Investing in Free-form:
Nexus' Sound Planning Pays Off
Last month's discussion with Gerry Shaw, partner at Nexus Vision Group focused on how the company came to the decision to invest in free from technology and equipment. The discussion with Gerry continues with Nexus' planning and implementation.
Nexus executed its investment in freeform with diligence and care. "You don't just buy a generator and polisher, and you are doing freeform," Gerry said. "We did our homework."
Nexus toured many labs that had implemented the technology, interviewed multiple equipment and lens technology providers, and met with laboratory management system ("LMS") software providers in order to determine the right combination for their laboratory. Gerry explained that Nexus was founded as a "technology driven company; we wanted to be sure we were using the right technology for us and ultimately decided on Satisloh equipment and Digital Vision, Inc. ("DVI") for our LMS system."
Once Nexus had made the equipment and software choices, the next step was arranging bank financing to help with the purchase. Nexus was confident in its ability to secure financing, but "it was June 2009 and took over 30 days to get approval from our lender who we had already used on past projects." Slow financing can cause unwanted delays and missed opportunities, Gerry noted, adding "Timing is everything." Nexus secured financing by June 2009 and made its equipment orders. Four months later in October and then November, the equipment was installed. The company started producing lenses in March 2010. Gerry said that Nexus wanted to be absolutely certain that they were producing the best quality product and that they could seamlessly deliver that product to their customers without interruption before "going live".
I asked Gerry if anything unexpected happened when Nexus went live. "Our initial level of throughput," he replied. "As it turns out, our lab does about 20 percent Trivex, which is a hard material. The harder the material, the more time it takes to process the job." Nexus' throughput has improved through practice, adjustment, and the support of its vendors, but Gerry advised that labs should build some redundancy into the process, allowing adequate time to meet customer demand.
Next month we will wrap up our discussion with Gerry Shaw, where he will give some insight into how freeform has been paying off for Nexus and provide some more advice on implementing the technology for your lab —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
This is the fourth in a series of Dollars & Sense columns about investing in free-form technology. To read the other articles in the series, check out the Lab Advisor Archives.
ESOP Association Names Walman's McManigle 2011 Employee of the Year
Missy McManigle of Walman Optical Co. in Minneapolis has been named the 2011 Employee Owner of the Year by The ESOP Association. The award was presented last month at the Association's 34th Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. The ESOP Association is the national trade association for companies with Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) and the leading voice in America for employee ownership.
Optical Services International Relocates Offices
Optical Services International (OSI), an association of independent wholesale laboratories, moved their offices earlier this month. "Our new space is more efficient for our day-to-day operations and very convenient for the many reps we see," said Dana Weeks, president. "Our goal is to be responsive to our members needs and this location will allow us to do that effectively."
The new contact information is: Optical Services International, 700 Old Roswell Lakes Pkwy., Suite 200, Roswell, Ga. 30076. New phone: (770) 645-1891; new fax: (770) 645-1893. The toll free number, (800) 228-7554, remains the same.
PixelOptics Signs Expert Optics to Distribute emPower Glasses
PixelOptics has tapped Expert Optics to be the newest distributor of its emPower electronic corrective eyeglasses. The Shorewood, Ill.-based prescription laboratory joins PixelOptics' limited U.S. lab network, which consists of 11 other wholesale distributors.
Services Held for Jonathan Balester
Jonathan Balester, a former president of Balester Optical Co., was found dead in his home in Shavertown, Pa. on May 26. The 56-year-old Balester's death was ruled a homicide and the Pennsylvania state police are investigating the murder, according to Balester's sister, Heather Balester, who currently serves as president of the Wilkes-Barre, Pa. wholesale laboratory. Read more.
Classic Optical—Dawn Friedkin
By Judith Lee
How should an optical laboratory respond to a business environment that demands better technology, more specialized products, higher quality and faster service?
Classic Optical says do it all, and do it now, via robotics and advanced IT systems, and by automating many production functions as well as leveraging volume purchasing power.
"This is how we have been able to maintain our position at the forefront of offering the highest quality products in the most cost-effective manner," said chief operating officer Dawn Friedkin.
One thing this Youngstown, Ohio lab personifies is continuity. In business for 40 years, Classic Optical has fabricated some 15 million pairs of eyeglasses. But a long track record alone does not guarantee any measure of success.
Friedkin noted that Classic Optical's guiding principle has been a clear focus on measurable results. It's more critical than ever as prices deflate and the cost of raw materials and technology inflate.
"These factors make efficient manufacturing more important than ever before. To ensure the optimization of resources, in terms of both equipment and labor, requires an overarching business management strategy that focuses on improving the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of errors," Friedkin explained.
In other words, invest in technology that improves accuracy as well as streamlines the overall process:
- Two MEI multi-axis edgers
- Automation and Robotics Control and Blocking Unit
- 1,000 ft. of Flexlink conveyors and smart routing technology
- A Schneider HSC Master generator and multiple polishers
This belief in technology by no means indicates a decreased workforce. Friedkin said the high tech lab requires experienced technicians and opticians who are trained from within, as well as recruited from the outside.
Classic Optical recently rolled out a new version of its award-winning website which simplifies ordering and offers depth of information and education. While managers have been participating in social networks for some time, social media is being used more assertively to draw customers to the new website.
"As a growing communication medium, we recognize the importance of these rapidly emerging B2B marketing channels," said Friedkin. "Our plan is to fully engage with these platforms to not only drive more traffic to our website, but also to potentially identify new customers looking for the products and services we provide."
Multiple Axis Edgers: The Latest Salvo in the Automation War
By Judith Lee
Like D-day on the Normandy beaches, advanced automation has been a turning point in the battle to modernize ophthalmic manufacturing. The latest salvo comes from four- and five-axis edgers, each of which can replace several tabletop edgers, enable labs to produce complex orders (and lots of them), and realize efficiencies in staffing and operations.
The investment in these edgers is significant, ranging from $115,000 to $250,000. Yet manufacturers and users assert that just one of these machines (and some labs have several) can transform a typical optical lab into an elite operation that turns out specialty jobs such as wrap-around lenses and glasses with interchangeable lenses.
"We went from doing a few wrap Rx's a day to nearly 200 a day. This was a whole new facet for our business," noted Doug Pech, president of Pech Optical.
"Yes, our five-axis edger allowed us to increase volume. But this is such a wonderful edger, you use it for a lot of things you can't run through a conventional edger," said John Sutherlin, a principal in Sutherlin Optical, which now has five of these edgers.
It's estimated there are about 150 of these machines in use by U.S. optical labs, 75 percent of which were made by MEI, an Italian company experienced in Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining in the mechanical and automotive fields. Satisloh is a more recent entrant, and has sold about 25 percent of the U.S. machines. Schneider Optical will be entering the market this year.
To learn the benefits of four- and five-axis edgers, log onto labtalkonline.com and go to the FEATURES section where you will find this complete article.