Inside Dental Technology
Modernizing a Family Business
Custom Automated Prosthetics offers laboratory owners guidance and expertise when going digital
Modernizing a conventionally-operated crown and bridge laboratory from analog to digital production was the operational challenge facing Mike Farago when he made the decision to join his father’s business as Chief Operating Officer and Business Manager six years ago. A graduate of Suffolk University in Boston with a degree in business management and entrepreneurship and a minor in organizational behavior, Farago owned a small, successful business consulting firm in the Boston area. Prior to joining Concord Dental Lab full-time, he took on some simple projects for his father on a consulting basis to update the laboratory’s computer, telephone, and accounting systems, as well as bring Internet connectivity into the laboratory operation. This last update alone was a quantum leap for a 50-year-old company comprised of long time employees with little computer experience.
As he became more deeply enmeshed in the business operations of the company and began to research the dental industry, it became apparent to Farago that Concord had great deal of potential for growth. In 2007, he made the decision to join his father’s business as a full-time employee and help position the company for future expansion.
Immediately, Farago became intrigued with rapid advances in automated production processes. He viewed them as the pathway to the future of manufacturing. In his mind, this future would shake up the dental technology industry and bring a large wave of change across the entire spectrum of laboratory businesses.
Farago knew he had to move slowly and carefully to extract Concord from its deeply rooted analog conventions and give it modern relevance, and he was especially unsure exactly how involvement in CAD/CAM technology would impact the laboratory’s 16 employees or disrupt the its production flow. The laboratory was accustomed to outsourcing the scan, design, and production of any restoration that called for milled production processes. Back in 2007 zirconia-based products were not Concord’s core business, so it made sound business sense to outsource all phases. However, when the price of gold spiraled upward, the volume of prescriptions for zirconia-based products skyrocketed. It was then that bringing a portion of the digital production process in-house became a financially sound business decision. With his father and staff on board, Farago purchased a 3Shape scanner in 2010. Concord’s long established relationship with Custom Automated Prosthetics (CAP) and its team of CAD experts was a natural vendor choice since everyone at Concord, including Farago, had limited computer and CAD software knowledge. “It was important for me to have a vendor and support team that could help our team increase our overall computer knowledge, and that could help our technicians to learn the CAD Sum3D design software,” says Farago.
It was also necessary that the technology pay for itself in six months or less. However, Farago knew he couldn’t expect Concord’s staff to be at 100% capacity right away. “We brought the scanner into the laboratory and in just two-days the CAP training team came in, set up the scanner, and trained our waxer and one of our esthetic technicians how to use the design software,” says Farago. “From there we modified our scheduling so that 20% to 25% of our daily cases required scanning and CAD design. From there, we sent the data files to CAP for milling.” Farago knew how important it was to position the scanner and design software as merely additional tools for technicians to use and not as replacements for employees or as a substitute for an entire laboratory division. Soon other technicians were clamoring to get trained on the technology, as they were finding that the end product could exhibit better consistency and accuracy than the restorations they had been fabricating by hand. Most importantly, for outsourced cases, it gave them control over the design of the final product. For Farago, the truth lay in the bottom line. “We were saving huge amounts of time and money by not sending models out for scan and design and we finally had consistency in our production timing, production flow and workflow that was measureable.”
At about the same time, the demand for zirconia-based restorations increased. Farago was able to realize further savings in the finishing department by designing cases in-house, freeing cross-trained technicians to scan, or stain and glaze, or stack porcelain. “We suddenly had the ability and built-in flexibility to push an amount of work through the laboratory that we never thought we had the capacity to produce,” says Farago. “Most importantly, the technology actually paid for itself in just two months.”
A year later, Farago began looking into bringing the milling production process in-house. Again, he reached out to CAP for their expertise with the Roland DWX-50 milling unit. With his father and staff now more comfortable expanding their horizons, Farago forged ahead with his purchasing decision. CAP handled the mill installation and training and had the laboratory up and running in a day and a half. At first the machinery seemed intimidating because of the different milling features, but the ability to call in and talk to experts at CAP any time of day streamlined the learning process. As their technicians’ comfort level increased, Concord began experimenting with milling wax patterns for pressing and casting, milling full contour zirconia crowns, and PMMA temporaries.
Over the last 5 years, Concord has seen a 40% increase in business growth. However, as Farago points out, in-house production efficiencies eclipse even this impressive percentage. As rapidly as they have grown, Farago is quick to stress that the laboratory is not losing sight of its core mission. “Even though most of what we now produce is handled digitally in some way, we ensure that every crown that leaves this building is a Concord Dental Lab crown,” says Farago. “We still focus on providing the highest possible fit, highest level of esthetic detail, and by not losing sight of those goals we keep our growth in check.” His plan is to add two or three additional technicians over the next 12 months and bring in a second scanner and milling unit to keep up with demand. But, he admits, Concord could not have come this far without the technical support through the CAP Academy (www.capacademy.com) and technical knowhow of CAP technical representatives. He also continues to rely on CAP owners Rob Nazzal and Bob Cohen for advice and guidance on where the industry is headed. “You always need to be looking forward,” said Farago. “If you are standing still in an industry that’s growing and moving, you will fail. I can say with 100% confidence that we wouldn’t be where we are today without CAP’s expertise and support. And by partnering with them, we are now like the catcher sitting behind home plate, ready to move in any direction the industry moves.”
CAP FZ Full Contour Zirconia
CAP FZ full contour zirconia is milled using the most translucent full-contour zirconia available. CAP performs a multi-color shading process that dramatically enhances the esthetics. CAP FZ is just one of CAP’s many offerings for their laboratory customers, including a wide variety of CAD/CAM services—from scanning to design to final milling.
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Custom Automated Prosthetics
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.