Michael B. Clark
Undeniably, change is sweeping dentistry, and laboratory owners must grapple with questions and uncertainties regarding new digital technologies like never before. Michael B. Clark, Senior Vice President of Domestic Sales at Argen Corporation, explains why this change is good for the laboratory business.
Inside Dental Technology (IDT): As you view the dental laboratory landscape, what business strategy is a must for survival today?
Michael Clark (MC): For the dental laboratory to remain competitive today and in the future, laboratory owners must embrace strategies involving new digital technologies that will help improve their levels of consistency, efficiency, and support of their products and services. The movement toward “digital dentistry” will not eliminate the need for the dental laboratory. Rather, the dental laboratory’s role will become even more integral to the success of the dental restoration process. By embracing a digital strategy, laboratories will increase the amount of “value-added” services that they provide their clients and will differentiate themselves in the marketplace through increased consistency, lower cost structures, broader ranges of products, and more transparency and communication with their clients. These enhancements can be implemented only through strong leadership and intimately aligned partnerships with outsourcing providers.
IDT: What is the first step a laboratory should take when looking to successfully move from analog to digital?
MC: Invest in a scanner, which is your laboratory’s point of entry into a digital workflow. Many options are available at a wide range of prices, making scanners affordable for an operation of any size. When making that purchasing decision, choose an open-environment scanner, not a closed system. An open-system scanner will give your laboratory more flexibility when sending out your digital files for production. Secondly, build a relationship with your outsourcing partner. You may have to work through a few cases together before you achieve the desired outcomes, so it is important that you work with a team that will take the time to ensure your success.
IDT: How important is the relationship in the dental laboratory/outsource equation?
MC: The dental laboratory industry is a close-knit group of professionals who take extraordinary pride in the work they produce and exhibit passion for what they do. I find the relationships that exist in the dental laboratory industry are more personal than on the clinical and insurance sides of dentistry—both areas in which I have held leadership roles. Given the importance that personal connections play in this industry, I believe these same types of relationships should carry over to the partnerships forged with outsourcing providers.
IDT: Is that what attracted you to Argen when you joined in 2012?
MC: Yes, I was immediately impressed with the deep relationships that Argen and the Woolf family have built within the dental laboratory industry. It is obvious when you speak with any laboratory and even other manufacturers that Argen is well-respected with a strong reputation of honesty, integrity, and trust. As a family-owned and operated company, that feeling of close relationships permeates every aspect of the business, not only through the Argen Corporation and its employees, but also throughout its customer base. Everyone at Argen truly believes the company’s laboratory partners are an extension of the Argen family and is committed to supporting every laboratory’s success, especially as each one transitions into the digital workflow.
IDT: As the landscape of the traditional laboratory is changing, how is Argen making innovations to meet the needs of the industry?
MC: We are committed to the future of digital dentistry and continue to invest in state-of-the-art technologies. This enables us to offer our laboratory partners the latest products with outstanding quality backed by leading customer service and technical support. In the past couple of years, Argen has continued to expand its market share in alloys and has also invested heavily in new technologies to deliver a complete digital offering. We have enhanced our alloy and refining business with selective laser melting, ArgenZ Zirconia, ArgenPMMA temporaries, ArgenWAX, Digital Captek, Digital Models, and ArgenIS Custom Abutments with a number of products still to come from our business development group. Argen’s goal is to be a total digital solution for its laboratory partners.
IDT: Can you share something about Argen that may surprise our readers?
MC: Argen has been investing in digital technologies for more than 6 years. So although Argen may appear to be a new player in the digital market, we have significant time invested in developing and testing products for the digital environment. Our belief in the advancement of dental laboratories through the digital workflow remains strong. Argen Digital now houses eight selective laser melting machines, 15 milling machines for ArgenZ zirconia, four industrial milling machines for production of custom abutments, and five 3D printers for digitally producing wax copings and frameworks, as well as 3D-printed models.