A Monthly Update for Optical Laboratory Owners and Managers October 2007

Made possible by an unrestricted grant from VisionStar.

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Tech Talk

Polarized Lenses

Polarized lenses require special handling at several steps in the finishing process to minimize spoilage and enhance performance, optics and cosmetics. Polarized lenses are twice as expensive as their non-polarized counterparts. Therefore, it pays to pay careful attention when processing the product.

Polarized lenses feature a “polarizing filter”—a film or laminate that filters out reflected glare. In glass polarized lenses, the polarization filter is sandwiched between the front and back sides of the lens, but the technology that produces polarized polycarbonate and plastic lenses moves that laminate closer to the front surface of the lens. And with poly, the laminate is actually on the front surface of the lens. With plastic and high-index plastic, the laminate is less than a millimeter beneath the front surface. On these jobs, caution is key.

Even though the filter is closer to the center of the lens, lab techs say glass polarized lenses need to be handled with extra care when being edged. While most glass lenses can withstand some unwanted heat build-up in an edger, polarized glass lenses are comparatively delicate. Techs advise making sure the edger is operating up-to-par prior to cutting a glass polarized lens.

Lens slippage in the edger, which can be caused by incorrect chuck pressure, clogged wheels and inaccurately calibrated edges, will knock the lens off the axis. One way to ensure the lens is on axis after edging is to check the performance of the polarization. Some lab techs keep a marked polarized lens blank in the lab. After the polarized lens is edged, place one lens over the other, turning one 90 degrees. If the lens is finished for optimum polarized performance, it should block out the light at the correct axis line.

The Working Lab

Evaluating Customer Service, Part 3

Working Lab

Last month, The Working Lab looked at how labs can make their Web site order entry procedures more user-friendly. This month, we look at how labs can make order entry more efficient by integrating it into their lab management system.

In case an ECP isn’t familiar with remote order entry, lab software developer CC Systems provides the information and link for their laboratory management software customers which actually teaches the user about remote tracing and ordering, lists advantages and offers free software, right on their Web sites.  They also provide the link for checking job status.

“Job checking has been a big deal for our customers,” according to Jim Evans of NEA Optical.  “It has allowed us to offer our customers one more tool to speed up the ordering process and they love it.”  NEA Optical‘s sales representatives initiate new customers by actually training them on their laptops in the ECP’s office. “We estimate 65 percent to 70 percent of our work is now sent electronically,” explained Evans. “We’ve offered this for nine years but in the last three years it has really grown.”

Another lab software developer, Digital Vision, Inc., (DVI) has a slight twist to the integration. They enable their customers to utilize Rx Wizard to offer order entry on their Web sites. The Rx Wizard short cuts the customer to order entry, to check job status or order stock lenses. “The Rx Wizard is a remote order entry engine,” explained Bill Ball, vice-president of DVI. “This program can also be located on the doctor’s computer along with all the programs and specials the lab offers.” When the order entry is completed, the ECP uploads all the jobs to the lab’s Web site and current information is automatically downloaded to the doctor’s computer to update the data. Another feature of this electronic system is a customer profile report that gives the doctor a sales summary of their mix of products for management use.

Using their Web sites to increase the productivity and accuracy of order entry is keeping their customers happy. “Our customers are on our Web site everyday, several times a day,” adds Evans of NEA Optical. “The efficiency for our lab and for our customers has really impacted our turnaround time and we continue to grow.”

The working lab of today should be doing everything possible to increase the use of their Web site for easy order entry, job tracking, and pricing information for the jobs. Eliminating phone orders and multiple follow up calls results in better customer service and allows the time for those exceptions that need tender loving care. Using today’s proven technology to offer efficient and effective customer service also improves lab production and turnaround time. If you aren’t offering this, seriously consider the benefits you will gain and the customers you might be losing if you don’t.—Linda Little



Financial Management Means Sound Decision Making

ContractMany laboratory owners see the compilation and preparation of their financial information as a time and cost burden. As a result, the completion of balance sheet and income statement information is often inconsistent, incomplete and slow to be generated.  The key to good management centers on good management tools. In the lab business, owners must maintain an operating system, a sales report system that tracks customer contact, and a customer service support system. Equally important are good, clean accurate financials that are generated pursuant to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) on a timely basis, both internally and through their outside accounting firm.

As a rule, internal income statements should be compiled and ready to be delivered to the lab’s outside accountants no later than 10 days following the end of each month. Their outside CPA or accounting firm can then coordinate GAAP adjustments and turn complete statements back to management within 10 days from receipt of the information. Accordingly, statements that are in the hands of lab decision makers more than 20 days subsequent to the end of the monthly reporting period are, at best, getting stale. The statements should include a complete balance sheet, and an income statement with current month, year to date and comparative information to the same period in the prior year. In addition, very handy management tools include a statement showing the company’s source and use of cash and an aging of accounts receivable for the current period as well as comparisons to prior periods.

If certain factors consistently delay the timely implementation of statements, some companies use historical estimates on interim statements and then true them up when actual information becomes available. This is often common among companies that operate in multiple locations or business lines.

Decisions should not be made by management based on incorrect or stale financial information. The current climate for the independent optical laboratory is one of constant and steady change. Competition has dictated the need for flexible pricing, smart purchasing, closely monitored cash management and well informed decision making. If your company does not generate timely accurate financial statements that are a tool that management looks forward to receiving, then it is time for change, either internally or by going to a new outside accounting firm.

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.


Grinding Extreme Amounts of Prism

Rx FilesIn this month’s case study, Skip Payne, president of IcareLabs in St. Petersburg, Fla., shares his laboratory’s solution for grinding extreme amounts of prism into lenses.

Orders with an extreme amount of prism used to provide IcareLabs with a challenge due to limitations of their computer system. “The computers only enabled us to block a maximum of 5.00D of prism,” said Skip Payne, president of IcareLabs. “For jobs that require 10.00 to 11.00D, we needed to find a solution.”

The Vision Star lab management system enables IcareLabs to split the prism between the blocker and generator. The computer calculates the prism amount and then records it in two pieces. The computer then takes the difference of the blocker’s maximum prism (5.00D) and tells the generator to process the rest.

Many labs prefer to block in prism and then run into problems when a job requires a great amount. IcareLabs implemented a solution that involves both blocking and generating. Prior to Vision Star, IcareLabs used another vendor’s lab management system which forced Icare to override the data calculated by the software.

Genwheel“In the past, our blockers would error-out when too much prism was calculated,” said James Payne, IcareLabs’s director of technology. “The Vision Star system enables us to block a maximum of 5.00D and then generate the rest of the required prism manually.

To effectively grind these lenses, the operator re-computes the job to show that it will use combined prism to create the lens, meaning a combination of the blocker and the generator. Vision Star tells the blocker to process a maximum of 5.00D. The operator then changes the prism parameter on the blocker to process as much as the blocker will handle (5.00D). Next, they subtract the 5.00D from the total the blocker showed originally.

By manually loading the lens into the generator, IcareLabs was able to solve their challenge and guarantee the accuracy of high prism prescriptions. Using Vision Star, their data calculated for the generator (Automated Loh VPro) is transmitted accurately. As James Payne explained, “We take our VPro out of automation mode, pull up the job parameters and load the lenses by hand. This insures we are going to cut the prism in the proper direction.”


Kathi McCombs of Laramy-K Optical

Rodney Yancy

Kathi McCombs has worked in an optical laboratory since she graduated from high school and has been with Laramy-K since the day they opened in 1990.  She started her optical laboratory career working with the layout marking machine and soon moved into computer data input for write-up.  In 2002, McCombs received a promotion into lens inventory management. “I always knew this was the field I wanted to retire in because people will always need glasses,” said McCombs. “I come to work every day with a smile, because I love coming to work!”

Laramy-K Optical is a family-owned optical wholesale lab providing ophthalmic practitioners with high-quality uncut lenses and AR coatings.  “We are a big family here at Laramy-K and we all support each other,” McCombs explained.  “From the company name down to the polisher, we are all family-oriented.” So family oriented that the company name actually comes from the names of the owner’s children Laura, Amy and Keith.

Each day, McCombs is responsible for keeping track of the complete Laramy-K inventory from restocking shelves to researching new lenses and ordering specialty products. McCombs prides herself in being a “people-person” and enjoys the daily phone calls she receives from vendors and customers with questions. “We welcome questions and encourage people to call. Even if they don’t do business with us.”

“Kathi is a master at what she does and has a huge impact on the lab from turn-around time to bottom line,” said lab co-owner and president Janet Benjamin. According to Benjamin, McCombs’ influence on the efficiency of Laramy-K’s lens inventory has been vital. Since appointed to inventory management in 2002, McCombs has reduced the laboratory’s cost of inventory by 10 percent.

Outside of the lab, McCombs is married, has two children and two grandsons who are the highlight of her life. In the summer months, she enjoys traveling to see her oldest grandson participate in motocross race events. McCombs’ pride in family, both in her own family and her work family, make her a perfect fit within the Laramy-K team.—Samantha Toth


VSP Labs Names First “Tic. Tac. Go!” Winners


Dr. Leonard Ma, OD of Burlingame, Calif. and Dr. Kristie Trang, OD of Roseville, Calif. are the first of 10 grand prize winners in the five-month-long “Tic. Tac. Go!” promotion VSP Labs is co-sponsoring with Varilux and Transitions Optical.

Drs. Ma and Trang each receive a Marriott vacation gift card valued at $2,500, along with a $1,000 Visa gift card. Sixty other offices throughout 11 states were also winners of a variety of luxury travel items.
The drawing began July 1. VSP is holding prize drawings on the 15th of each month; the final drawing will be held in December.

Donna Benedict and Bill Benedict of Legends 4.0.
VSP Acquires Wholesale Lab Legends 4.0—VSP Vision Care has purchased Legends 4.0, a major optical laboratory, located in Lewisville, Texas, outside Dallas. The acquisition represents the latest move by VSP to create a network of company-owned labs that will operate in addition to VSP’s existing network of 288 contract labs. Legends 4.0 becomes VSP’s third wholly-owned lab, joining VSP’s Sacramento, Calif and Columbus, Ohio labs. The lab, which is owned and managed by Bill Benedict, Donna Benedict and Dennis Benedict, will continue to service its current customer base, according to VSP. The Benedicts will be actively involved in the integration with VSP.

“Our intention is to have more company owned labs in the next 12 to 24 months,” Rob Lynch, president and chief executive officer of Vision Service Plan (VSP), said. Although Lynch said VSP’s acquisition strategy is “not married to any specific geographic regions,” he allowed that “the Southeast and Northeast make sense.” Lynch said the criteria for lab acquisitions is “a combination of technology and lab management.” He declined to specify which labs VSP might be targeting for acquisition or whether negotiations are underway for other lab purchases. However, he noted that VSP is looking at more co-investing arrangements, similar to its recent investment in Perfect Optics, a San Diego wholesale lab in which Zeiss also has an ownership stake. Asked how VSP’s expansion of its company-owned lab network might impact the other 289 “contract labs” that also process VSP prescriptions, Lynch replied, “It doesn’t mean reducing our relationship with our contract labs. We have strong relationships with Essilor, Hoya and Zeiss [which operate some of the contract labs] and this move won’t impact those relationships.”

Rob Lynch
Rob Lynch
Commenting on the Legends 4.0 purchase, Lynch said, “Legends 4.0 is an outstanding lab and we are very pleased to welcome them into the VSP family. This investment helps us expand our delivery of high quality optical products to private practice eyecare doctors nationwide. Private-practice provides the best patient experience in the market, and our steadfast focus is to strengthen this important delivery system.”

Legends 4.0 was founded in 2005 by Bill Benedict, an optical industry veteran with more than 50 years of experience, and by daughter Donna Benedict and son Dennis Benedict. The lab ranked 17th in Vision Monday 2006 Top Labs survey, with $11.5 million in annual net sales. Legends 4.0 has established a reputation for producing high-quality, advanced optical products and services ranging from their proprietary Fast Rx, which allows doctors to electronically transmit their orders, to their exclusive ClearVision, and ClearVision Ultra anti-reflective coatings.

“VSP shares our mission of providing great customer service and quality products. We’re delighted to play a role in expanding VSP’s service to private practice doctors in the U.S.,” said Legends 4.0 CEO Bill Benedict. “You can count on our team to deliver the best products and service to doctors and their patients.”

CC Systems User Meeting Focuses on Direct Surfacing—CC Systems hosted its annual User Group Meeting in Toronto on August 24 and 25, drawing over 60 attendees representing 27 labs and six suppliers. Representatives of leading equipment manufacturers, including Randy Baldwin and Isaac Altit from Gerber Coburn, Chip Heavican from DAC, and Bruno Carissimi from OptoTech, educated attendees on how direct surfaced lenses are processed, the differences among the various systems and the different capabilities achieved using optional accessories.

Several lens design suppliers discussed the distinguishing characteristics of their companies' respective products, including Laurie Badone from Seiko and Ron Kroll from Signet Armorlite. “Bottom line” classes based on real life experiences from wholesale labs already using direct surfacing systems were given by Paul Faibish of Plastic Plus (Satisloh and Seiko) and Mike Walach of Quest Lab (DAC). Stephen Cohen, president of CC Systems, summarized this array of information into simple spreadsheets enabling each lab to evaluate the pros, the cons, the cost and the potential profitability of direct surfacing. Classes given by ten CC Systems technicians topped off the weekend with in-depth descriptions of new and unique features related to remote ordering, 3D lens viewer, WIP monitoring, outsourcing, frame inventories, direct surfacing integration, customized reports, wrap compensation, coating forms, and automatic job recalculation on receipt of a frame tracing.

CC Systems CC Systems
Pictured at CC System's annual User Group Meeting are, left to right, Bernard Michaud, Riverside Optical; Lis Llovell and Michel Page, West Lab and Marc-Andre, Optique Tournesol. Also attending the Toronto gathering are, left to right, Jamie Peden, Barrie Ophthalmic; Mitch Hirsch, M.H. Optical and Paul Faibish, Plastic Plus.

Eyefinity, Optivision Link to Enhance Lab Ordering—Internet portal Eyefinity and ophthalmic software developer Optivision have signed an agreement designed to streamline the lab ordering and delivery process. Optivision will build an integration that will enable Eyefinity lab orders to be seamlessly routed into Optivision lab management systems operating in many U.S. optical labs, which the two companies say “will enhance the accuracy and efficiency of spectacle lens orders in labs running the Optivision Laboratory Management System.”

“This is another great example of how the widespread adoption of technology can be deployed to increase the efficiency of the optical industry,” said Steve Baker, Eyefinity’s president.

Gihan Samuel, Optivision’s marketing vice president, commented, “Now that optical laboratories using Optivision can integrate their orders directly with Eyefinity, ECPs can enjoy more insight into their order status, as well as decreases in order entry errors due to simple typos.”

Poly-B Semi-Finished Aspheric Flat-Top

BCD Poly-B Semi-Finished Aspheric Flat-Top
Manufacturer: BCD (Bristol Consulting & Development)
Description: Series of semi-finished flat-top polycarbonate aspheric lens blanks
Target Customer: Patients with high-prescriptions whose choices have been limited to FT-22 or Round-22 in hard resin or a lenticular design.

Features: Thin, flat lightweight lens with hard coating and UV protection
Availability: Flat-top 28 SF 6 base, 10.50 base and 12.75 base; 6 base is available 1.50-3.00D additions and the 10.50 and 12.75 are available in 2.00-3.50 and 4.00D additions. Combined with BCD’s aspheric polycarbonate single-vision lenses, which the company introduced in early 2007 in 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 bases, the prescription range is up to +12.75D.
(877) 255-1181

BPI UV Activator

BPI UV Activator (# 109517)
Manufacturer: BPI (Brain Power Inc.)
Description: Dual-purpose device which can be used as a visual demonstration of the effectiveness of UV blocking lenses and also to activate photochromic lenses with ultraviolet light of intensity similar to that in sunlight.
Target Customer: Eyecare professionals, optical retailers

Features/Functions: UV light source is discreetly baffled inside black metal box away from user’s direct view. It illuminates a white target which fluoresces brightly in the presence of UV light. A UV-blocking lens will leave a dark shadow on the fluorescent target. Photochromic lenses will be darkened by the UV light at much the same rate as they would be by natural sunlight. Lenses may be evaluated while still in the frames.
(800) 327-2250

Click 'n Stack Extra Deep Nesting Trays

Click 'n Stack Extra Deep Nesting Trays
Manufacturer: Western Optical Supply
Description: Interlocking job trays
Features: Can be used with conventional 6-inch by 9-inch trays. Trays are 2-1/4 inches deep to accommodate wrap-around eyewear and eyeglass cases.  Tray base of has indentations for capturing small parts. Trays nest one inside the other because the sides are removed for shipping. Easily assembled by snapping the sides into place.  Boxed 20 trays per color. Available in yellow #2140/20, white #2142/20, red #2144/20, green #2146/20, blue #2148/20.
(800) 423.3294 USA


Coppertone Polarized Lenses

Coppertone Polarized Lenses
Manufacturer: Vision-Ease Lens
Description: Line of Coppertone brand polarized polycarbonate prescription sunlenses.
Target Customer: Active patients who enjoy outdoor activities.

Features: Lenses block 100 percent of harmful UV light and eliminate 97 percent of reflected glare as well guard against HEV (high energy visible) light.
Power Range/Color/Base Curve: Coppertone single-vision -11.75 to +4.00D, cyl -4.00/HEV brown/0.50, 2.00, 4.00, 6.25, 7.50;
Coppertone Illumina progressive -10.00 to +4.00D, cyl -4.00/HEV brown/1.50, 3.00, 4.50, 6.00 +0.75 to +3.50. Coppertone D28 bifocal -10.00 to +2.50 cyl -4.00 HEV brown 2.00, 4.00, 6.25 +1.00 to +3.00.
(800) 328-3449


Manufacturer: Quantum Innovations
Description: Equipment used to apply Lens Wrap protective coating to lenses immediately after AR coating.
Target Customer: Finishing labs

Features: Lens Wrap provides superior adhesion for blocks during the edging process, virtually eliminating slippage on lenses coated with super hydrophobic, and protects lenses from scratches and chemicals, according to Quantum. With a capacity of 10 lenses per run, a lab can coat 120 lenses per hour. Lens Wrap will increase a lab’s throughput, saving both time and money, Quantum reported. It is optically clear, prevents lens slippage and is easy to apply and remove. The protective coating works with all edging machines and auto blockers and cures in five minutes at 35-40°C. No chemicals are required for removal, and no special edger pads are needed.
(888) 268-3414

In This Edition...
Financial Management Means Sound Decision Making
Grinding Extreme Amounts of Prism
Kathi McCombs of Laramy-K Optical
VSP Labs Names First “Tic. Tac. Go!” Winners

VSP Acquires Wholesale Lab Legends 4.0

CC Systems User Meeting Focuses on Direct Surfacing

Eyefinity, Optivision Link to Enhance Lab Ordering

Finishing Polarized Lenses
Evaluating Customer Service, Part 3

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Spotlight on LabTalk

In LabTalk’s cover story for October, Bright Ideas for Avoiding Consumable Mistakes, you will find out the most common mistakes labs make when it comes to consumables and learn tips on how to avoid them. Check out this excerpt:

“Common Mistake: Contaminating the lens when applying surface-saver tape.
The most common mistake labs make when applying tape is touching the adhesive side of the tape with their bare hands. When the oil from the skin gets on the tape surface, it can contaminate the surface and create a barrier that may prevent proper blocking adhesion.”

“Recommendation: Encourage the use of cotton gloves.

This not only prevents oils from depositing on the lens, it offers a clean, oil-free barrier between an operator’s hands and the lens when rubbing out tiny air bubbles and wrinkles. Remind operators to be diligent about keeping their hands clean, dry and free of possible contaminants. The most common culprits are hand lotions and other products that can transfer to the lens surface or tape during handling. Consider using an in-line air blower and filtered, compressed air to gently remove dirt or debris from the lens before applying the tape.”

To read the entire article, “Bright Ideas for Avoiding Consumable Mistakes,”
log onto LabTalk Online. Here you will find the article listed under the Features section. If you are searching after Oct. 28, you can find this article in the ARCHIVES in the LENSES section.