Optical Prescription Lab Named 2011 Transitions Lab of the Year
Transitions Optical has selected Optical Prescription Lab (OPL) as the 2011 Transitions Lab of the Year. The coveted title was presented during an awards ceremony at the 16th annual Transitions Academy meeting last month in Orlando, Fla., which was which was attended by over 1,300 industry professionals. A four-time finalist for the award, OPL is a family-run lab headquartered in Pelham, Ala. that provides premium optical products to eyecare professionals throughout the Southeast.
Accepting the award at the Transitions Academy Awards banquet are, left to right: Brian Conley, marketing director of OPL; Scott Betcher of Transitions Optical; Sherry Pugh, vice president of OPL, and Erin Michelotti and Chad Ustazewski of Transitions Optical.
During Transitions Academy, Transitions Lab of the Year finalists Soderberg Ophthalmic Services and Toledo Optical Laboratory were also recognized for their year-long efforts and dedication to the Transitions brand.
Expert Optics Hosts ICO Grads
Expert Optics, an independent wholesale lab based in Shorewood, Ill., recently hosted laboratory tours and education for the entire graduating class of 2014 from the Illinois College of Optometry (ICO) of Chicago, Ill. The 153 second year Optometry students learned about overall lens processing including digital surfacing, premium anti-reflective lens treatments and the latest technology of on the block no touch manufacturing (OBM.) The future optometrists were also provided insight into the business side of independent practice including maximizing patient satisfaction and profits, as well as utilizing industry resources available to them.
Pictured here are, L to R: Don Ruden, CEO of Expert Optics, Neil Hodur, O.D. of the Illinois College of Optometry and Greg Ruden, president of Expert Optics with Optometry students from the Illinois College of Optometry at Expert Optics.
VSP Acquires Majority Interest in Two Labs
VSP Global recently acquired a majority interest in two wholesale prescription laboratories that it owns in partnership with Carl Zeiss Vision: Perfect Optics in Vista, Calif. and Zeiss/VSP Lab in Tampa Bay, Fla.
The Perfect Optics transaction involved VSP buying out shares of the company owned by individual members of its management team, according to VSP. However, the lab's management, headed by Tom Brophy, remains in place. Perfect Optics was ranked as the 16th largest U.S. independent wholesale lab in Vision Monday's 2011 Top Labs Report, with estimated Rx sales of $12 million.
The management of Zeiss/VSP Lab, Tampa Bay, headed by Danny Singer, also remains in place.
Warren Meyer, senior VP lab operations, VSP Optics Group, told VMail that VSP increased its ownership stake in the two labs in order to expand distribution of its proprietary Unity brand of lenses and coatings.
"We felt there was a need to have even broader availability of those products for our ECPs. The easiest, most reasonable way to expand this was to take a majority position in our two partner labs," said Meyer.
In addition to its partnership with Zeiss in CZV Florida and Perfect Optics, VSP operates five wholly owned prescription labs located throughout the U.S. The five labs generated estimated Rx sales of $84.6 million, according to Vision Monday's 2011 Top Labs Report.
The American Jobs Act 2011:
What's In It for Small Business?
Small Business = Job Creators! The vast majority of small business owners are not part of the 1%, but do aspire to be there at some point. The Great Recession has impacted both the rich and poor and all of us in-between. The president's proposal for the American Jobs Act of 2011 contains some positive tax initiatives that would provide welcome relief for labs and other small businesses and may stimulate some hiring:
- 50% reduction in OASDI paid by employers—Currently, employers pay 6.2% of each employees wages up to $106,000 to fund the social security entitlement. These are matched by withholding from employees at currently 4.2% of their wages. The Administration's proposal would reduce the employer's portion to 3.1% of wages below $106,000 per employee. For an average optical lab with net sales of $3,000,000 and a wage percentage of 22%, this would mean a tax reduction of $20,460 in the amount of payroll tax you pay on behalf of your employees. At this level, you may consider hiring another employee for $9.83 per hour.
- For new hires, there is a tax credit for OASDI—For each new hire for business small and large alike, there would be a credit for all of OASDI paid by the employer, which typically would 6.2% of the employee's wages. So if you hired a worker for the above $20,460 you save from bullet point 1, you would save an additional $1,269 in payroll tax which may allow you to offer the employee $10.45 per hour.
- Extend 100% expensing of capital expenditures through 2012—The administration's plan would extend the ability for small business to deduct 100% of the purchase of equipment and plant purchased in 2012. Basically what this means for the lab owner is that if you invest, let's say, $800K in revamping your lines to digital processing you can write off the investment in the first year through tax depreciation. So if you made an $800K investment and you turned a profit before depreciation of $800K, $800K would not be taxable in the first year for a federal tax savings of approximately 25% of $800K, or $200K. This might entice you to hire up to 9 more employees at the combined savings from bullets one and two above.
There are a lot other provisions in the Act which could help people looking for work and those that have jobs keep some more of the money that they earn outside of what it does to help small business. I think the best way to reducing unemployment is growing sales. If your business is growing as a savvy business owner, you'll add employees to meet demand and make more money regardless of the tax incentives given by government. —Jason A. Meyer, managing director, HPC Puckett & Company. Based in San Diego, Calif., HPC Puckett & Company specializes in mergers and acquisitions of companies in the optical sector. You can send comments or questions about this article or any other Dollars & Sense articles to Jason A. Meyer at email@example.com.
e.magine Optical's Tom Yancy
By Judith Lee
The strategy is simple, but not easy to execute: provide exceptional service, fast turn-around time and support the customer with quality educational programs. It's a strategy that has paid off in steady growth for e.magine Optical during a down economy.
Tom Yancy, president of the Tulsa, Oklahoma lab, said e.magine Optical is first and foremost committed to arming its customers with the tools needed to compete effectively against optical chains and "big box" stores.
"We offer almost any brand of progressive lenses in a full range of materials and colors. Since we are a Global Optics lens warehouse shareholder we draw on a vast inventory of lenses representing all major manufacturers," Yancy said.
e.magine Optical's secret weapon is proprietary lab management software connected to the lens warehouse. If the lenses aren't in stock when the job is entered, the lenses are ordered automatically and received the next day in a single daily overnight shipment of all vendors and brands.
e-magine Optical provides ECPs with extra ammo: Team Rewards, a comprehensive marketing plan at a fraction of the customary fee, and Jumpstart Your Office, a 6-module training series for opticians and office staff. The lab just recently launched ABO-accredited training.
e.magine Optical has totally re-engineered its production facility. Robotic surfacing allows for digital cut to polish and the lab can process almost every major digital progressive lens design. In-house AR controls quality and minimizes turn-around time. New updated robotic edging equipment is on order.
Yancy admitted that installing new equipment and processes take their toll. Digital surfacing may be the most challenging because it requires collaboration of multiple vendors, suppliers and intellectual property owners—as well as employee retraining.
"I've been very pleased with our employee's quick adaptation to the many changes we have made," Yancy said.
While automation has reduced workforce needs, steady growth has enabled e.magine Optical to retrain and reassign duties. With smarter machines, the lab can make do with less skilled workers, but Yancy said many duties still require the "unique skills and artistic abilities" of long-time employees.
The lab's online ordering software integrates with the lab management software to minimize errors. Tracking vendor—specific purchase points makes it easy to administer joint lab/vendor promotions. And of course, there's participation in Social Media.
"Since we do business only with ECPs, our Facebook page is used to announce new products, services and promotions," said Yancy. "Any public inquires are referred to our customers based upon their proximity."
Revving Up Your Free-Form: New Products and Tips To Make
The Most of This New Vehicle
By Judith Lee
Free-form generators and polishers are the electric cars of the optical laboratory business. Everyone thinks they're a good idea, but not everyone agrees free-form is the right vehicle for their lab operation. Offering a more compact footprint, efficiency, and in some cases, eco-friendly features, free-form equipment continues to evolve in ways that are likely to drive the industry into the future. Check out these tips from the makers of free-form equipment.
From Augen: Clean, dry compressed air is essential in maintaining proper function and longevity of all equipment.
From Chemat Technologies: Acquire the software not only for progressives, but also for bifocal and lenticular to produce all lens types in the free-form generators.
From Coburn Technologies: Carefully evaluate all of the free-form lens processing solutions available. The price for free-form lens surfacing technology has come down in 2011 through the release of lower priced generators and disposable free-form polishing pads. Some will allow you to upgrade the system you currently have.
From Optotech: Since you can now produce just about anything out of just a few semi-finished products, one of the main advantages of having free-form equipment is a reduction in turn-around time, especially with a multiple shift environment. To further improve turn-around, also consider in house AR Coating.
From Satisloh: Properly maintained equipment will not only make daily production easier but will ultimately extend the life of the machine and bring more value to your investment.
From Schneider Optical Machines: While the free-form process should eliminate certain steps, provide greater accuracy and is easier to run, it is much more sensitive to outside influences. A properly trained operator is critical to the process.
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