe the line would have been an issue.—Geff Heidbrink, Harbor Optical, Traverse City, Mich.

“We have three different solutions for the ‘Inspector’s Dilemma.’

  1. Give the inspector the PAL of his choice, and on the back side of the PAL we can direct surface a round seg. The round seg can be any size (22, 25, 28, 30, etc.) visible line or blended, in any material.
  2. Give the inspector the PAL of his choice and on the back side we can direct surface our proprietary E.T. (Easy Top) bifocal.
  3. Give the inspector a standard bifocal or tri-focal in the front and a direct surface PAL on the back.

We can put the bifocal or trifocal segments anyplace. Therefore exact mapping (marking) of the seg location would be of asset.”—Michael Walach, Quest Optical Specialty Lab, Largo, Fla.

“A possible solution to the problem using a custom Fantom clip. You can mount a D28 [or any other appropriate lens] upside down, and then just clip it on the patient’s frame. This way, it is not permanent and can be removed if necessary.”—Gerry Shaw, Western Carolina Optical, Asheville, N.C.

How would your lab do it? Let Lab Advisor know by emailing us at [email protected]

Gerber Coburn

Susan Armel of Rooney Optical

Eyecare professionals, more than anyone else, know how much people depend on their eyes. But when Rooney Optical’s head salesperson, Susan Armel, calls on an ECP, she depends most on her ears. “You need to be a good listener,” said Armel, who has perfected her listening skills in nearly 25 years of working for the Cleveland, Ohio lab. Outgoing and energetic, Armel is often the go-to person for Rooney’s accounts whenever they need information, advice or the right product to solve a patient’s problem.

“It takes a certain personality to succeed in sales,” noted Armel, who doubles as manager of Rooney’s Latrobe, Pa. branch. “I could never stand in the surface room and run a generator all day. I’d come home with no fingers. But I’m comfortable walking into a room of people I don’t know. In a short time, I know everyone’s name. Many people can’t do that.”

When Armel first began servicing accounts, she relied on her people skills to make up for her lack of optical knowledge. “In the beginning, I thought I didn’t know enough about optical to do the job. But I realized they didn’t expect me to know everything. As long as I called back when I said I would and would try to get them an answer, they were satisfied. Once I figured that out, it gave me a tremendous confidence.”

To cultivate the trust of her accounts, Armel makes sure to keep them informed about the status of their orders, especially if there are delays. “You’ve got to contact the account to let them know if there’s a delay before they contact you,” she asserted.

Although it’s essential for a salesperson to be pro-active, it’s even more important to be able to put themselves in the customer’s place, Armel said. “Kevin [Dougher], president of Rooney Optical, has a famous phrase, ‘You have to feel their pain.’ That’s what I try to do.”

Gerber Coburn

Select Optical’s Formula: Golf+Shopping=Fun

The “lady shoppers” get ready to leave for a day of spending.

Over fourteen years ago, Select Optical decided to have a golf outing for its accounts. The event started out small, with only 30 guests in attendance at a sleepy, rural golf course. “Other local labs were having these types of events, so we felt that we needed to offer something with a little different twist,” said Pete Lothes, president of the Columbus, Ohio-based lab.

Over the past decade, the event has grown to an annual affair with numbers of participants exceeding 225. “What’s so unique about this event is it’s not only a nice day of challenging golf for our accounts, but it’s also a vendor trade show and a limo-catered shopping day for the ladies,” Lothes noted.

Select starts off the event in the morning with three-hour trade show featuring about 30 leading vendors, who enjoy the opportunity to have one-to-one conversations with the optometrists and their staffs. At noon, the limos take about 100 ladies shopping to one of Columbus’ premier shopping centers. Lunch is provided to the participants and door prizes are awarded to the shoppers. Meanwhile back at the golf course, over 32 foursomes of golfers get ready for a shotgun start and a best ball tournament.

Select Optical's Kris Lothes takes the helm of one of the limos.

At the end of the day, Select treats everyone to a steak and chicken cookout. An awards ceremony follows for the golfers and many door prizes supplied by the vendors are given out to everyone in form of a gift bag. “What makes our event so different is that we have tried to incorporate the entire office staff into the day of activities,” explained Lothes. “Whether you like to play golf, shop or want to see the latest in lens technology, our event has it all. Many accounts close their office for the day and look forward to this event as a true perk for working in the optical industry. “We have found over the years that our event has established an incredible amount of account loyalty and goodwill,” said Lothes. “We are very hard pressed to find anything that can replace this annual event.”


Irland Tashima, president of Toledo Optical, is surrounded by his colleagues as he thanks Transitions Optical for naming Toledo its 2006 Lab of the Year.

Toledo Optical Named Transitions 2006 U.S. LOTY —Transitions Optical brought some Disney magic to its 11th annual Transitions Academy meeting with a gala awards ceremony at EPCOT park last month at which Toledo Optical was named Transitions U.S. Lab of the Year for 2006.

At the ceremony, Cirque du Soleil-style dancers, acrobats and stunt performers entertained an estimated 1,000 eyecare professionals and wholesale lab personnel who traveled from throughout the U.S., Canada and Latin America to attend the three-day meeting here. Transitions also awarded top honors to three other labs. Riverside Opticalab was named Transitions Canada Lab of the Year; Rigor was named Transitions Brazil Lab of the Year; and Berdico, a Mexican lab, was named Transitions Latin America Lab of the Year.

Transitions Optical has awarded its U.S. Lab of the Year title annually since 1991. It is presented to a Transitions Optical STAR Lab that has made a significant commitment to growing its business with Transitions in the past year. Nominees are judged on their creative approaches used to achieve success for their businesses and their customers. Toledo Optical, based in Toledo, Ohio, is the only U.S. lab to have won the honor twice.


At the Lirio de los Valles orphanage are, left to right, John Rodriguez, vice president, manufacturing, Express Lens Lab; Ronni Quiapo, optometrist, Sharp Rees-Stealy; Brenda Baker, optician, Sharp Rees-Stealy; Brian Goldstone, president, Express Lens Lab; Jim Ostermann, optical manager, Sharp-Rees Stealy; and Laura Hansen, optician, Sharp Rees-Stealy.

Express Lens Lab Helps Tijuana Orphans— Express Lens Lab of Fountain Valley, Calif. and Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group of San Diego, Calif. recently teamed up to provide eyeglasses to orphaned children in Tijuana, Mexico that would not otherwise have access to eyecare or eyeglasses. Six optometrists from Sharp Rees-Stealy volunteered their time and did complete eye examinations for 71 children living in the Lirio de los Valles orphanage. Thirty-two of the children had a severe need for eyeglasses, which were then manufactured by Express Lens Lab.

“Coming from Mexico myself, I have an extreme appreciation for the needs of these children,” said John Rodriguez, vice-president of manufacturing for Express Lens Lab, who helped arrange local media coverage for the event. “I believe that giving not only my time, but the labor and eyewear for this charity was extremely worthwhile. While dispensing the eyewear to these children I got the message out that if each child used their glasses to see well, and do well in school that they could become successful and prosperous individuals themselves.” Express Lens Lab and Sharp-Rees Stealy expect to double their efforts toward this project this year, according to Brian Goldstone, president of Express Lens Lab.


See Worthy Enlists Quest Optical to Promote Sable WaterOptics —See Worthy of Toronto, Ontario, had entered into an agreement with Quest Optical Specialty Lab of Largo, Fla., to promote its prescription water eyewear, Sable WaterOptics, to optical laboratories and ECPs throughout the U.S. See Worthy will provide product within its standard range of prescription lenses, which consists of plano and –1.5 to 10.00D; Quest Optical Specialty Lab will grind lenses for special orders. “With 15 million myopic swimmers in the U.S. alone, there should be plenty of opportunity for us and for the labs we’re looking to bring on board,” remarked Paul Lantinga, president of See Worthy.


Bill Heffner, center, is congratulated by Ed DeRosa, vice President, Signet Armorlite, left, and Lyle Rubin, North America sales manager, Corning Ophthalmic.

FEA Is First Winner in Corning SunSensors Contest — Corning has named FEA Industries of Morton, Pa. the first winner in its SunSensors-Signet Armorlite Lab Partner contest. Corning developed the contest with Signet Armorlite (SA) to celebrate the strong support the lens maker’s lab partners have given the SunSensors brand since its inception in 1999.

Bill Heffner, owner of FEA Industries, an SA lab partner in Morton, Pa., had the top increase in sales for SunSensors lenses in the first quarter of the annual contest. Heffner’s lab increased SunSensors sales over 40 percent in the first quarter. For his successful efforts, Heffner won a 37” high-definition television. Heffner decided to use the television in his lab to monitor customer orders and continue to grow his SunSensors business.

Corning will award three more HDTVs plus a grand prize that includes a big screen high-definition television, a Steuben Glass award and cash. These prizes will be awarded to SA lab partners that win in the next three quarters of the contest, with one lucky year-end winner. All prizes were picked to tie into the high-tech, in-mass photochromic performance of SunSensors lenses.


Homer Optical Names Four Vegas Trip Winners— Homer Optical named four grand prize winners of its 2006 Taste of Italy program: Dr. Scott Morrison of New Paltz, N.Y.; Ephrata Family Eye Care of Ephrata, Pa.; Greenbelt Eye Associates of Berwyn Heights, Md.; Luxur-Eyes of Hampton, Va. Participating eyecare professionals who grew their Varilux and AR usage by 10 percent or more per month earned a $25 gift, plus chances to win an all-expense paid trip for two to the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, Nev. Each grand prize winner is entitled to a three- night, four-day trip for two including air fare, hotel and $100 per day spending money.


Carl Zeiss Vision Compact Ultra

Carl Zeiss Vision (CZV) is releasing Compact Ultra, a next-generation progressive lens for small frames with a minimum fitting height of 13mm.

Designed to fit a wide range of small and ultra-small frames, the lens can satisfy dispensing needs across a full range of fitting heights, from 18mm down to 13mm, with unsurpassed reading area, according to CZV.

The key to Compact Ultra’s performance is a proprietary 9mm corridor that allows excellent reading vision even at 13mm. At the same time, the patented design offers a soft, smooth geometry, excellent binocularity, low skew distortion, and peak astigmatism that is lower than many leading short corridor progressive lenses. Compact Ultra is available in 1.67 high-index, polycarbonate, and hard resin, with all three ma terials offered in clear and Transitions.

(800) 358-8258


Crizal Sun

Essilor of America is launching an integrated anti-reflective (AR) technology specifically designed to complement sunwear. The technology is being introduced in Crizal Sun, a new product that will be part of Essilor’s family of Crizal AR lenses.

Crizal Sun lenses offer the same scratch protection and ease of cleaning to both sides of the lens as Crizal Alizé, according to Essilor. Specialized integrated technology reduces backside glare without the common front side color changes, keeping original color and look of the lens. Crizal Sun is also infused into the lens, so it will not wear or peel off over time. Essilor will offer Crizal Sun lenses in both polycarbonate and high-index plastic. The lenses are comparable to lenses with Crizal Alizé in both performance and price and come with Essilor’s proprietary Pad Control System.

(800) THE EYES (843-3937)


DiamondClear in Fully Aspheric Range

Pentax Vision, a division of Seiko Optical Products of America, has released its DiamondClear lenses in a fully aspheric range.The lenses feature an advanced aspheric design, ultra-clear polycarbonate resin and Seiko/Pentax’s exclusive coating systems. Seventeen flatter base curves in minus powers provide superior aspheric compensation for each Rx, as well as better cosmetics and improved curve consistency for Rx balancing. “Diamond-tough,” scratch-resistant, non-tinting hardcoat; built-in 100 percent UV protection. Lenses are available with Surpass AR with EasyClean hydrophobic topcoat, and with super-hydrophobic Surpass AR with EasyClean Plus.Powers range from –8.00D to +3.00D, out to a –2.00 cylinder (total power -8.00D)

(800) 284-9051


Miki Sangyo Super Hydrophobic Coating Tablets

Miki Sangyo (USA) OF-SR super hydrophobic coating tablets provide a highly durable water and oil repellent barrier that can be used on a wide range of lens substrate ma terials and in a variety of coating chambers. The performance charac teristics and flexibility of the OF-SR tablet makes it ideally suited for optical laboratories producing the highest quality anti-reflective coatings, according to Miki Sangyo.

The super hydrophobic coating can be applied to any lens substrate via the thermal or electron beam evaporation. A copper carrier provides high temperature uniformity to the coating tablet’s active ingredient during the evaporation process. Miki can customize the concentration of the active ingredient to meet the requirements of small, medium, and large coating chambers. Additionally, the active ingredient has a unique chemistry that forms a strong chemical bond to the anti-reflective (AR) stack and minimizes over coating. This important feature results in less slippage during the edge finishing processes. Sample tablets are available for testing.

(973) 263-4111


Western Optical Supply Swarf Removal Tool #2088

The newest offering from Western Optical Supply, #2088, is a unique tool that enables lab technicians and dispensers to remove the residue resulting from edging polycarbonate and Trivex lenses. The tool features curved edges which keep the scrapping blade balanced on the edge of the lens. The fine, squared tips can be used for cleaning out the groove of nylon wire rimless. The U.S.-made tool is made of spring steel and is mounted into an aluminum handle.

(800) 423-3294


Trilogy Spherical Single-Vision

Younger Optics’ new Trilogy single-vision spherical lens is made of PPG’s Trivex ma terial. Designed for patients who want a thin, light and durable lens, it is clear, thin, light (1.53 index of refraction), impact resistant and offers excellent optics, according to Younger. It is recommended for three-piece drill-mounted frames. The lens comes hardcoated and isavailable in nominal curves 0.5, 2.25, 4.25, 6.25; 8.25 with corresponding recommended Rx range: -5.50D to 8.75D; -3.50D to 5.25D; -1.75D to -3.25D; +2.25D to -.150D; -3.50D to +6.25D (8 base can accommodate the Rx range of -3.50 to +6.25D for wrap frames).

(800) 366-5367

In this edition...
How Much Debt is Too Much?
Solving the Inspector’s Dilemma
Susan Armel of Rooney Optical
Select Optical’s Formula: Golf+Shopping=Fun
Toldeo Optical
Express Lens Lab
See Worthy
FEA, Corning
Homer Optical
Fashionable Finishing, Part 2
Using Software to Sort Out Rxs
Optical Synergies Hosts Conference, MOLA Sets Agenda for Spring Meeting

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Gerber Coburn
Buying Group & Lab Association Update

Optical Synergies Hosts Conference— Members of Optical Synergies, a wholesale lab buying group, met at Singer Island, Fla., earlier this month for several days of educational seminars, a vendor conference and fun in the sun.

Among the featured speakers was Lab Advisor editor Andrew Karp, who discussed industry retail trends and presented new research about how eyecare practitioners utilize wholesale labs. Karp also led a discussion with Rich Palmer, president of Practical Engineering and Bruno Salvadori, president of Signet Armorlite, about automation in the optical laboratory. Other speakers at the Optical Synergies meeting included Tim Fortner of Transitions, Al Bednar of PSI and Robert Lee of Younger Optics.

At the Optical Synergies meeting, from left to right are Eddie Jones of Rx Optical, Barry Resnick of Vision-Ease and Rick Chitwood of Chitwood Optical.

MOLA Sets Agenda for Spring Meeting—The Midwest Optical Laboratories Association (MOLA) is hosting its 57th annual spring conference May 10 to 12 at the Adams Point Gold and Conference Center in Blue Springs, Mo. The meeting kicks off Thursday evening with an exhibitor’s appreciation party, followed by a golf tournament Friday morning. On Friday afternoon, Pam Benson of Pech Optical will make a presentation titled, “Free Care—The Real Cost.” The exhibit hall will open at 5:00 p.m Friday, followed by a raffle. After breakfast on Saturday, Joe Vitale, manager of Essilor’s research department, will talk about why “It’s the Little Things That Make a Big Difference.” The meeting will adjourn at 12:30 p.m.

To register for the MOLA spring meeting, contact Carol Michael of Hawkins Optical at (800) 432-2420, or Click Here.