Industry veteran Mike Girard, owner of Diadem Digital Solutions in Troy, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario, is aware that many lab owners feel overwhelmed and are "frozen" as to how to proceed in this new digital age. There are many who want to sell their lab but may not be able to attract a buyer in this climate. "If they keep going, it's not just their age and keeping up with new materials, but the new equipment and its associated costs combined with the state of our economy that makes this a very scary time," he says. "But with collaboration, you don't have to do it alone or go deep into debt to do it."
Any lab owner willing to reinvent his business can recognize the value of becoming a "digital design center," says Girard. "At a minimum all they need is 3Shape's CAD design software at a cost of $6,500. The cost of the full system, software and scanner is about $25,000-$30,000 depending on which software options are selected."
Because Diadem feels 3Shape is light years ahead of everyone on the software front, it became a reseller.
"The changes our industry is facing are not about the high cost of technology," Girard maintains. "There's no need to invest in price-staggering equipment when you can retain the design aspects of your cases and send them out for processing to any number of qualified milling centers that already exist throughout the country.
"Investing in the scanner and especially in CAD design software prepares you for what's coming next: when dentists are finally ready to adopt digital impression technology as well, you'll be ready and waiting for them and you can help them get on board," he says.
The key to a bright future for most lab owners, he believes, is to "provide concierge-level service to their clients," he says. What does he mean by "concierge"? "You have to take care of your customers at a high level. This is a relationship business," he says.
"You have to build and nurture them and then keep it up. Every member of your staff needs to focus on these relationships. Keep clients up to date on new processes and materials. Invite them over to talk about new stuff; become the incubator of new technology information. You don't want to leave yourself open to having another lab open their eyes first."
The future belongs to laboratory operators who understand customer service and who are willing to adapt to the digital workflow. Those who embrace "digital and high precision have an opportunity to combat offshore competition," he suggests. "Clear your old ways of thinking about technology and embrace digital," he suggests. "It will make you very effective. Then, if you market wisely, you can offer your clients a very precise, consistent product for a reasonable premium. They get great value which you can provide with lower labor costs; it's a good economic model."