I don't often talk about the contents of our issue on this page but this is our annual Buyer's Guide(August 2011) and there are some things about it I'd like you to know. This is an undertaking that takes months to prepare and, from the feedback you gave us in a recent survey, I am so glad to know our work is highly appreciated.
As you expressed it, it is "a well-organized, easy-to-use directory" of industry suppliers and service providers with all their contact information. It also features a directory of the products used by dental laboratories, cross-referenced with said providers; and a directory of trade names so, if you should forget who makes the product you want, you can find who makes it here.
Its compilation begins as soon as last year's issue is finished because there are always new products entering the market that need to be added or revised and, sometimes even as we go to press, we receive notification about a company move or a new player on the block!
To give you an idea of how our marketplace has changed since last August, note that there are 35 (!) new product categories this year: 22 new product types and 13 new services. Clearly, advances are being made and our industry is hot, hot, hot!
Our Supplier Directories include 446 companies offering more product and service types than ever before. In recent years, there have been a lot of company mergers or product-line absorptions and there has been a greater blurring of the lines between who is a vendor and who is a customer; the reality is, many of us are both.
Just Like Labs
More laboratories are being acquired as well, though our 2010 State of the Industry survey suggests that we won't begin to see a significant decline in the total number of U.S. laboratories until sometime between 2016 and 2020.
As those of you who regularly check www.LMTmag.com know, since January, we've been posting the number of laboratories in the U.S. on our home page. We're doing this to allay any concerns you may have about a dramatic decline. So far, no drama: in January, we counted 10,520 labs; this month, that number is 10,497, a decline of less than a quarter of one percent over an eight-month period.
Meanwhile, I hope that by tracking this number for you monthly, we help keep you in the loop so when and if conditions change, you can determine what opportunities they present for your business.
This we know: opportunities are everywhere right now. As I said, there's more crossover in the dental field than ever before and this makes us somewhat unique. This Buyer's Guide helps all of us have a clear understanding of who does what. What continues to remain blurry is who does what with whom and, for many, that's just one of those fun-to-speculate, business-behind-the-scenes industry mysteries that keeps us paying attention.
For example, so many vendors--competitors and non--buy from and sell to one another. They private label, provide raw materials, partner up. So many laboratories work for and with one another. So many vendors are also lab owners. So many of both also distribute/represent someone else's products or services and there are technicians whose family members are dentists or industry vendors.
My point? We are interdependent and that means a whole lot. Because we're all intertwined, there can be no us versus them when it comes to laboratory operator versus industry supplier. We sometimes discover that our competitor is also our client; weird but true. Instead of versus, let's consider in addition to and see how it plays out to work with one another as supporter, supplier, consumer, teacher, student.
In this vein, read up, mark up, pin up and make full use of this issue. It's your road map to everything dental laboratory. And when you have questions or comments or something to share, please make use of our mutual interdependency by using the internet: meet with me and over 600 [and counting!] industry peers on The BRIDGE at www.LMTmag.com.