Dr. Gordon Christensen recently said, "Dentistry is changing so fast that it's extremely difficult for practitioners to stay up to date" and I think the same can be said of dental laboratories.
It's essential for you as a laboratory owner to pinpoint external changes and gauge how they're affecting your business. Once you have that information, you're better able to react and position your laboratory for the future.
Trend: Automation is dramatically changing the very face of dentistry and this trend is going to expand. For example, C&B waxing and casting will become bygone activities: these steps will be replaced by machines that can do the work more economically and more accurately. As a result, PFMs will be phased out in favor of CAD/CAM-fabricated zirconia oxide crowns and bridges. Digital impressions will also grow in popularity and this is good news for labs because the doctor can see what to do in the mouth before he sends it to the lab, resulting in fewer remakes.
Advice: Advances take place so quickly that new technology rapidly becomes obsolete. The best way for lab owners to approach new technology is to ask themselves these two questions:
What will the investment cost in terms of training and maintenance?
How long will it take to get your money back? If the answer isn't within two to three years, you should outsource rather than buy. You might make less of a profit margin, but if you factor in the costs of all the equipment you may come out ahead in the end. When you're considering taking on a new product or service, it's also key to do beta testing with a few clients first. Create your own 'dental advisory board' and develop a questionnaire to gauge its reactions. Afterwards, you can use their testimonials to sell the product or service to other clients.
Trends: Worldwide competition from offshore laboratories is increasing in popularity. Many dentists want to provide patients access to more affordable options and offshore outsourcing is one way for them to offer value pricing. The consequence will be a gradual decline in the number of labs serving dentists and our view of the traditional laboratory will change. I believe there will be more middlemen who ship cases to other countries to be fabricated. Digital impressions will replace conventional impression taking and an increasing amount of this work will be manufactured by large centralized factories (laboratories) or processing centers.
Advice: In this new world order, the laboratories that thrive will be the ones that identify the needs of their customers and meet them better and faster than their competitors by repositioning their products, services and manufacturing capabilities. Relationships are also key. Learn how to bond with your clients and be a problem solver.
For more about Digital Dentistry visit:
Digital Dentistry: Just In Its Infancy
Down is the New Up
At $11 Billion By 2014, C&B Reigns
You Can't Hug the Past
Technician as Knowledge Czar
A New World of Dental Materials