For 35 years, the staff at Flud Dental Lab in Tulsa, Oklahoma, affectionately dubbed their building "The Cave." Now, they're living the good life in a 12,000 sq.-ft. facility.
For 35 years, Flud Dental Lab was located in a building the staff affectionately dubbed "The Cave." As its name suggests, "the cave" was dark, dingy and crowded and there was a constant breakdown of heat, air and plumbing. Then, in 2006, the laboratory moved into a new, state-of-the-art, 12,000-sq.-ft. facility. "Coming from our old building, the new lab is like a castle," says Todd Smith, president of the National Dentex-member laboratory in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
National Dentex Senior Vice President, Arthur Champagne, visited the lab and took Smith on tours of other NDX facilities so he could get an idea of what would work best for Flud. Smith says he found a laboratory soulmate in Ideal Dental Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and patterned Flud's design after it. "The geometry of the building was similar and they had the same number of technicians, so we just tweaked the workflow," says Smith. Champagne also helped Smith through some design difficulties, like working bench layouts around reinforcement walls and perfecting the laboratory's rectangular layout.
Flud's 33 employees enjoy plenty of room in the new facility and the lab can accommodate up to 70. Technicians have also benefited from an increase in technology. For instance, since opening the new lab, Flud has upgraded to a totally new IT system that assists with inventory management, human resources and shipping. The lab has also recently implemented a bar coding system in its fixed department that enables it to track cases by scanning them as they move through the lab.
Upon entering, visitors are greeted by a spacious, sun-filled lobby area. The lobby's earth-tone, ceramic tile flooring and floor-to-ceiling windows create an inviting atmosphere, and Smith says that visitors' first impressions were an important part of his design. "We're the largest lab in Oklahoma and I wanted to portray us in a positive light," he says.
Cast Partial & C+B Departments
The laboratory's benches--from NevinLabs, a member of the DentalEZ Group--feature Corian surfaces and the overhead lighting is color-corrected. Three of the laboratory's four walls are almost entirely windows, allowing for plenty of natural light, something that hasn't gone unnoticed by employees. "The openness, sunlight and shiny-new everything have done wonders for attitude and morale," says Lab Administrator Erin Garrett. "Not to mention how it has enhanced the employees' pride in their work environment."
Flud employees attend weekly team meetings in the training room, which features a large screen and projector for presentations, a separate entrance from the rest of the lab and easy access to lab facilities. The area also holds frequent CE seminars, creating a new opportunity for client education. "We weren't as comfortable with clients and patients coming to the old lab, but now we're sponsoring seminars regularly," says Smith. The laboratory is also sprucing up its image: all employees now wear lab coats in the production areas, and the staff works tirelessly to keep the new facility spotless. "The new building has given us a whole new attitude," says Smith.
The layout facilitates communication and teamwork, with all departments separated only by benches--not walls--and centered in the building. Prep areas are located along the perimeter of each department and designed for easy clean-up. Lining the outer walls is a ring of support areas with offices as well as the lab's "bistro" kitchen and training center.