Staying Competitive in the Market
Research the best material and milling choices to keep pace with demand.
George Zoller, CDT, has been in the dental technology industry for 33 years and is both pragmatic and realistic when it comes to managing a business. Since joining Mountain Dental Laboratory as co-owner, he and partner Danny Ingle have grown the business into a successful high quality operation that has a solid account base. Yet their full-service laboratory is relatively small compared to some of the larger commercial operations located in the local Asheville, North Carolina area and nearby Charlotte. Zoller believes one of the secrets to their growth and success is the mission of their business model, which is built around developing long-term relationships with their clients. Mountain Dental concentrates on developing close ties with each client, rather than the impersonal case-by-case approach often used by their larger competitors. They take both a personal and professional interest in their clients and are committed to helping each grow their practices. By integrating into the practice, and getting to know not only the staff but also understand the practice’s patient base, Zoller believes they can better serve the individual practice needs and become a technical resource for them. This business approach also keeps clients from shopping around on price or splitting services.
When the economic downturn hit in 2008, the Asheville area of North Carolina remained sheltered from the main brunt of the recession early on. Patients continued to keep appointments, accept recommended treatment protocols, and pay their bills. Even the skyrocketing price of gold didn’t greatly affect their clients’ buying patterns. But the agonizingly slow economic recovery finally took its toll and many of Zoller’s clients, who were serving the general population, began to suffer financially. The trickle down began to impact Mountain’s bottom line. Being a realist, Zoller instinctively began investigating alternative restorative options for his clients that were not tied to the volatile metals market. “Our clients were looking for restorative options that would satisfy the esthetic needs of their patients and that would also be cost effective,” said Zoller. “We began looking for a material option that was price stable now that we are in an economy that is intolerant of price increases. We also knew that if we couldn’t raise prices the material choice we made had to be one that would allow us to operate more efficiently and yet remain competitive in the market place.”
He had been following the nationwide surge of interest in and use of zirconia. He began experimenting with different zirconia materials on the market and even went so far as to purchase a desktop milling system to bring production efficiencies in-house. However, he soon found that stocking and maintaining an inventory of milling blocks and burs played havoc with cash flow and his clients were not pleased with the workability of the material in the mouth. “All these zirconia materials at that time required dipping in a colorant to achieve the desired shade,” said Zoller. “When the dentist made an adjustment or recontoured the restoration in the mouth, the result was a large white area where the surface colorant ground off.”
Still convinced that zirconia-based products had gained the confidence of his clients in terms of esthetics, compatibility, strength, and cost-effectiveness, Zoller redoubled his efforts to find a material and a production process that met all his criteria. When Zahn Dental introduced the Zirlux® homogenously shaded zirconia milling disc, Zoller didn’t hesitate to jump on board. “Finally, we had a fully-shaded milling disc that would produce full-contour restorations unaffected by adjustments in the chair,” said Zoller. “My clients were very pleased with the adjustability and polishability of Zirlux crowns in the mouth.” Plus, by partnering with Zahn he could take advantage of the company’s commitment to an extensive nationwide media campaign for the Zirlux material in the dental journals. That would give him the marketing edge he needed and help him compete against the advertising dollars flooding the market on other competitive full-contour products. Meanwhile he had also come to the realization that milling in-house for a growing but small operation like his wasn’t economically sustainable and wouldn’t provide the business expansion he was looking to achieve. He made the business decision to turn to Custom Milling Center in Arvada, Colorado, for the milling aspect of production.
He purchased an open-architecture CAD scanner to control the design of the final product and to free up and save on labor costs, while streamlining production in-house. “We are now producing more for less money and less labor,” said Zoller. “It’s a win-win for my clients and for our business.” To energize his client base about the advantages and cost-effectiveness of full-contour zirconia products, he developed a limited-time marketing campaign, offering a price point on his full-contour zirconia restorations he says his clients couldn’t resist. Today, that price point still holds and will continue to hold as long as the strong response he has received from existing clients and the six new accounts he has already added to his client base stays strong. “In today’s economy laboratory, owners have to be realistic and smart about the business decisions we make,” says Zoller. “We have to listen to our clients’ needs and adapt our product lines to meet those needs.”
At the same time he believes it’s vitally important that laboratory owners do their research and choose the best material and milling solution available on the market. As he continues to study and keep pace with the demands of the dental market while witnessing the rapid movement away from metal-based restorative options, he is confident his decision to move into the full-contour arena was a smart one for the future growth of his business and for the demands of his client base and their patients. By using an outsource center, Zoller now has access to a full range of milled otherwise closed off to small businesses that can’t afford the large capital investment in equipment and material stock. “For small operations, outsourcing provides the solution to so many significant challenges that smaller operations face,” says Zoller. “Most important, it allows us to stay competitive in the market and keeps our clients from looking elsewhere for the same expansive range of products that my larger competitors offer. And we are able to deliver those products in a turn-around time that is on par with theirs.” The decision to offer Zirlux full-contour restorations has opened the door to new business for Zoller and provided continued financial growth and security for his laboratory. “The all-ceramic ‘revolution’ is a trend that I believe is the wave of the future for our industry.”
Disclaimer: 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.
Zirlux® Universal Zirconia System
Zahn Dental’s Zirlux® Universal Zirconia System is an all-in-one system for zirconia indications. Zirlux FC brings beautiful esthetic translucent outcomes to the strength of full-contour zirconia. Five pre-shaded, high-translucency discs eliminate the time consuming steps associated with coloring liquids. A simple stain and glaze process for full-contour restorations can be completed using Zirlux FC2 characterization materials. When esthetic concerns are paramount, simply mill pre-shaded copings and frameworks for layering with Zirlux LC pressable pellets and powders.
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