By Frank Giammanco

Determining whether or not to install and in-office lab can be a daunting experience. As with any capital equipment investment, it requires some research and analysis on your part. Unfortunately, over the years, a number of myths about the tribulations of owning a lab have floated around which makes the whole process more emotional than analytical. What’s more, as with so many issues within the optical field, just about everyone offers you a different opinion.

Here are some of the major misconceptions about in-office labs, and the facts that debunk them:

The expense is prohibitive. 

An in-office lab is certainly a major investment, but one that can yield many benefits. In addition to providing you with unparalleled quality control, doing your finishing work in-office will significantly improve your per unit profit margins.

Also, there are many payment options to purchase equipment, such as monthly payment plans, to make your investment more manageable. And don’t forget—your equipment purchase is tax deductible.

There are great introductory and economical lens edgers and tracers that provide a more comfortable transition into in-house finishing, such as Coburn’s HPE-410 Lens Edger.

Will I ever see a return on investment?

If your business volume merits bringing your lab services in-house, and you run your lab efficiently then you will certainly see an ROI. A basic rule of thumb is to simply compare your current vendor lab costs per month to those costs you will incur with your in-house lab (this should include your monthly financing payment, cost of personnel, cost of goods and cost of consumables). If your in-house costs are lower than your vendor lab costs, then you’ll see an ROI and improve your profitability. (Your Coburn Technologies sales representative can help you with this calculation.)

Who will train my staff to work the lab?

With the purchase of new equipment, your Coburn Technologies sales representative and installation crew can assist here, although today’s equipment is so highly automated, particularly in the finishing category, that one or two of your opticians should be able to learn how to operate these machines fairly quickly. If you’re unsure that your current personnel will be able to fill the void or find that’s it’s difficult to do double duty in the dispensary and the lab, then it may be best to recruit a full time operator who is conversant with lab processes.

What about maintenance and breakdowns?

Coburn Technologies offers comprehensive service/maintenance packages, warranties and extended warranties and provides an experienced field staff to handle whatever problems emerge. It’s best to purchase these service packages upfront to keep your costs down.

Aren’t consumables expensive?

For a finishing lab, the cost of consumables is very reasonable, and the products themselves are very uncomplicated. Coburn Technologies offers on-line consumables purchasing from the company’s website and provides special pricing for those customers.

I’ll have high lens breakage and will take a beating on expensive progressive lenses.

Lens breakage may have been a problem at one time, but today’s equipment is so much technologically better that its ease of operation accommodates even the less experienced lab technician. So today’s progressives, photochromics and polarized lenses are much easier to process flawlessly.

What about space and layout?

You’d be surprised at how minimal the space requirements are for a finishing lab: Just about 10 linear feet will accommodate your needs. You’ll require a lensmeter, edger and tracer, blocker and hand stone and tinting unit. Also, contemporary equipment consolidates some of these functions in a single unit. For example, Coburn Technologies’ Excelon HPE-410 edger offers the option of a 3D integrated tracer, and the company’s newest edger—the HPE-910 EXXPERT Express—features an optional drill (see below for more).

Do my patients really care about in-office lab work? Does it mean anything to them?

Your finishing lab is a perfect marketing tool. Not only are you offering your patients high quality and fast turnaround service, you can also give them discounted pricing (if you’re so inclined) based on your higher profit margins.  In-house lab services also help you differentiate your practice from the competition. Now all you have to do is promote these benefits and watch your business grow.

Once you have your in-office lab up and running you’ll wonder how you ever did without it.

EXXPERT Express HPE-910 Lens Edger by Coburn Technologies, facing the right side with screen turned on.

The New HPE-910 EXXPERT Express Lens Edger: Coburn Technologies has introduced the next generation in lens edging technology, the company’s fastest edger to date. Thanks to HPE-910’s smart processing and quick mapping, it offers unprecedented edging speed, completing a job in only 80 seconds. The HPE-910 is 50% faster than its predecessor HPE-8000X and safely processes lenses with its upgraded roughing wheel, adaptive chuck, and hydrophobic mode. It can also be paired with any of Coburn’s EXXPERT and Excelon finishing products.

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Excelon HPE-410 Lens Edger for Ophthalmic Lenses

The HPE-410 Excelon Lens Edger: Coburn’s HPE-410 is a great introductory and economical lens edger with an optional built-in tracer. Many practices choose HPE-410 when they first decide to incorporate in-office finishing because of its user-friendly interface, 8 edging types, 6 edging positions, retouch, hydrophobic mode, and concurrent job processing. New users can rest assured knowing they are using a durable edger with a strong wheel and adaptive lens chuck, eliminating lens slippage.

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Frank Giammanco is a longtime veteran of marketing communications for the optical industry and professions. He is the founder and former CEO of First Vision Media Group, Inc., publishers of Vision Care Product News (VCPN).

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