Given all of the talk about the commoditization of our industry, the CAL-Lab Group’s focus on maximizing profits during its 90th annual meeting in Chicago was right on point. Chaired by Jim Gorgol, CDT, the meeting attracted 774 attendees and highlighted strategies for building your bottom line, offering value to dentist-clients and increasing efficiency and productivity with digital technology.
Keynote speaker Gordon Christensen, DDS, MSD, PhD, addressed doing business in a slowly recovering economy during his presentation Paradigm Shifts in Dentistry Influencing the State of Dental Technology. “With the economy still recovering, patients hesitant to spend and benefit plans paying less, both technicians and doctors need to look at the areas that are on the rise, such as implants, digital technology and esthetic dentistry,” he said, also offering his take on new and up-and-coming trends. “Endodontics is going to be big due to aging baby boomers, and sleep dentistry...
The LMT staff is still on a high from LMT® LAB DAY® Chicago at the end of February. We had record-breaking attendance—4,163 people, up from 3,501 last year! Attendees came from 49 states plus Washington, D.C. and 58 different countries—that’s 15 more than in 2015—making it a decidedly international affair.
The mood was upbeat among exhibitors and attendees alike. With the bigger exhibit hall and clinic rooms and open lobby (and Big Bar!), there’s much more elbow room at the Hyatt. It’s conducive to meeting old friends, having meaningful conversations and learning about new technology.
LMT Editors were around the town to find out what’s on the minds of laboratory owners, managers and technicians. Many of the trends we’ve spotted over the last couple of years continue to play out; here’s an overview:
3D printing. As the technology evolves, printers are getting more affordable and material options and applications are expanding....
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- October 2015
This article first appeared in LMT’s August 2015 edition of the LMT Insider, our monthly e-newsletter, and takes a closer look at the pros and cons of the minimum wage ordinances that have recently made national headlines.
- April 2015
Fifty percent of the removable laboratory owner/manager respondents to LMT’s State of the Industry 2015 survey rate their current workload as “booming” or “good,” with another 38% saying it’s “stable.” And half go so far as to say removable prostheses are recession proof.
“There will always be that socioeconomical segment of society who won’t be able to afford implants or crowns and for whom dentures are the most logical solution; it’s that simple. Patients would rather spend their hard-earned money on other things,” says Tony Deangelis, CDT, Owner, Depot Dental Lab, Wood Dale, IL.
A laboratory owner from Pennsylvania agrees. “During my career, when the economy is poor, the amount of denture work has always increased. Patients still need teeth but can’t or won’t risk their savings.”
In the past five years, the removable prostheses for which there have been the most significant increase in dentist...
- October 2014
LMT’s 2014 Fee Survey respondents offer a mixed picture of their sales and profitability. On one hand, laboratory sales seem to be slowly improving. Profits, though, seem to be lagging behind.
A 2014 Fee Survey participant from the Midwest—who prefers to remain anonymous—offers a thoughtful take on how the rampant price competition on full contour zirconia restorations is negatively affecting the bottom line of many laboratories. Here’s what he had to say:
In the early 1980s, the price of gold skyrocketed and non-precious alloy showed up on the scene. Since it was a cheap metal, most labs didn’t even add the cost of the metal into the crown fee. However, they weren’t thinking about the revenue they had been making on gold alloys—or about the increase in labor because non-precious takes longer to finish—so their profitability suffered.
A similar trend is happening with FCZ. In many laboratories, FCZ is cannibalizing their PFM work and the labs are losing the alloy revenue. And, as the economy has declined, so has the price of FCZ: the $99 FCZ was born, quickly gained market penetration and the race to the bottom began. Many labs...
- September 2014
Nearly three quarters of respondents to LMT’s exclusive 2014 Wage Survey have taken cost-cutting measures related to personnel in the last two years, citing unpredictable workflows, pricing pressure from dentists and other low-cost labs, and an increase in business costs.
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- May 2014
Coming from 23 states and 12 countries, LAB DAY East 2014 attendees—more than 900 lab owners, managers and technician--were upbeat and optimistic about business and keenly interested in adding new materials, products and equipment to their labs.
- February 2014
In October 1985, amidst rumblings that U.S. laboratories were farming work out to offshore laboratories, LMT brought the issue out into the open. Our interview with Jerry Doviack, CDT, Owner of California-based Continental Dental Ceramics, took readers inside Interdent, his facility in the Philippines and sparked intense industry debate.
In the interview, Doviack explained his strategy behind setting up offshore production to provide outsourcing services to laboratories around the world, saying it wouldn’t take jobs away because the local laboratory would still provide a vital service to its dentist-clients. Still, readers spoke out about what they perceived as a threat to their businesses and their employees, as well as concern about the American economy.
Today, Interdent in Manila has grown to a staff of 700 and services several hundred labs in more than 75 countries. And, although the debate rages on, offshore outsourcing has come out of the shadows with many other offshore laboratories...
- October 2013
To stay viable in today's increasingly price-sensitive, competitive market, 7% of respondents send work offshore—an average of 24% of their caseloads&mdashmost often using a U.S.-based broker. Overall, laboratory owners' sentiments on the topic of offshoring are still split; 55%&mdashup from 31% in 2005&mdashfeel it's un-American and unfair to their employees, and another 30% say it's just part of the globalization of our economy.
- August 2013
Written by Erik K. Curtis, DDS, MA, MAGD and reprinted with permission from AGD Impact, October 2012. (c)Academy of General Dentistry. All rights reserved. On the Web at www.agd.org. License #37166
America loves big business. Never mind the warnings of philosophers and other naysayers. For every Occupy Wall Street curmudgeon huddling under a leaky tent to protest stratospheric CEO incomes, a million of his compatriots get in line at the local Apple store to purchase the company's latest and greatest products. For every crusader decrying the ethics of the bottom line, an army of analysts crisply counters that an entrepreneurial, creative private sector is what makes this country great. For every science fiction movie featuring an evil corporation bent on taking over the world, there is a corporate cinema screening that very film. Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Media, even Big Chocolate: For most of us, big organizations mean the security of efficiency, reliability, consistency, and cost control.
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- May 2013
Despite the fact that many lab owners have been feeling the effects of the economy in many areas of their businesses, the majority of respondents to LMT's latest survey say the implant department isn't one of them.
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- April 2013
All-ceramics, implants, profit erosion and other hot topics inspired dialogue during the biggest weekend of the year.
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- March 2013
Sixty-eight percent of the larger laboratory respondents to LMTâs latest Howâs Business? survey are optimistic about this year, compared to only 42% of labs with five or fewer employees.
- November 2012
Paul Simpson turned his life around after he discovered dental technology at age 20. Still trying to shake off the consequences of growing up in a bad neighborhood and dropping out of school a few years earlier, he applied for a job at a local laboratory. "I had no car, no high school diploma and was struggling to pay my rent," he says. But soon after I started that job, my whole perspective changed. I enjoyed it—and was good at it—and knew I had a chance for a future."
The job was in a large laboratory with over 200 employees; he started out painting dies but was designing pressable waxups within a year. "Although it was a production environment where everyone just did one thing all day, I looked for any opportunity to learn. When something went wrong or someone was working on a difficult case—even in another department—I always paid attention."
His next position at a small, quality-oriented laboratory gave him the opportunity to really blossom: he got involved...
In 1988 when the Soviet Union collapsed, eight-year-old Alexander Mouradov was forced to flee his home in Baku, Soviet Union to the Northern part of the country. Today, the 32-year-old has overcome his turbulent childhood to become a successful laboratory owner in Connecticut.
Mouradov moved to the U.S. in 1996 to start a new life as a typical suburban high school student in Glastonbury, CT. A few years later, he learned about the dental technology program at Eli Whitney in Hamden, CT through his sister, a dental hygienist. The rest, as they say, is history.
He graduated from the program in 2001 and landed a job as a porcelain technician at a local laboratory where he discovered his love of ceramics and honed his craft for the next three years. When Mouradov heard about the ASMDT's Master Dental Technology program in New York City, his boss agreed to pay for the training and for the next year, he spent every other Saturday making the three-hour trip to Manhattan.
"I was the youngest,...
Marketing maven Walter Orellana has gone back to basics; in today's changing landscape, he believes face-to-face sales and personal relationships are the real keys to success.
That's proven true at Excel Dental Studios where he was hired last year to help rebrand the laboratory, broaden its target market and grow the business. And grow it he did: the laboratory has gone from 12 to 35 employees in the last year alone.
Orellana's easy-going personality and knack for networking make him right at home exhibiting at trade shows, visiting dental offices and socializing with dentists in a variety of settings. "Social media has its place but, especially in this economy, people want to shake your hand, look you in the eye and have you tell them everything's going to be ok," he says. "You need the personal attachment you can't get through a computer screen."
A key to building these important relationships, says Orellana, is avoiding the number-one mistake marketers make: overselling yourself....
Marisa Birnbaum doesn't back down from a challenge. In 2007, she and her brother David—who both learned about CAD technology at the Bronx High School of Science—opened a mobile laboratory operation with little laboratory or business experience, using the CEREC inlab system to make same-day crowns. Marisa did all the technical work while David handled sales and marketing.
In 2010, when the economy took its toll, she and David decided to switch gears and scrap the mobile concept. "The original business didn't pan out, but I knew the industry was still a great place to be," says Marisa. "I love the artistic part of the work, the blend of old and new technologies and the fact that a big part of the job is problem solving." The pair decided to try the traditional laboratory business model and began looking for a permanent space where they could expand their services.
When they connected with Max Klein, Owner of five-person Accutec of New York, who was renting space in his lab,...
- October 2012
The majority of respondents to LMT's 2012 Fee Survey are delaying fee increases in the face of price-cutting competition and declining caseloads.
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- September 2012
Television cameras. 8,000 viewers. And a dental technician in the spotlight.
This is not a common scenario, but one day last year, Eddie Corrales, CDT, seized the opportunity to introduce his new venture—CADSmiles—directly to prospective patients when he appeared on the cable show, San Diego Living.
During the five-minute segment—which cost Corrales $1,000—he was interviewed by the show's host, demonstrated CAD/CAM scanning and design, and shared before-and-after photos of CADSmiles makeovers.
CADSmiles is an in-office service that Corrales markets to CEREC doctors. When a client has a large or esthetically challenging case, Corrales goes to his office to consult with the patient and then uses the dentist's CEREC system to design and fabricate the case—usually within hours.
"I tell patients I'm basically their own private smile designer. We talk about their expectations and, once the restorations are seated, I can immediately take care of any adjustments....
Maribeth Marsico · September 26, 2012
Forty-five percent of respondents to LMT's exclusive 2012 Removable Survey rate the market as good and 35% classify it as fair. The majority say their removable business in the first half of 2012 is level or just slightly up or down compared to all of 2011.
At one end of the spectrum is the 9% of survey participants who say the market is booming and that business is markedly up. "All areas of our removable department are up. We had a record May and July was not far behind. As far as fixed, we are down double digits," says Gary Iocco, Owner, Dimension Dental Design, Hastings, MN.
At the opposite end of the scale is the 11% who say the market is poor. "We're down 30 to 40%. Not much new work is coming in; mostly repairs, temporaries and nightguards," says the President of a New Jersey lab.
About one third of our respondents are seeing an uptick in the number of complete dentures being prescribed by their GP clients. Restorations for which they've seen the greatest increase in demand...
Uncertainty prevails among the respondents to LMTâs 2012 Wage Survey and theyâre being cautious about rehiring or raising wages. On a positive note, more than half saw an uptick in
- August 2012
During the "boom" years of the late 1990s-2008, lab fees made significant gains; in a number of cases, they caught up with or even exceeded the Consumer Price Index. It's not like the lab community has ever measured its fees against cost of living increases but, for the sake of observation, when LMT began tracking lab fees back in the 1980s, we sometimes looked at the rate of inflation as a sort of measure to record growth.
We are now on the cusp of year five since the economy went bust. As you will read in this issue's biennial Wage Report and next month in our Fee Report, the sense of being squeezed is making our headlines. Many laboratories report they are holding tight to old fee schedules and have also had to cut back on technician work hours. Once again, we are hearing a familiar story. Here's an excerpt from LMT's 1991 Wage and Price Survey Report:
" . . . Many laboratories can't afford to pay higher salaries because their price schedules are too low—in fact, many prices...
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Instead of merely staying the course, laboratory owners are more engaged than ever in finding new ways to, as Steve Jobs coined it: "Think Different." Better yet, you are doing it—which is exactly what needs to happen! I'm freshly back from LAB DAY Chicago thoroughly impressed with the level of reinvention going on. From mergers and acquisitions to enterprising business strategies, both attendees and exhibitors are on their toes, challenged and not defeated.
LAB DAY 2012 could easily have been labeled "The Reinvention Convention."
The implant market is strong and growing, removables continue to be red hot and aging baby boomers promise to keep dentistry hopping. In addition to going digital, you are serving alternate markets, adding removable departments and economy lines while also expanding your high-end departments. In this issue, in fact, you'll see a couple of examples of how lab owners are grabbing the bull by the horns, shaking up their businesses to reinvent themselves...
For me, one of the greatest highs of our LAB DAY shows is returning home afterwards, brim-full of new ideas, juiced with the energy and creative strategies I pick up from you—our participants and clinicians—when I hear your presentations or we meet on the show floor.
One thing I noticed this year in particular is that the level of competitiveness among vendors at the show has ratcheted up several notches. It was Show- and-Tell in all its glory.
For example, all of the vendors on the Ballroom Level had elaborate displays, fantastic videos, excellent presentations and mouthwatering spreads. For sure, no one went hungry at this LAB DAY.
Sirona doubled its impact—its 27-1/2-year Cerec Anniversary event in Las Vegas is this August—by featuring dressed-to-the-hilt Las Vegas showgirls complete with peacock-like feather headdresses (if you were there, you couldn't miss them)! Core3D brought us the ever-so-sleek-and-sexy Women in Black. Banners hung from walls and jockeyed...