"The Dental Laboratory Profession in the Next Five Years: The Perfect Storm or Status Quo," was the topic of a panel discussion moderated by LMT Editor Kelly Carr at the annual Connecticut Dental Laboratory Association meeting in October. Carr and panel members Dennis Fraioli, CEO of GlobaLink Solutions and executive vice president of XPdent, and Chuck Yenkner, president, Business Development Associates, presented their views on the most significant trends facing our industry, with an emphasis on offshore outsourcing and automation.
"Globalization is here; you cannot ignore it. It's not about being patriotic, it's about survival," said Fraioli, who urged attendees to investigate the possibility of offshore outsourcing as a backup resource. "If you don't need it, don't use it. But you have to ask yourself the tough questions like, what happens if you lose your best technician tomorrow?"
Acknowledging that offshore laboratories have already started targeting dentists as well as laboratories, he reminded attendees that the key to competing is to find out what your customers need from you. "Ask yourself, 'What value do I have to offer my customers?'" he said. "Embrace your own customers and provide the service they need so they don't drift to offshore laboratories."
As for the question about the future of our industry--whether we'll see "The Perfect Storm or Status Quo"--panel members agree the reality lies somewhere in-wbetween. "The world won't be the same in five years and neither will our businesses," said Yenkner. "But that doesn't mean we're all going to go away; we'll just be doing things differently. An open mind is your most important tool."
Three-point survival guide for investing in new technology:
During his presentation at the Connecticut Dental Laboratory Association's annual meeting, Chuck Yenkner, president, Business Development Associates, acknowledged that automation tends to make smaller laboratory owners anxious because of the technology's high-ticket costs. He presented a three-point survival guide:
Know what your costs are, including what it costs you to make every restoration you offer. Where are you making the biggest profits?
Understand your target market. "Sure, there are dentists out there looking for a $79 crown. But there are some who are willing to pay $150, too. Who are your customers?" he said.
Only purchase equipment that's right for you and your goals. "Whether it's a porcelain furnace or a CAD/CAM system, how will it pay off for your lab?" said Yenkner. "It must either save you time, improve your quality or get you new business."