Gerber Coburn
A Monthly Update for Optical Laboratory Owners and Managers March 2008

Made possible by an unrestricted grant from Gerber Coburn.

New Products
Operating Strategies

Bob Niemiec

How to Handle a Downturn? Know Thy Customer

SIVs, CDOs, CMOs and other arcane terms that would normally be buried somewhere in the financial section of the Wall Street Journal have recently become front page news on Main Street. Are we in a recession? Will there be a recession? These are questions people are asking every day but with apparently no clear answers. Though day to day the news can be conflicting, it’s safe to say that in many areas there has been at least a slowdown in business. The optical industry is not immune from the effects.

Unless you break your glasses or lose your contacts, buying eyewear is one of the more postponable purchases a consumer can make, especially since it's an item that can easily run into hundreds of dollars. Offsetting this somewhat is the fact that many people are covered by health insurance from their employer or have money in their Flexible Spending Accounts which could be spent on eyewear. Still, if a slowdown in your lab’s business is occurring, or you think will occur, what steps you should be taking now to adjust to the new realities?

First, consider any capital investments you may be planning. Do you charge ahead or take it slow? If making a capital investment will lead to greater customer satisfaction through better turnaround times or more consistent quality, or if it will give you a customer-driven capability you currently don't have, it's probably a wise investment to make.

Next, know your customers and know your customers’ customers, if you don’t deal with the end consumer directly. Do you serve the high end of the market that typically may be less vulnerable to an economic downturn therefore with little noticeable affect on your mix or units? Do you serve an area of the market that more likely will postpone purchase of eyewear until things get better with the resulting loss in units to your business? Is your customer base just more likely to “trade down” by purchasing a lower cost frame, not buying a premium lens or lens material or not choosing AR? Does your business consist of some of all of these elements? Outside of just looking at your daily or weekly sales numbers, several well placed calls or visits to key customers can give you valuable insights as to where your lab may be headed and how you may need to adjust.

While it's important to remember the maxim “Know Thy Customer,” when the economy is good, it's even more vital to “Know (and Serve) Thy Customer” when times are slow.

Bob Niemiec is president of Optinova Solutions, LLC, a consulting firm specializing in operations improvement, new technology assessment and mergers and acquisitions, primarily in the optical industry. An optical industry veteran, he has held senior level positions in manufacturing and distribution with large optical retailers and manufacturers. He can be reached at [email protected].

Tech Talk

Lens Mounting Tips

Adjustable Drill-Mounts
When buying drill-mounts, make sure they are easily adjusted. Many drill-mounts frames are very rigid and difficult to bend. Depending on material the lens is made of, it is easy to crack the lens while making adjustments. Be sure the frame is bendable, yet strong enough to hold its shape.

SWO Fitting

Lens Thickness
When specifying lens material and thickness, it is not always necessary to choose a very thin center thickness. Unless you are ordering a high “minus” power lens, a standard thickness will work best. In the case of high “plus” power lenses, keep in mind that the edge thickness is the important consideration. Most frames work best with a 2.0mm edge thickness. Trivex works best up to +/- 4.00 depending on PD.

Extreme heat can affect lens materials causing the lenses to loosen. Patients should not leave any frame in a hot car.

Polished Edges
Most prescriptions look best if the edges are polished. This enhancement will dress up the job giving it an appearance of jewelry.

When drilling, make sure your bit is sharp. A dull bit will cause cracks and fractures.

Micro-Mark Cutter

Using the Correct Tools to Assemble
For cutting bushings, we have found a pair of side cutters from Micro-Mark to work best. Also, use a good pair of mounting pliers for assembly. These are also recommended for adjusting the frames at dispensing.

Lens mounting tips courtesy of Western Carolina Optical.

Marketing Matters

Mastering the Press Release Process, Part 5

Working Lab

This is the fifth and final article in a series of articles that explores how optical labs can improve their public relations techniques.

1. Include a quote from the president of your company or other appropriate spokesperson. Including a quote from the president or company spokesperson promotes the name to the press to get exposure.)

2. Include pricing and availability information. This is not a big issue with the trade press in terms of a story on your lab. But, pricing information does give us valuable information about trends in the industry we can highlight in future stories (without attributing them to your company). In general, provide as much information as appropriate, especially if it is a key distinguishing feature of your business, site, product, or service. The trade press will want to include availability information in an article—whether the product/service is available immediately or within a few months. Keep in mind that you will also want to include where the product or service can be purchased as well as number to call to make the purchase.

3. Include contact information for press to receive additional information. As I said earlier, this is vital. So press know with whom to follow up, it's important to include company contact information, a telephone number as well as an email address, at the top of the press release under the heading, For more information contact. Contacts are typically whoever handles marketing or marketing communications for your company, and your PR representative if you have one. It is also crucial to include your company’s boilerplate, which is a brief synopsis of your company's history, mission and strategy, at the end of the press release. You will also want to feature your company's Web site URL in the boilerplate, if you have one. For releases about joint ventures or partnerships, it's common to include contacts from each company.

4. Remember press release formatting rules. Your press release should be double spaced or 1.5 spaced with the appropriate usage of boldfaced characters. Also, your press release should be succinct and not exceed three pages in length. If the release is longer than three pages, see what you can take out and put into a separate document such as a product or service overview. When deleting information from the press release, you need to make sure that it can still stand by itself without any accompanying documents.

5. Follow Up. So you’ve written the release, now what do you do with it? After you've sent it, you’ll want to follow up with the reporter or editor to make sure we've received it and gauge their interest.

Don't forget to add your press release to your Web site. Press release pages are typically added to the Press Release link, which usually appears under the About Us area of your home page. This is important because your press release invites people to visit your Web site, and because you don't want to miss any opportunities! Make sure your site is current and looking good.



Crown Lab Photo AR Dome

Considering the Cost of In-House AR, Part 2

Does it really make economic sense to put AR coating equipment in your lab as opposed to outsourcing your AR jobs? Job flow and quality issues aside, take a look at a lab that began offering in-house AR coatings in early 2007. Prior to that, all of their coatings were outsourced to other vendors.

The initial cost of the installation for the clean room build out and leaseholds was just under $80,000. This investment was made during the last quarter of 2006 and first month of 2007. Additionally, the company signed a long-term lease agreement with a finance company for 84 months at approximately $12,000 per month including sales taxes; consequently, they have an overall investment in the equipment and leaseholds of approximately $1,080,000.

Operationally, bringing AR in-house has significantly enhanced the performance of the lab’s AR business. Below is a breakdown of the company’s coatings both outsourced and in-house for 2006 and 2007. The company processed approximately 400 total Rx jobs per day in both years.

2007 2006
AR Outsourced Jobs
Per Day


In-House Coated Jobs
Per Day
46 0
Total Coated Jobs
Per Day


As you can see, AR jobs increased to 22 percent of total jobs per day for the year, up from 17 percent the previous year, a 20 percent increase overall. This is irrespective of the fact that the in-house production did not have a full year of operation. Remarkably, outsourcing of AR decreased by 46 percent. Also, many jobs that were surfaced outside of the lab were now surfaced in-house, which kept the surface department more fully engaged.

Additionally, turnaround time significantly decreased for this lab. Before installing in-house AR, outsourced jobs could take up to four days. With in-house AR production, turnaround was cut to 2.1 days, and even shorter times are possible. This is a huge benefit to customers because they can deliver the job to their patients in nearly half the time. The lab can also tell customers it can do all the work in-house and control the process completely. That enhances the lab’s reputation as lens experts.

In future articles, we will review the gross profit of the AR portion of the job, the financial impact on the overall job and the return on investment for this lab in their first year of in-house AR coating. Stay tuned!

Read “Considering the Cost of In-House AR, Part 1.”

Jason MeyerJason A. Meyer is senior vice president, HPC Puckett & Company. Based in San Diego, Calif., HPC Puckett & Company specializes in mergers and acquisitions of wholesale optical laboratories. You can send comments or questions about this article or any other Dollars & Sense articles to Jason Meyer at [email protected].

Gerber Coburn

Gerber Coburn

Customizing Rimless Lenses


“We get unusual requests such as modifying the shape and/or dimensions of a rimless lens. It's just a matter of manipulating our digital pattern data base accordingly, by increasing or decreasing a circumference or a B dimension.

“Recently, a customer requested that we custom-make a rimless lens with special nasal cut and rounding. With a job such as this, we create a demo lens, send it to the account for approval or change, then makes those changes to the pattern before starting the actual Rx order.

frames frames spec.

“The image on the left is a picture the account sent of what she wanted. The image on the right is what we started with. We made a sample lens from the original and sent that to her. She modified the nasal cut to fit the patient accordingly, and returned that sample to us. We then used the sample to make the correct shape in the person's Rx.” —Arthur Kolko, Advance Optical, Rochester, N.Y.

Gerber Coburn

Diane Kimble of Beitler McKee Optical

Diane KimbleDiane Kimble's optical career began in 1988 working for Aire-Con Laboratories in the shipping and soft contact lens department. She rose to the position of inventory control manager, but left ALC in 1995 to become inventory and shipping manager for C&E Vision. When the distribution portion of C&E was sold to ABB Optical seven years later, Kimble joined Pittsburgh-based Beitler McKee in 2003. She started in customer service and moved up to become the lead sales and service consultant, managing eight people.

“Beitler McKee Optical is a Christian company run on Biblical principals,“ said Kimble. “We all feel strongly about the company's core set of values and each of our associates are committed to them. The working atmosphere is about genuinely serving the customers and helping people see.“ Kimble oversees the customer service team, the frame department and the expeditor. Their customer service team fields over 400 inbound calls each day. In addition, she is also responsible for running reports, contacting accounts, taking orders, arranging courier services, training and solving any problems that may arise on a daily basis. “I find I learn something new each day,“ Kimble commented. “Sometimes it's about a new product and other times it's about a process, or general knowledge about the industry.“

Kimble said one of the great things about working for Beitler McKee comes with its commitment to advancing her career. Since she started, Kimble has become a certified paraoptometric and was be awarded Paraoptometric of the Year for Western Pennsylvania this month by the Western Pennsylvania Paraoptometric Association (WPPOA). “Beitler McKee has helped to round my optical knowledge and continue to support my goals,“ Kimble noted.

Rich Hughes, president of Beitler McKee, commented, “Diane has a passion for learning and a personality that always enjoys serving other people. She is an awesome person and a tremendous asset to our laboratory.“—Samantha Toth

Gerber Coburn

ECPs Play to Win LenStock's iPod Promotion

LenStock a B2B Web site for ordering stock lenses, recently awarded 30 GB iPods to four more eyecare professionals that participated in its “Click to Win” promotion. The promotion, which ran from June 1 through December 31, 2007, was designed to encourage prospective LenStock users to give the website a try, while existing users were encouraged to place additional orders.

During each month of the promotion, the LenStock computer system randomly selected two order numbers to win a Video iPod. Each time an ECP placed an order on, they increased their chances of winning.

LenStock Winners

Mike Francesconi of Katz & Klein, left, and Scott Balestreri of Bad Ass Optical, Vallejo, Calif., winner of the LenStock "Click to Win" promotion iPod promotion.

November's winners included Hager Optical (sponsored by Professional Ophthalmic Laboratories) and Davis Duehr Dean (sponsored by Expert Optics). December winners included Bad Ass Optical (sponsored by Katz & Klein) and Superior Optical (sponsored by Expert Optical).

LenStock is a business-to-business Web site that enables eyecare professionals to quickly and easily order all major brands of stock lenses to be drop shipped by the Global Optics warehouse. LenStock account access is exclusively available from Global Optics member laboratories including Advance Optical, Cherry Optical, CVO, Dietz Laboratories, E.magine Optical, Encore Optics, Expert Optics, Harbor Optical, Hirsch Optical, Katz & Klein, Lenco, LensTech, Professional Ophthalmic Labs, QC Optical, Rite Style Optical, Rooney Optical, Soderberg Optical, Toledo Optical and Walman Optical.


Cotran Brothers Open New Lab—This month, Ralph, Robert and Ron Cotran opened U.S. Optical, a full-service lab in East Syracuse, N.Y., not far from their previous lab, Optogenics. The three brothers, who founded Optogenics in 1986 and sold it to Essilor in 1999, left that lab a year ago and waited until their non-compete agreements with Essilor expired before launching their new venture.

Cotran Brothers

The Cotran brothers in their new lab in East Syracuse, N.Y. From left to right is Ralph, Robert and Ron Cotran

Housed in a newly renovated, 12,000 sq. ft. facility, U.S. Optical specializes in producing free form and digitally surfaced progressives such as the Seiko Succeed Internal Free-Form and Shamir Autograph. The lab also distributes Hoya and Kodak Unique lenses from Signet Armorlite.

The ceremony, which drew an international audience of more than 1,000 industry professionals, also recognized Riverside Opticalab, Ottawa, Ontario, 2007 Transitions Lab of the Year in Canada; Fhocus, São Paulo City, 2007 Transitions Lab of the Year in Brazil and Augusto Express, Argentina, 2007 Transitions Lab of the Year in Latin America.

“We're going to concentrate on free form, but we will do all progressives and high-end lenses. We won't do any glass,” said Ralph.

Lens production is highly automated. “We installed a SatisLoh automatic line for free form, including a VFT Ultra generator with conveyor and UltraFlex polisher,” said Ron. “Because of the automation, we only have about 15 employees.”

AR lenses are produced in a state-of-the-art Carl Zeiss coating center. The lab offers 24-hour service on all in-house free form and digitized lenses with AR coating.

The Cotrans see the opening of their East Syracuse lab as the first step in a network of labs.

“Our goal is to also try to open a couple of more locations for U.S. Optical specializing in a wide range of free form lenses,” said Ralph. “We would try to open one in the South and also one in the West. This is a five-year goal.”

Marco Expands U.S. Distribution—Marco Polarized Eyewear, a division of the European company, Merchamp Ltd., announced that four more independent wholesale labs will distribute its line of Rx-able, polarized sunglasses to include four more independent wholesale laboratories. The labs are eMagine Optical of Tulsa, Okla.; Katz & Klein of Sacramento, Calif.; Optical Wholesale of Greensboro, N.C.; Sutherlin Optical of Kansas City, Mo. Hirsch Optical of Farmingdale, N.Y. also distributes the line.

GE Healthcare Financial Services Partners With ELOA—Essilor Laboratories of America (ELOA) is partnering with GE Healthcare Financial Services to offer eye care professionals financial services. The new Essilor Laboratories of America Growth Financing Program, with financing from GE Healthcare Financial Services, offers equipment financing; practice expansion with options for construction costs, working capital and leasehold improvements; and line of credit solutions. In addition, clients receive “rewards”—a quarterly credit on their lab bill based on such variables as the annual growth of the practice and the amount borrowed under the financing program.

Jim La Luzerne Retires From Essilor—Optical laboratory veteran Jim La Luzerne has retired from Essilor of America after serving for 12 years in a variety of management roles.

Jim La Luzerne

Jim La Luzerne

Prior to joining Essilor, La Luzerne served as president and CEO of WOS Optical, a wholesale lab in Green Bay, Wisc., where he started working during his high school and college days. While president and CEO of WOS Optical, La Luzerne also served as president and CEO of Global Optics and president of the Optical Laboratories Association.

In 1996, WOS Optical was purchased by Essilor of America and La Luzerne assumed the role of president, Essilor Laboratories of America. He later served as vice president, e-business development including the early development of VisionWeb, which was then followed by his role as president of Optifacts.

In 2005, La Luzerne was inducted into the Optical Laboratories Hall of Fame.

Augen Short Corridor PAL

Centurion Short-Corridor Progressive
Manufacturer: Augen Optics
Description: Short-corridor progressive lens
Target Customer: Patients who wear small frames

Features: 12mm near corridor below the fitting cross that maintains 100 percent power throughout the zone, and a 17mm fitting height.
Availability: Trivex and Trivex Transitions VI; other materials to follow
(866) 284-3611


Manufacturer/Distributor: Carl Zeiss Vision
Description: Progressive lenses that are custom-created specifically for the individual patients prescription and choice of frame.
Target Customer: Presbyopes who want a high-performance, personalized PAL

Features: Using proprietary Morphing Technology, SOLA HDV's corridor is custom-sized for the exact measurements of the patient's chosen frame, assuring full reading performance and maximum clear viewing zones for fitting heights of 13 to 35mm. HD technology digitally optimizes the lens for the wearer's exact combination of sphere power, cylinder power, cylinder axis, add power and frame dimensions. The result is what Zeiss calls “High Definition” vision: the largest areas of clear vision with the lowest unwanted astigmatism.
(800) 358-8258


Manufacturer/Distributor: DAC Vision
Description: Lens polish
Target Customer: Surfacing labs

Features: Advanced lens polish chemistry improves clarity and reduces haze on all lens materials, particularly polycarbonate. HD-360 produces outstanding surface quality that is ideally suited for coating, according to DAC. HD-360 is engineered to offer extended use when compared to other premium polishes. The polish maintains consistent Baumé throughout the life of the polish, while demonstrating excellent suspension characteristics for consistent results. Low viscosity design improves flow while reducing pad carry out, making clean-up easier.
(800) 800-1550


Opticot Erxtreme

Rxtreme Mirror
Manufacturer/Distributor: Opticote
Description: Collection of Rx mirror coatings
Target Customer: Patients who enjoy sports and other outdoor activities

Features/Functions: Available in six deep intense colors: silver, red, gold, blue, lime and lemon. Applied only to colored or polarized polycarbonate.

Opticote starts with a process that makes its coating four times harder than standard mirrors, so it’s virtually impossible to scratch or wear off. Backside anti-reflective coating is provided as part of the package, complete with a super-premium hydrophobic/olephobic topcoat that makes the lenses easy to clean and easy to keep clean.
(800) 248-6784

Psi Secure EdgePlus

SecurEdge Plus
Manufacturer/Distributor: PSI (Practical Systems Inc.)
Description: Blocking pads designed specifically to bond to AR, hydrophobic and oliophobic lens coatings.
Target Customer: Finishing labs

Features: Based on the design of PSI’s SecurEdge technology, SecurEdge Plus incorporates a dual, high-performance adhesive system. On one side of the pad is an adhesive engineered to adhere to slick lens coatings without slipping, while the other side has a different adhesive designed to adhere securely to the block. The pad offers a soft foam surface that conforms to any curve while protecting the lens. The pads have a double-tabbed design for easy removal. PSI offers SecurEdge Plus in nine configurations to fit most edger blocks.
(800) 237-8154

CCP Swift

CCP Swift
Manufacturer/Distributor: Schneider Optical Machines
Description: Company, manual free-form surface generator and Rx polisher
Target Customer: Dispensers and lab technicians

Features: Includes the features of Schneider's automated soft-lap polishers CCP102/103, such as usage of Schneider’s permanent pads, multi-step polishing cycles, and modern macro technology. Intelligent tool management monitors pad usage and indicates when the replacement of tools is necessary. Polishes all free-form designs on the market. Superb surface quality and high throughput, according to Schneider. Eliminates hard laps for Rx surfaces; uses “click-easy” disposable tools.
(800) 972-247-4000

In This Edition...
Considering the Cost of In-House AR, Part 2
Customizing Rimless Lenses
Diane Kimble of
Beitler McKee Optical
ECPs Play to Win LenStock's iPod Promotion

Cotran Brothers Open New Lab

Marco Expands U.S. Distribution

GE Healthcare Financial Services Partners With ELOA

Jim La Luzerne Retires From Essilor

How to Handle a Downturn? Know Thy Customer
Lens Mounting Tips
Mastering the Press Release Process,
Part 5

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LabTalk Spotlight March 2008

The theme of LabTalk’s March/April issue is digital surfacing featuring three articles on the topic. The cover story, "The Software and Hardware of Digital Surfacing" by Linda Little, explores the two sides of digital surfacing: the equipment (the hardware) necessary to create the lenses, and the lens designs (the software) available from lens manufacturers.

Here's an excerpt:

“The hardware for processing digitally surfaced (direct surface, direct-to-polish, back side progressives, free-form or Free Form lenses, all various descriptions of the same) has been on the market for a couple of years. For simplicity sake, the hardware consists of a lathe that is able to utilize data points to surface the backside of a semi finished lens blank; the laser for cutting progressive markings if necessary and the soft lap polisher. When it comes to the hardware, a laboratory can invest in a complete system at many price points for various levels of production or choose a system that can process lenses conventionally as well, adding soft lap polishing and additional components as they move to processing these lenses. The large investment it takes to successfully process these lens products requires a dedication to offering the most accurate lenses possible, with the long term benefit of significant cost savings.

“The reference to 'Free-Form' refers to the manufacturing process that allows laboratories to produce complex non-spherical surfaces with lens designs provided by lens manufacturers. The technology has been available and utilized for cutting concave surfaces to produce laps that matched the lens surface and reduced the need for traditional fining and polishing. The key for any equipment to successfully process lenses is the interface capability. To this end, major equipment manufacturers have heavily invested in interface specialists to support their customers when they are ready to move to digitally processing.”

To read the entire article, "The Software and Hardware of Digital Surfacing" log on to  Here you will find the article listed under the Features section.

Buying Group & Lab Association News

OLA Members Approve Sweeping Changes to Bylaws—Members of the Optical Laboratories Association have voted overwhelmingly to approve sweeping changes in the organization’s bylaws that redefine its membership, leadership, operating procedures and dues structure.

As a result of the moves, all Rx manufacturing optical lab companies are now in one category of membership regardless of ownership or market level. All lab member companies are equally eligible to hold positions in the OLA leadership. All lab member companies are assessed dues on the same basis—the volume of Rx eyewear production.

“These changes give OLA a sound, contemporary basis to chart the future direction of the association,” said OLA president Barney Dougher, who is also president of Hoya Vision Care North America.

Bylaws committee chairman Steve Sutherlin of Sutherlin Optical, who spearheaded the effort to re-engineer the OLA organization, said many of the bylaws were originally written 32 years ago, and did not reflect the current optical industry.

“At that time, there was almost no such thing as a retail lab or an HMO lab. There was very little penetration of insurance plans. There was no Wal-Mart or Target Optical, and no big lens companies buying up labs. Everything was ordered through independent wholesale labs by private ODs.

“Today, OLA is not just the voice of the independent lab, or the vertically integrated lab, large retail lab, or HMO lab, ” said Sutherlin. “It's the voice of the manufacturing lab.”

View the OLA Bylaws Transmittal Letter

View the OLA Bylaws Changes.

View the OLA Bylaws Ballot Results.

Optical Synergies Hosts Annual Conference— Optical Synergies, the wholesale lab buying group, hosted its annual meeting in San Diego last month. The event, which featured educational seminars and vendor's exhibits, drew 120 attendees.

Bruce Brady
Ed Greene
 Optical Synergies Attendees
Thomas F. Puckett

Pictured at the meeting are Optical Synergies' Bruce Brady (top), who welcomed labs and vendors. Vision Council of America president Ed Greene (second from top) presented a state-of-the-industry program. Attendees (third from top) listened to former Lab Advisor Dollars & Sense columnist Thomas F. Puckett of HPC Puckett & Co. (fourth from top), who discussed the financial attributes used when evaluating an optical laboratory.

OLA Welcomes Seven New Members—The Optical Laboratories Association (OLA) has expanded its membership roster with the addition of four new laboratory members and three new associate (supplier) members. The laboratory members are Capitol Optical of Olympia, Wash., Value Eyecare Network of Ronkonkoma, N.Y., Kaban Optical of Palm Springs, Calif. and PixelOptics of Roanoke, Va. The associate members are IODA, S.r.l. of Padova, Italy, R&R Solutions of Gravette, Ark. and Yamamoto— Kogaku Co. of Osaka, Japan.

Pech Optical Joins Global Optics—Pech Optical of Sioux City, Iowa has joined Global Optics, a buying and marketing group for labs. Founded in 1989, Pech Optical is an independently owned wholesale optical laboratory. Since the company’s inception by its president, Robert W. Pech, it has grown from 44 employees to over 260 employees who are responsible for approximately 2,100 Rx orders per day. Pech Optical was ranked the second largest independent lab in Vision Monday’s 2007 Top Labs Report, with estimated Rx sales of $31.7 million.