Investing in Free-form:
Nexus' Sound Planning Pays Off
Over the last few months, Gerry Shaw, managing partner of Nexus Vision Group has graciously provided insight into Nexus' planning, investment, and implementation of free-form technology at their Columbus, Ohio lab. Nexus is a "lab's lab" providing high quality anti-reflective coatings, digitally surfaced lenses, and finishing services for other wholesale laboratories.
Free-form equipment and technology is a large investment requiring a great deal of planning to pull off successfully. I asked Gerry how Nexus' hard work has paid off.
"We are very pleased with the performance, so far," Gerry said. "Since going live in April 2010, our digital surfacing lab has doubled jobs per day between December 2010 and June 2011 with 60 percent of those jobs going through as free-form designs." The service time to Nexus' customers has been terrific as well. Since the company is servicing other labs, service speed is exceptionally critical. Gerry said, "We are averaging same-day shipment for non-AR coated jobs if the order is received by 1:00 p.m. and next day shipment with AR coating included." When I asked about the return on Nexus' investment in free-form Gerry explained, "Though our growth has been phenomenal, we only recently began to turn positive monthly EBITDA in the surface lab. We really anticipated this because no investment of this magnitude has a positive return immediately. We are very satisfied with the financial performance so far and expect strong returns from here on."
I asked Gerry what advice he would give other labs preparing to dive into a free-form investment. He replied, "The best advice is to plan out every step. Though we relied on our vendors to help us through the process, we wanted to be as certain as possible that our budget was sound, the timetable was right, and we could deliver to our customers what we promised." Gerry went on to say that this "do it yourself" factor in planning and implementation gave them the confidence that Nexus' investment in free-form is paying off. —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
Nexus general manager Juan Pesante, pictured above (c) demonstrates a Satisloh i-Flex generator for visitors at the lab's open house event.
This is the fifth and final installment in a series of monthly Dollars & Sense columns about investing in free-form technology. To read the other articles in the series, check out the Lab Advisor Archives.
Shamir Adds Tri-Supreme and Capitol Optical as Partner Labs
Shamir Insight has added Tri-Supreme Optical of Farmingdale, N.Y. and Capitol Optical of Olympia, Wash. to its Shamir Autograph II partner lab network. Tri-Supreme is an Essilor Partner lab and an authorized Varilux and Transitions lab. The lab features both a Crizal coating center and a digital processing center for fast turnaround. Capitol Optical is a full-service lab that is wholly-owned by VSP Labs. It has been serving independent ECPs and their patients in the Pacific Northwest for nearly six decades.
Shamir's Autograph II partner lab network currently consists of 46 labs.
K Optical Relocates
K Optical, a Michigan-based independent optical lab, recently moved to a new location in Farmington Hills to accommodate its growth. Their new office (pictured below) is about 6,000 sq. ft., which is six times the capacity of their old space.
"We are constantly striving to improve our turn time, productivity and service for our customers," stated Mike Kellman, who owns the lab with his sons Marc and Kevin. "This move has proven to help in all of these areas".
K Optical is a family owned laboratory that has been in business for 15 years. Its customers are mostly in the Detroit metro area but they continue to expand their customer base. The lab is part of the P.O.G. lab network along with Precision Optical Group, Inc. (Creston, Iowa), JMR Wholesale Laboratory (Denver, Colo.) and CRX Laboratory (Athens, Tenn. and Greenville, S.C.).
Services Held for Hal Rothstein of Hirsch Optical
Hal Rothstein, co-owner and president/CEO of Hirsch Optical in Farmingdale, N.Y., passed away here on June 6 following a lengthy illness. He was 74 years old and lived in Dix Hills, N.Y. Read more.
OSC Expands Network
Optical Supply Co-op (OSC) buying group recently expanded its lab network with the addition of seven new members: Central Optical Laboratories, Clarkston, Wash.; Great Basin Optical Lab, Las Vegas, Nev.; Opti-Lite, Los Angeles, Calif.; Spec-Tech Optical Lab, Omaha, Neb.; United Optical, Salt Lake City, Utah; Valox Optical, Fullerton, Calif.; Vision Craft, Yakima, Wash.
Also, OSC has begun working with industry veteran Don Gardner (pictured above). A 20-year Essilor veteran, Gardner started his own company, EDG Vision, LLC in 2009. The company does marketing and consulting for independent labs and eyecare professionals. It will represent Optical Supply Co-op's buying group, working with lab members and recruiting new labs.
Pinnacle Optical's Greg Blackwell
By Judith Lee
With technology as the key to giving eyewear customers what they want, Pinnacle Optical has not forgotten that human intelligence and interaction still turn the key that fires up the optical laboratory engine.
President Greg Blackwell said that educating eyecare practitioners and retraining staff in ever-evolving technologies create a synergy of success.
"We're spending much time and effort educating our ECPs on the advantages of digital designs and processes. We're investing in our employees so they are proficient in all aspects of newer technology," Blackwell said.
Education outreach and internal training are in place to support Pinnacle's recent investment in digital surfacing technology, which Blackwell believes is the future of the industry.
As the future has arrived at this Alabama optical lab, an immediate effect is evident in its re-engineered workflow to accommodate both traditional and digital lines. Pinnacle Optical currently processes all Varilux and Essilor designs and will be installing Shamir Freeform designs. Also, Pinnacle has installed an on-site Crizal Processing Center.
Which brings us back to retraining staff members to utilize refined process control methodology to ensure consistent quality of product.
"Checks and balances on each aspect of control, allowing proper time for calibration and testing daily and still maintaining service levels were a bit difficult at first, but our staff quickly adapted," Blackwell noted.
As digital surfacing moves front and center, so do software implementation and job routing.
"We're talking about a completely different set of digital calculations partnered with our existing Lab Management System. It works very well, but there are still instances where human intervention must take place," Blackwell acknowledged.
In his 30 years of surfacing optical lenses, Blackwell has seen many changes and experimented with many processes; integrating digital surfacing has been the most challenging.
"This was a complete departure; it was a completely new set of criteria and processes that involved a lot of time and effort from many," Blackwell said. "Our partner vendors—Essilor, Optifacts, and soon, Shamir—deserve much credit for helping us to understand and implement successfully."
Seconds, Please: Sweet Revenue from Second Pair Polarized Lens Sales
By Julie Bos
Who doesn't like seconds? Second helpings, second dates and, of course—our industry's favorite—second-pair sales of polarized lenses. The challenge, as you well know, is turning the idea into reality—and getting that magic to happen repeatedly. It's no simple matter. And roadblocks seem to exist everywhere.
Lingering economic uncertainty means consumers are more budget-conscious than ever. Some are stretching their time between optical visits and reconsidering their need for lens replacements at all. And many who have heard about polarized sunwear consider it a luxury they simply cannot afford.
Compounding the problem are the eyecare professionals themselves. Many ECPs don't make polarized lenses a part of their discussions in the exam room—or if they do mention polarized, they make it a "recommendation," not a "must-have" for enhancing vision.
Where Do We Go from Here?
When considering this dilemma, many optical labs agree: Making significant headway on the second-pair polarized front requires a dramatic paradigm shift—a fundamental change in the way ECPs do business. If your lab struggles with second-pair sales—and getting ECPs on board with the concept—you're not alone. Many labs share your frustration. Fortunately, some labs are finding success through the use of some all-new discussions and strategies. Perhaps one (or more) of these approaches will be the key that unlocks a heaping helping of new revenue for your lab.
To find out what labs are doing to boost second pair sales, log onto labtalkonline.com and go to the FEATURES section where you will find this complete article.