Inside Dental Technology
An Improved Quality of Product
Partner with an outsourcing company that fits your business model.
Troy Gasser is a businessman, not a technician. He may not know how to artistically layer a coping with porcelain or wax a crown to full contour, but he does know how to crunch the numbers and find the skilled, well-educated technicians needed to operate a business that delivers high-quality precision products. Armed with a Bachelor of Arts degree in business and disciplined by seven years as president of Arrowhead Dental Laboratory in Utah, Gasser opened PDA Dental Laboratory nine years ago in Lafayette, Colorado. He knew that by establishing long-term strategic goals coupled with aggressive day-to-day management of the bottom line and a client-first personal service attitude, he would be ensured ongoing success. In less than a decade he has built the business from four technicians to its present 17.
His twenty-four years in the dental laboratory business has also seasoned him to the critical nature of being proactive in a business environment that continues to change and evolve. In the less than 10 years he has been in business, he has experienced the industry’s transition from metal-based restorations to all-ceramic. In 2003, eight out of every 10 crowns prescribed by his clients were metal-based restorations. Nine years later the high metal-based to all-ceramic ratio has turned completely in the opposite direction. Today, 70% of the restorations PDA delivers are zirconia based, with demand this year for all-ceramic up more than 10%.
Gasser sensed this paradigm shift from metal to all-ceramic and particularly to zirconia early on. He did not hesitate to invest in pressing technology to produce his all-ceramic products and was one of the early adopters of expensive scanning and milling technology to control the fit and quality demanded by his clients for the milled frameworks of his zirconia-based crowns and bridges.
However, in a few short years as digital technologies matured and CAD software became ever more sophisticated, the pressure to keep current with new milled products and materials meant Gasser had to make an additional investment of tens of thousands of dollars in milling and software upgrades or in some cases investment in a different CAD/CAM system altogether to access what was quickly becoming a highly sought after restorative solution. When Gasser evaluated the workflow process of his milling operation and considered the additional costs to remain current, the hidden labor costs of milling in-house, and the labor inefficiencies once the product was milled became apparent. “Milling isn’t the end process,” said Gasser. “You still have to cut the framework from the block, grind it down, clean it, stain it, sinter it, and then you have to finish it and layer it. These steps are very time-consuming and impact turn-around time.” Inventory also was becoming increasingly financially burdensome, trying to keep enough milling blocks, new milling burs, liquids, stains, and cleaning supplies in stock to meet projected demand.
Two years ago Gasser made the business decision to pull the plug on milling in-house and outsource all of his milled zirconia-based products. The advantages of just-in-time production as a competitive business strategy were just too compelling to ignore. Not only could Gasser produce the exact amount of product required at exactly the time his customers required it, he could also produce more without incurring an increase in overhead costs. When he crunched the numbers it became clear that overhead costs would drop dramatically with the jettisoning of the $17,000 to $20,000 in capital he had tied up in milling block inventory alone. The decision to outsource would also revamp and streamline production efficiencies within the laboratory, translating into incredible savings in time and labor. “The ability to increase manufacturing volume without increasing the cost of labor would make us a much more profitable business,” says Gasser. “Today, our financials look much better than a milling or even traditional laboratory because we don’t have our dollars invested in inventory.”
So Gasser set about searching for a production partner he believed could give PDA the quality and service demanded by clients. What was most important for Gasser as he began analyzing the broad outsource market was finding a partner that demonstrated the same client-first personal service and working relationship philosophy that was driving the success of his business. “We are not a niche boutique laboratory by any stretch,” says Gasser. “But our clientele are demanding so we are very particular. We wanted to ensure that our partner could provide best-in-class products for our clients.”
Also critical for Gasser was a partner with the resources, flexibility, and forward-thinking attitude to keep abreast of the market and supply the latest CAD/CAM generated products as well as one that employed an experienced CAD/CAM tech-savvy staff that understood the technical intricacies of laboratory-based products.
“I’ve known Bob Miller, president of Custom Milling Center (CMC), for many years,” says Gasser. “He is a well-known technician and I have great respect for his technical knowledge as well as that of his technician-educated staff. So when we incorporated the 3Shape scanner into our laboratory, we began working with CMC for our zirconia-based products.”
Partnering with CMC is a decision and consultive working relationship that continues to help Gasser grow his business. “We would need at least an additional four technicians to handle the 200 to 300 substructures that we now outsource to CMC each month,” says Gasser. “And key for us is that by outsourcing we are actually improving the quality of the products we deliver.” PDA also profits from CMC’s 48-hour turnaround for full-contour zirconia cases from a transmitted STL design file, average $38 price tag, and free next-day shipping on orders of three or more units, all of which Gasser says adds up to a competitive business model.
But it is CMC’s proactive attitude toward problem-solving, commitment to delivering a quality product, and ongoing educational and marketing support that Gasser appreciates. “If they see a problem in the design file we send, they call us immediately to let us know it needs to be changed to give us the quality we need,” says Gasser. “CMC’s staff has a long experience working with CAD/CAM technology. So when we talk to any staff member, we know that they understand exactly what we are referring to and can pinpoint and fix the issue immediately, not in a couple of days.” That’s the way PDA treats its clients, Gasser explains, and is how he expects to be treated by any vendor.
Gasser appreciates the versatility of CMC, which is driven by open-architecture systems, including 3Shape and Dental Wings. To maximize manufacturing efficiencies, CMC has standardized production with the Haas 5-axis milling machines. Gasser says this allows access to a broader choice of materials, including zirconia, titanium, and chromium cobalt restorative options. And he has access to a broad range of prosthetic products from full-contour zirconia crowns, copings, bridges, IPS e.max®, Lava™ Ultimate including custom implant abutments. For scanning/design laboratories, CMC provides proprietary multi-platform scanning locators and interface libraries for fabrication of computer-aided designed custom abutments. The scanning locators dictate the correct coordinates of the interface/laboratory analog. CMC supports Dental Wings and 3Shape abutment designs and the custom implant abutments are available in zirconia or titanium. “Buying the scanning locators online is easy and convenient,” said Gasser. “By using these we can now control the total design process of our custom abutments and this enables s us to fabricate an even better product at preferred prices.”
In conjunction with Zahn Dental, CMC offers customers certification as a Zirlux™ provider and advertise the brand and promotes Zirlux-certified laboratories in the major clinical journals as well as in direct market campaigns to dentists. PDA also can access promotional brochures via Zahn’s website that can be customized for its own direct market campaign. Education, Gasser says, is another key component of CMC’s commitment to its customers that entered heavily into his business decision to partner with the company. Whether training its customers on the newest CAD software upgrade or on the 14 different implant systems it supports with milled custom abutments, education sessions are ongoing at CMC’s headquarters in Arvada, Colorado, on site at the laboratory, or through webinars. “We couldn’t ask for a more supportive partner,” said Gasser. “Few provide the level of service, product quality, and education that CMC provides on an ongoing basis.”
The preceding material was provided by the manufacturer. The statements and opinions contained therein are solely those of the manufacturer and not of the editors, publisher, or the Editorial Board of Inside Dental Technology.
Custom Milling Center
Founded in 2005 and located in Colorado, Custom Milling Center is the digital dentistry leader and one of the few production centers that provides a complete solution from scan data to printed model and substructure. CMC employs highly-trained dental technicians, computer software consultants, IT specialists, and CNC operators to provide unique solutions for laboratories. CMC’s vertically integrated production model provides laboratories the flexibility to focus on their core competencies and enjoy the financial benefits of a variable-priced business model. As a provider of scanning, milling, and design services, including remote design support, CMC has pioneered the open-architecture business model for dental laboratories by partnering with them, instead of competing against them.
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