As a kid, James Grady never envisioned working at his father's laboratory; he wanted to "do his own thing." But then he grew up.
"It was when I was in college that I realized the opportunity I'd be passing up. How many people can graduate and get involved in an established business at the level I would be able to?" says James. So, after earning a BS in public relations from East Carolina University, he went back to school to earn another degree in dental technology so he could have the complete picture of the business.
In 2001, he joined the laboratory his father, Arey, had founded 25 years earlier. During the two to three years it took to learn the ropes, he gained perspective on some challenges he wanted to address. The biggest one: 99% of the laboratory's workload consisted of PFM restorations at a time when most of the industry had already started shifting to metal-free. Because he also wanted to streamline workflow, he knew CAD/CAM was the answer.
Initially, the lab outsourced zirconia restorations but, within four years, demand was so high that James did some research and recommended the lab purchase its own DentalMill from Digital Dental Lab. "My father was nervous at first; let's face it, he was the one who was going to pay for it," laughs James. "But he trusted my decision."
That turned out to be the right call. Now, two years after bringing milling in house, the majority of the laboratory's workload is all-ceramic—in fact, 60% is monolithic zirconia—and last spring, a second milling machine was required to accommodate demand. "Our work is more consistent across the board and we're doing more with the same amount of people," says James. "Because we moved forward with CAD/CAM, we're ready for the future."
James is also helping the North Carolina Dental Laboratory Association gear up for the future; he's not only president-elect but also the 2011 recipient of the group's Rising Star Award. "I've learned so much about what's going on in the industry and met a lot of great folks," says James. "My goal is to encourage other young people in the industry to get involved in the association so we can all work together."