Watching the Product Pipeline
The ability to adapt quickly to a changing market will be the hallmark of businesses that prove most successful in the dental laboratory industry. Staying abreast of developments and putting strategies in place to take advantage of market shifts will become ever more critical as product life cycles shorten and businesses find they must be able to react quickly in order to generate new sources of revenue and remain competitive.
Changes in the product pipeline can be one accurate indicator of the direction the industry is heading and how the market is evolving. Significant or even subtle shifts in product mix, improvements, or category growth are all telling signs.
Perusing the pages of this annual publication—a review of the new products introduced in 2013 and published throughout the year in IDT—several areas of interest stand out. As in years past, the most striking aspect is the size and breadth of the Technology section. Undisputedly the fastest growing product arena in the industry, technological developments continue to proliferate. An analysis would seem to indicate that a lull has developed in the number of new technology equipment manufacturers entering the dental laboratory market. However, advancements and improvements in current technologies abound, bringing their predecessors ever closer to the brink of obsolescence. Product cycles in this category have shortened considerably as manufacturers race to add new applications and capabilities to existing machinery.
Another category that has begun to break free is the Materials sector. Once dominated by new porcelain systems, stains, glazes, and alloys, the category has made a profound shift over the last 5 years away from a metal-based product mix to all-ceramic, pressable systems and CAM millable ceramics. For nearly a decade, zirconia and lithium disilicate have been the mainstays of this category, with little to challenge their dominance. That is, until this year—and perhaps in years to come. The entry of nano-ceramic resin materials and lithium silicates, as well as zirconia infused and reinforced ceramics, have opened the door to more restorative choices for laboratory owners delivering milled full-contour restorations. This will be the category to watch as new millable material developments continue to be unveiled, signaling increased adoption of automated production methods.
The final category showing noticeable change is Resources. Within this category are companies offering production services to the laboratory industry. Until recently, milling center services were dominated by laboratories and a handful of proprietary manufacturers that serviced an industry in transition from metal-based, labor-intensive products to all-ceramic milled product lines. In the last few years, once proprietary manufacturer-operated milling centers have begun providing more open access to their milled product portfolios, while others have expanded their core competencies to include milling or 3D printing services, or have made major acquisitions to get into the outsourcing game.
Closely following and analyzing the changes within the industry’s supply chain of new product launches and services can provide business owners with a fairly accurate road map to follow when assessing their next strategic move or putting together their plan for the next year. IDT hopes that year’s iNavigator proves to be a valuable resource for laboratories charting the course of their 2014 business plans.