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Editors of 20/20 and Vision Monday
You’ve made the decision to buy new finishing equipment for your in-office lab. It may be your first in-office system, or, you may be expanding your office lab or replacing an older edger.
Whatever the circumstances, there are a number of important factors to consider in making the right equipment selection for your office. These include the obvious questions like: what equipment do I need, which brand should I buy and how much should I spend?
While these factors are important, they are not the place to start your decision process. Buying equipment based primarily on cost could prove to be more expensive in the long run if your equipment choice hampers your growth objectives. Likewise, buying more machine power and features than you’ll use is wasteful spending.
Instead, back up a few steps and begin with an evaluation of your business goals. This will provide the background you need to select the right lab equipment and to address the costs versus long-term benefits of a major capital investment.
Critical Decision #1: What is the optimum lab set-up to support my business now and in the future? Ideally, you have a three-to-five-year business plan that quantifies your objectives in terms of expanding your patient base and annual gross revenue from the sale of eyeglasses. If you don’t, start now by writing down some goals in terms of how you see your eyeglass business moving forward.
Your strategic plan should identify which patient groups your office is currently serving and whether you want to target other groups. You can define patient groups in terms of price sensitivity (upscale, mid-range, discount buyers, etc), lifestyle (sports enthusiasts, computer workers, trendy, etc.) or special needs (low vision, young children, etc.). Some groups will overlap, as will their product needs. This is the “who” in Marketing 101 and is a critical step in any business plan and investment decision.
Critical Decision #2: Which product lines and services will my in-office lab need to support? Based on your targeted groups, review the eyewear products and product features that will best satisfy their needs. Avoid looking solely at what you selling today, but rather consider all the possibilities. Determine if there are opportunities to expand your business in terms of value added features like thinner high-index lenses or shatter-resistant polycarbonate or glare-reducing anti-reflective lenses.
Remember that the eyeglass products you offer will help shape your office “brand.” This is the public image your office projects to keep current patients and attract new patients. Your in-office lab is a major component in creating that image and helping to differentiate your practice. For example, if your target group is upscale and lifestyle-oriented, you’ll benefit from lab equipment that can automatically modify rimless lens shapes to create custom rimless eyewear.
Critical Decision #3: Who will operate the equipment and manage the in-office lab? Will your office staff multi-task between lab and retail work? Then simplicity of use and error-reducing automation are very important. Is an optician managing the lab? Then speed more than process simplicity is a major factor in the buying equation.
Today’s computerized edging systems are remarkably fast, accurate and easy to use. But there are important differences in their process capabilities. Match the jobs you plan to do most frequently to the features offered by various systems to find the equipment that will maximize lab productivity.
For example, many automatic edgers can groove lenses, but only higher end systems have fully integrated automatic drilling. Without this feature, you’ll need a separate drill which entails additional handling and process time. If rimless lenses are a significant part of your volume, consider a system that can handle drilled rimless lenses in the most efficient way.
Time Well Spent: Purchasing lab equipment is an important business investment. It’s worth your time to address these critical questions upfront, before you buy. You’ll be better prepared for your next steps: to research Web sites, talk with professional friends and meet with manufacturers to get in depth information about the systems and features that will optimize your business goals.
— Compiled by the editors of 20/20 and Vision Monday