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Last month, Dental Arts Laboratories (DAL)--headquartered in Peoria, IL, with eight locations across the Midwest--launched DAL DT Technologies, a new division solely dedicated to the development and service of CAD/CAM technology and other laboratory subcontracting services. In addition, it provides scanners, mills, consumable materials and laboratory integration services to DAL DT Partner Laboratories. The laboratory hasn't entered into this new venture lightly; rather, it has made several strategic changes over the last two years.
Like many laboratories, DAL had ventured into digital technology, but in 2010 wasn't using the equipment to its fullest capacity. Since the laboratory wanted to be more digitally proficient and further digitize and streamline production, it needed to find a "digital expert" who could guide the lab's efforts and take it to the next level.
"Based upon the size of our operation, we knew it wouldn't be easy to find a strategic technical expert to fill the position," says Scott Clark, Executive Vice President. "Not only did we want an individual with a highly experienced digital background, we wanted an experienced technician, capable of orchestrating all phases of analog and digital production, and that's not easy to find." After a year-long search, DAL named a new Chief Technology Officer, Ryan Johnson, a master ceramist with a major in dental bio materials who was heavily involved in CAD/CAM product development at 3M ESPE.
Johnson's first objective was to build up the lab's ability to handle CAD/CAM work in house for its existing dentist clients; while the C&B department had a couple of scanners and small mills, it still outsourced 75% of the milling. After a six-week evaluation, he identified a variety of factors that were leading to problems and inefficiency.
Johnson made a series of changes to restructure the department. He divided the staff into three distinct groups--scanners, designers and those who operated the milling machines--then provided in-depth training to each group. He also centralized the equipment and workstations, setting up technicians in an assembly line according to workflow to maximize efficiency. He also invested in two benchtop milling machines and hired five new staff members so the lab could start milling more cases in house.
Within six weeks, the department was milling 100% of its cases and output per technician had nearly tripled from 25 to 70 cases per day. "By training, reorganizing and streamlining, we got a higher level of focus which resulted in faster throughput," says Johnson. "Our new system also allows our CAD/CAM designers to focus solely on designing--which is the heart of any digital department--and helps us produce consistent, high quality products in bulk."
DAL DT Technologies
In June 2012, DAL made another strategic move: it acquired Colonial Dental Studio in Davenport, IA, an established CAD/CAM outsourcing center with 550 laboratory customers. "By combining the resources and staff of DAL and Colonial, we essentially created a 'Dream Team'," says Clark. "Tom Hagen and his staff at Colonial brought their years of CAD/CAM experience and loyal customers to the table and we brought a focus on streamlining and a background in digital R&D."
Another member of the "Dream Team" is Roger Dawson, CDT, who joined DAL as the Director of Implant Technologies. His previous experience as the Technical Manager of CAD/CAM technologies for BioHorizons and as the Senior Tech Specialist at 3M ESPE made him the ideal choice to develop and integrate both 3D printing and milling technology into the DAL implant departments.
Today, DAL's new highly efficient C&B department continues to fabricate work for its dentist-clients while Colonial--renamed DAL DT Technologies--is solely dedicated to working directly with dental laboratories. DAL DT Technologies operates out of Colonial's established Davenport location; has eight milling machines (plus five at DAL in Peoria); retains its 18-person staff; and offers Lava, Lava Ultimate, BruxZir, IPS e.max, Captek and a full range of implant and removable products.
The laboratory has also partnered with several companies to further expand its services:
- As the exclusive North American distributor for Dental Direkt, DAL DT Technologies offers its own line of translucent zirconia, BioZx2, which is produced using isostatic pressing with each blank individually inspected for consistency.
- Through its partnership with Medit Identica and exocad, DAL DT Technologies sells, services and provides training for the Identica scanner with exocad software--customized by Johnson--for labs that want to scan and design their own cases and have them milled or printed at DAL DT Technologies.
- It's the main distributor for the complete line of imes-icore milling machines in North America.
DAL DT Technologies also offers a DAL Partner Program dedicated to assisting laboratories with all phases of digital technology, including training at its CAD/CAM training center in Davenport and guarantees to overnight a backup scanner if its online support staff can't solve a technical problem. "As a laboratory, we know what it's like not to get adequate support, so that's our number one priority," says Clark. "Anyone can buy digital equipment but it's an entirely different story to use and manage it well. We produce over 600 CAD/CAM units a day and when a lab is ready to invest in a scanner or mill, we can provide our lab clients with a seamless transition since they'll be using the same materials and equipment we do."
For more information, contact Ryan Johnson, Chief Technology Officer, at 800-322-2213 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Tom Hagen, Vice President of Business Development, at 888-894-2148 or email@example.com; or visit www.daltechsystems.com.
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