Eleven years after purchasing and successfully operating Choate Ceramic Laboratory in Conroe, TX, the Co-Owners Jimmy Durham, David Fitch, CDT, and Alton Trotter, CDT, moved out of their ceramic comfort zone and added a removable department in January 2010.
They knew the demand for removable prosthetics was growing and saw going full service as a way to keep the 19-person laboratory as profitable as possible. Also, as a result of the economy, new technology, a dramatic increase in precious alloy prices and overseas competition, they projected their C&B workload would decrease and that department would then be overstaffed. By opening the removable department, they would be able to shift technicians and avoid laying off any employees.
The owners spent approximately 24 months researching the market, attending denture-related seminars, conducting demand studies, and analyzing costs and price ranges for full and partial dentures. After converting a 450-sq-ft storage area into the removable department, the lab transitioned one of its top-notch porcelain technicians who wanted a new opportunity and trained him to head up the new department. He attended numerous training classes and established relationships with a few of the best removable technicians in the country. "We believe that a quality-minded technician will produce a quality product, regardless of the material he or she is working with, and this proved to be exactly the case," says Durham.
Although they could have established the department at a low cost by using different products from various vendors, the owners wanted a comprehensive system--one that offered quality teeth and acrylic, accuracy, technical training and support, and brand recognition. After researching several systems, they opted for Ivoclar Vivadent's SR Ivocap Injection System. "The system has become the cornerstone of our denture department," explains Durham.
Taking a careful approach, the removable department started out slowly, doing work for only two doctors. The laboratory didn't start marketing to other customers until six months later when the owners felt the department had the necessary experience and confidence in what it was doing.
Gradually, three other C&B technicians were cross trained and a recent technology school graduate was hired, bringing the department staff to a total of five technicians. "From the beginning, we knew we didn't want to stop with a one-technician denture department and we're glad to have made it beyond that point. Now we're well positioned in a growth area of the market," explains Durham.
In addition to providing new services, the lab has been able to cross-sell so that some of its new removable accounts are now sending C&B cases. It's also tapping into its C&B implant expertise for implant-supported removable cases and clients also benefit from a time-savings standpoint on combination cases.
One unexpected internal benefit: having something that's new, growing, positive and motivational in the laboratory. "I've heard so many positive comments about our dentures from our dentist-clients," says Durham. "It makes us feel good to be part of something that helps so many people."