Lab Advisor
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April 2011

Dollars and Sense

Evaluation Tools for Investment in Free-form Technology

Free-form lens surfacing technology is growing rapidly and creating new investment opportunities for your business. Though this technology is relatively new and very technical, the tools you use for determining if the equipment and process is right for your lab are the same as you would use for determining if any investment is appropriate for your company.

Dollars and Sense

In past editions, Dollars & Sense has explained which tools to use for investment decision making and how to implement them, but some bear repeating. We’ll refer to past Dollars & Sense articles so that you can review more comprehensive discussions of the topics.

Step One — Use the budget you’ve already created for your business to develop an alternative budget that includes the investment in free-form equipment and the expected change in sales, expenses, mix, etc. from the introduction of the technology. Make sure to create flexible budgets to demonstrate variances that can range between ideal and worst case scenario. ( See Sept, 2008).

Step Two — Once you are comfortable that the budgets are sound, compare the flexible investment budgets to your budget without the investment. Is the expected cash flow with the investment higher than the cash flow without it?

Step Three — If the cash flow is higher, determine the payback on the investment by forecasting the expected incremental cash flows. Using expected incremental cash flows will yield how long it will take before your investment is “in the money” meaning the point where your net cash flow from the investment has paid for the investment. ( See May, 2009).

Step Four — Use discounted cash flow analysis to determine if the investment’s return matches the lab’s investment return criteria by netting the expected cash outflows against the discounted cash inflows over time (net present value or NPV). The discount rate is the rate of return that you require from an investment. A positive NPV indicates that the investment should be made. A negative NPV indicates you may need to put the plans on hold. ( See May, 2009).

Once the analysis work is complete, you should have a good picture as to the possibilities of investing in free-form technology, as well as a thorough sense of the risks involved. The next issue will provide some insight from lab owners who have already made the investment in free-form technology in their own labs. —Jason A. Meyer, Managing Director, 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 A. Meyer at [email protected].

This is the second in a series of Dollars & Sense columns about investing in free-form technology.


Lab Notes

Vision Monday Summit

DVI Hosts Users’ Workshop

Lab Notes

Digital lens processing, workflow management, and handling subcontracted orders were some of the subjects Digital Vision, Inc. (DVI) and its customers explored during a recent two-day workshop. More than 120 DVI customers from the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Europe attended the session February 18-19 at the Embassy Suites in downtown Portland.

Lab Notes

DVI conducts user workshops every 18 months to connect with customers, determine software goals and receive feedback, as well as to enable excellent networking opportunities for the attendees. These workshops over the years have been instrumental in defining critical improvements to DVI’s award-winning Vision system for optical labs.

Lab Notes

At the February workshop, roundtable discussions within small groups of users with DVI staff were focused on lab management matters and Vision software enhancements, then shared with the entire group. DVI kicked off the workshop by hosting customers in a bowling competition.

Lab Notes

Pictured at the DVI meeting, top to bottom, are Daniel Ellis (DVI) presenting to the group; Gordon Keane (DVI) and John Sutherlin (Sutherlin Optical) discussing ideas during the roundtable session; Michelle Brown and Joe Piermantier (Walman Optical) chatting during a break; Stan Arrigotti (DVI) and Bob Pommier (Expert Optics) sharing ideas during the roundtable session.

Optical Synergies-Premier Vision Hosts Conference

Lab Notes

The Optical Synergies-Premier Vision buying group hosted its annual conference in Naples, Fla. from February 10 to February 13. The event, which featured educational presentations and vendor exhibits, drew 120 attendees.Lab Notes Keynote speaker Tim Fortner, Transitions focused his presentation on “Surviving and Thriving in the New Economy."  Mitch Small of Essilor reviewed the current state of “the digital economy” and Jon Jacobs, president of the Optical Laboratories Association addressed the membership on how the OLA continues to serve the needs of the wholesale optical community.

Lab Notes

Optical Synergies group manager Chris Landers commented, “Our group continues on its path to support our members in maintaining their independence, and by providing a forum for the free exchange of information and ideas. We also endeavor to support our suppliers by offering them a proactive conduit to our members, thereby consolidating their financial and marketing resources”. 

Seen at the Optical Synergies meeting, top to bottom, are group manager Chris Landers welcoming labs and vendors; Transitions Optical’s Tim Fortner delivering his keynote presentation and OLA president Jon Jacobs reviewing OLA agenda with the group.

Equipment Exchange
Focus On

Nexus Vision GroupBill Heffner, FEA Industries

The first thing you’ll note about Bill Heffner, (pictured right, with his son Bill, who also is a software expert at FEA Industries) owner of FEA Industries, is that he does things his way. The next thing you’ll notice is that he does those things extremely well.

Heffner’s early interest in computers provided his wholesale optical lab in Morton, Pa. with two key advantages:

1. A comfort level with automation

2. An ability to write custom software that enables smooth operations

“We are totally automated, which saves us on labor costs and greatly reduces errors. We even have automated our customer service function,” Heffner said.

The starting point for customers is a website Heffner created that takes orders (self-editing software notes if a number is out of range) and enables the customer to track a job, ask to be notified when the job is mailed, look up invoices, and access co-op points.

“We put out 1,500 jobs a day with only four customer service people who aren’t just order-takers. They are problem-solvers who provide true customer service,” Heffner said.

Thanks to the website, orders are taken 24 hours a day. When the plant opens at 5 a.m., several hundred orders are queued up for processing in the fully automated lab.

FEA’s investment in automation has paid off in labor savings. Fewer people are needed to operate equipment (62 people turn out a volume that normally would require 90 workers), and they don’t need a skilled background.

“To a large degree, they are machine tenders. We take them right off the street and train them. We have three people on the staff who trouble-shoot any problems,” Heffner noted.

Labor cost savings and automated efficiencies add up to price savings for customers, which keeps FEA busy even in tough times, Heffner said: “Our prices are low, but the quality doesn’t suffer. The customer gets service, too.” — Judith Lee

LabTalk Spotlight

LabTalk SpotlightGiving Back
By Christie Walker

Being in the optical industry means you are acutely aware of the importance of vision. But unfortunately, this is not an obvious problem to many people outside the industry. With 400 to 700 million people walking around with uncorrected vision problems, you’d think someone would be doing something. Well, somebody is. For one optical lab owner, the road to making a difference started at a Vision Council presentation on Giving Back and ended in Cuauhtemoc City, Mexico.

Mike Francesconi, of Katz & Klein, Sacramento, Calif., plus four ODs and five techs fit 920 patients with glasses — from people in their late 80s to small children — in only two days. A typical day started at 7:30 am and went until 6 pm with a half hour for lunch and no breaks.

“We saw a high number of cataract patients, pterygiums, and other patients with a variety of eye disorders including a high percentage of diabetic patients, patients that had Lasik surgery that was unsuccessful and children that couldn’t see the chalk board in school,” explained Francesconi, pictured here helping Mexican patients.

This was the first time Francesconi had participated in a project of this nature. One of Katz & Klein’s customers had been going to Mexico and fitting glasses on a regular basis. When Mike told him how impressed he was by this work, the customer offered to bring him along on the next trip. The organization, Lions in Sight, of California and Nevada, were organizing the trip so to qualify to go, Mike had to become a member of the Lions Club. The trip took place from August 19 to 22in 2010 with two full working days on the 20th and 21st.

To find out more about Giving Back, log onto

Make What You Say, Pay!

The West Wing & Me

Make What you Say, Pay!

It was a treat to speak on the same program with former White House speech writers for Presidents Reagan, both Bushes, and Clinton at the last month’s Executive Speech Writers’ Conference in WDC and to hear their "inside the beltway" stories. This annual conference attracts speechwriters and corporate communication directors from government, business, and academia. To a person, every speaker, whether from the West Wing, corporate America, or a university, stressed the need to connect with your audience on an emotional level—a drum I beat constantly in my presentation seminars.

During lunch, a panel of five shared “30 (speech writing) Ideas in 30 Minutes” with the group of 300. One panelist, a professor from American University, stood out because of how he framed his ideas. Here are two of them.

1. The “Abe Lincoln” Rule: Appeal to people’s better nature if you want to win them over. Don’t tell them they are wrong or not up to a task. Lift them to their better selves to get them to change or follow your cause.

2. The “Marcel Marceau“ Rule: Show, don’t tell. People are hard-wired to remember and to respond emotionally to what they see more so than to what they just hear. Pepper your presentations with stories, examples, and metaphors.

Imagery and wit used to grab attention and make you want to hear his tips.

Verbal Shiny Objects

The Professor’s tips weren’t better or smarter than those of the other panel members, but the audience was just that much more eager to hear his because of the playful, yet meaningful, images he used as frames to insure that we would listen and remember them.

In Your World

What titles, processes, programs, systems, blogs, websites, new products, articles, or projects are you working on? Give them relevant visual titles to make them distinctive, associative, meaningful, and memorable to guarantee the attention you want. Words matter: Make What You Say Pay!—Anne Miller

©2011, Anne Miller, author, “Metaphorically Selling”

New Products

Optima 1.67 Finished Lenses

Optima 1.67 Finished Lenses

Manufacturer: Optima
Optima revives its 1.67 finished lenses in an updated design.
Thin and lightweight. Offered with scratch-resistant and anti-reflective coatings. These new additions to Optima’s extensive line of high-index products will enable eyecare professionals to make Optima their one stop source for high-index lenses.
Power range is 0.00 to -8.00 to -4.00 cyl, and -8.25 to -10.00 to -2.00 cyl.

Izon efocus

IZon efocus

Manufacturer: Ophthonix
Ophthonix has taken its iZon eFocus computer lens to the next level of personalization and customization.
Unlike ordinary computer progressive lenses, iZon eFocus starts with requiring a specific intermediate prescription from the eye care professional. Then, iZon eFocus customizes the intermediate prescription to the precise distance a patient sits from their computer screen based on an exact measurement provided by the patient. Patients who wear eyeglasses designed specifically for their individual computer needs will experience clear, crisp and comfortable vision throughout the day. The iZon eFocus computer lens is a specially designed progressive lens that utilizes three unique zones: large intermediate zone for optimal computer use, a fully usable reading zone and small distance zone.
1.6 index and polycarbonate materials.

Seiko Sportswear Transitions SolFX

Seiko Sportswear Transitions SolFX

Manufacturer: Seiko Optical Products of America and Transitions Optical
High-performance photochromic sunlenses.
The latest product in the Transitions SolFX line of performance sunwear, Seiko Sportswear Transitions SolFX lenses are optimized to improve color recognition, contrast and depth perception in varying lighting conditions. The lens is designed for a variety of outdoor sports and related activities, including running, hiking and walking. The line includes Seiko- and Perfas-branded free-form progressive lenses, as well as Seiko’s new 1.67 Wrap Tech single-vision free-form lens and frame package, and 1.67 standard aspheric single-vision lenses. The lenses can be ordered through Seiko’s free-form laboratory and network of independent optical laboratories. The lenses change from an initial light green tint while non-activated to a dark green tint in bright sunlight. The proprietary tint filters light evenly throughout its activation range to provide excellent color contrast separation, depth perception and color recognition, even in varying outdoor lighting conditions, according to Transitions and Seiko.
Seiko Internal Free-Form PAL Sportswear Transitions SolFX lenses are available in a variety of materials, including Trivex, polycarbonate and 1.67 high-index plastic. Seiko’s single-vision (6 and 8 Base) Wrap Tech Sportswear Transitions SolFX lenses are available in 1.67 high index plastic.

Chemistrie Software for Briot Alta Pro Edger

Chemistrie Software for Briot Alta Pro Edger

Manufacturer: Briot USA
Briot USA has released software that will enable users of the Briot Alta Pro edger to produce the Chemistrie magnetic sunlens system by Eyenavision.
The Chemistrie sunlens system is a patented technology that utilizes miniature magnets embedded in the lenses to attach the sunlenses to the prescription lenses. By using the Alta Pro, Briot customers will be able to produce custom made sunlenses whose shape and base curve matches the prescription lens. The new Alta Pro software adds a menu item for Chemestrie making it easy for the operator to align the placement of the magnets at the touch of a button. Availability: The software with the Chemistrie menu items will be standard on all new Alta Pro edgers, and current Alta Pro customers will be upgraded via BriotLink, Briot’s proprietary remote access service, or an onsite maintenance visit.

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

Andy Karp

Andrew Karp
Editor, Lab Advisor
[email protected]


Christie Walker

Christie Walker
Editor, LabTalk
[email protected]

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