By 2014, dental prosthetics will be an $11 billion per year industry. C&B will still represent the majority of that volume with PFM units being flat or on the decline, veneers growing by 50% and other all-ceramic units continuing on a growth trend.
Other changes I expect in the near future:
C&B labs will become "CAD/CAM companies" within the next five years.
In 10 to 15 years, 40% of our business will come from offshore, up from the 20% that's currently being imported from 26 different countries.
The economic threat of offshore outsourcing to U.S. laboratories is real and CAD/CAM is the only way to beat it. The technology makes complex, labor-intensive services predictable, routine and profitable. It lowers labor costs, allowing you to not just compete but to win the battle.
Laboratories of all sizes can access CAD/CAM via outsourcing and the technology also opens the door for labs to become centralized manufacturing/milling centers. However, I caution against outsourcing exclusively because at some point you'll just become a middleman and people will figure out how to do it without you.
Automation will change the skills required of technicians in the future. The new "digital technicians" must be computer-oriented and able to visualize in 3-D, meaning have an eye for digital scan and design versus traditional waxup, and rapid prototype manufacture versus casting and hand-layered ceramics.
Two key ways in which labs can maintain a competitive edge:
Get involved with implants. The U.S. implant business grew 12% between 2006 and 2007 and although growth in 2008 was not as high, I'm still optimistic about this market. I also base this recommendation on my own personal experiences: after a 15-year hiatus due to concerns about litigation, my laboratory re-entered the implant market in 2007 and it has been the lab's strongest growth area for the past two years.
Open your own web portal through which you can communicate with your doctors. On-line communication between doctors and labs grew 500% in 2007 and in anticipation of this trend continuing, we're improving our website's "My Account" section to facilitate more on-line contact.
The Age of Change: Industry leaders weigh in on what's in store for our future
For more about Digital Dentistry visit:
Digital Dentistry: Just In Its Infancy
Down is the New Up
You Can't Hug the Past
Technician as Knowledge Czar
A New World of Dental Materials
Think in Terms of Two-to-Three Year ROI