Inside Dental Technology
An Interview with Dell Dine, cdt
Inside Dental Technology (IDT): Major manufacturers servicing the dental technology industry have recently realigned their businesses to offer outsourcing services or greatly expanded the services of their existing production centers. What warrants this shift in the industry?
Dell Dine (DD): Dental technology is an industry traditionally rooted in manufacturing. Less than a decade ago, dental laboratories were manufacturing a few select products with a limited choice of material options. Today, however, the explosion of new materials and product offerings in the dental market that can only be manufactured by CAD/CAM technology has pressured businesses in the industry to be able to supply all of these products. It’s extremely difficult for a single laboratory to manufacture all of these new products and material options. It is easy to see why some are reluctant to invest the large amounts of capital required to acquire the equipment necessary to manufacture these new materials in-house. The existence of production centers helps enable labs of all sizes to be more competitive. When laboratories can offer more products and services in a cost effective and controlled manner, they can strengthen their businesses—and the doctors and patients win too. The ability to meet their customers’ ever-increasing demands is what keeps a laboratory competitive and relevant in the current dental marketplace.
IDT: Are only small laboratories taking advantage of outsourcing services?
DD: Laboratories of all sizes use the Bego Production Center’s services. We make it very easy for small laboratories, but also work with medium and large laboratories and even laboratory networks as well. If any laboratory is over capacity, looking to shift their labor skills to increase productivity, or just have a milling or printing machine go down, manufacturing centers can help maximize productivity and keep production on track. Also, we have been seeing a shift in moving the production of metal-based restorations, both precious and non-precious, out of the laboratory and into production centers. As industry demand continues to move further toward all-ceramic, maintaining a “traditional” in-house casting department might not be profitable, regardless of laboratory size. No matter what a laboratory is doing with labor, productivity is key. The nice thing about Bego is that whether it is optimizing in-house production or utilizing a center, we are there to help.
IDT: What will be some of the long-term effects if the shift in manufacturing from the laboratory to a production center continues to grow?
DD: In the past, dentists would partner with a laboratory because that laboratory’s restorations were the most consistent, best fitting, or most esthetic. Automated manufacturing has changed that value proposition. Today, any laboratory has access to technologies that allow the production of products that are at the highest levels of consistency and accuracy. Esthetics, in the posterior at least, have become less important. So the shift in value to the customer moves from the products produced to the services provided. What will differentiate a laboratory from its competition in the future is superior customer service. Dentists will become more vested in the reliability and responsiveness of laboratories, and value a collaborative relationship that helps them successfully complete a complex case. I think that laboratory owners and managers in the future are going to be much more concerned with customer relations than with the laboratory’s day-to-day manufacturing processes.
IDT: So you believe that in the future a laboratory’s value will not necessarily come from its products, but from its services?
DD: Absolutely. Laboratories need to become a resource and knowledge center for their clients, whether they do that through superior customer service, specializing in a particular segment of the industry, or ensuring timely and accurate product delivery. For so long the laboratory industry has thought of itself in terms of manufacturing product, but really, what we are delivering is a service. The value is in helping customers when they need to be helped, answering the phone when they call, and delivering a product on time. Laboratory technicians need to become consultants for their clients. As the industry works toward adapting this mindset, it opens everyone up to a new world of opportunity.
IDT: Why do you believe this shift in value and new service mindset is necessary for the industry to comprehend?
DD: We are, as an industry, at the beginning stages of transition from manually produced products to automated mass customization. New materials, new technologies, and new processing methodologies will continue to disrupt how we produce products and the types of products demanded by our clients. It will be essential that the industry be nimble and responsive to these rapid changes. It is no longer profitable for laboratories to make all of the products available on the dental market, though, in order to remain competitive they still must offer the products that customers demand. We are all in this together and must work together to ensure the on-going success and prosperity of the industry today and into tomorrow.
About the Author
Dell Dine, CDT is the Chief Dental Technology Officer at BEGO USA in Lincoln, RI and owner of Dell Dine and Associates in Indianapolis, IN.