Is this the right decision in a pressured economy? This seems like a reasonable question to ask
when most businesses are cutting back or taking a wait and see attitude until they understand what
the consumer will do. However, it’s probably the best time to think about in-office edging – after all,
this process can save money and help differentiate your office from others so that you compete
better than they do. Here’s how.
In-office edging or finishing, upgrades your professional identity and is another reason for new
advertising and communication with patients. It adds to efficiency, is profitable, can provide a
variety of tax breaks and, it can be the best time to add new services to a practice. This may even
be the right time for better pricing and terms from edger manufacturers. So what do you need to
Refine Your Office Vision
Considering in-office edging is a change to the way that you do business and that suggests a
variety of questions and answers, so the best decision can be made. Here are a variety of
questions that you might consider.
Do I want to improve my competitive service advantage?
In office edging helps retain patients who leave because
they demand faster service or a better price. It allows a
better ability to compete with the “super-opticals” and can
increase new patients with an advertised in office lab.
Can I increase patient satisfaction with quicker turn-around
Most offices will agree that they receive uncut lenses
faster since the finishing portion of a job is done in-house
so overall they’re service times can be faster. It also allows
the ability to do Patient’s Own Frames (POF) without
having to send their eyewear to the lab. If a 3-piece
rimless, this might take up to 10 days when an in-office lab
would let the patient keep their glasses until the lenses are
received and can be processed in your office.
Do you want to improve professional identity and the patient’s perceptions of the practice’s
technical ability and sophistication? A “state of the art” practice, helps improve control over quality,
reduce errors, and ensures patient satisfaction.
Can it save staff time? If an office is doing less job tracking, there will be less negative customer
communication. This can reduce time re-scheduling appointments for glasses not ready when
Will It build profits?
Many that edge their own lenses better control critical dispensing factors by
increasing sales and controlling the cost of goods.
Does it reduce lab costs
Many save ~$5 to 15 or more per job with an in-office finishing laboratory.
This can improve cash flow. With an inventor of single vision lenses, it’s possible too offer same
day service, receive same day payment,
solve patient eyewear emergencies and
produce eyewear quicker and more
Ask All the Right Questions
“What can edging do that will change my
business?” This is the question that all
should ask when considering edging in-house.
First, having the ability to edge or
upgrading an older edger now includes a
variety of personalization tools that can
help differentiate your office. Ever order a
grooved rimless and request that the lab add 3mm extra to the bottom of the lens shape to
accommodate more progressive reading area? New edgers have input screens that allow changes
to lens size and shape (“A” vs. “B”). In fact, some blockers and edgers allow complete editing of the
lens shape so that a customized shape, personalized for a wearer can be designed, confirmed with
the patient and delivered for that customized look. Think “Sarah Palin” and the effect that that had
on rimless popularity.
Next, control of bevel position and bevel shape allows an
infinite number of improved looks for even the toughest
prescriptions; it better customizes cosmetics and the overall
reliability of lens retention. New edgers allow adjusting the angle
of the bevel (steepen and moved to the front surface) so “wrap”
frames or very high base lenses can be edged in-house. It also
ensures that these lenses stay in the frame since steep bevels are
Lastly, for new drilling edger systems, adding drill coordinates into memory allows any optician
to set up the job; press start and go off to spend more time taking care of patients. Each of these
options ensures that you can really differentiate your practice. For a better list of new features, see
the Cost vs. Benefits Checklist.
Cost Vs. Benefits Checklist
Fully integrated edging systems perform all steps using one, two or three machines linked by
software to automatically trace frames, center and block lenses, bevel or groove, apply a safety
bevel, drill rimless and polish, all with minimal operator input. Here’s a rundown of features
available on the higher end of the technology spectrum:
TRACING: Frame tracers may be combined with blockers or integrated with edgers. Features to
look for include:
* Automatic frame clamping
* Multiple trace measurements, frame size, shape, curvature, thickness and bevel angle
* Screen display of the traced frame shape to aid lens centering and blocking
* Some measure wrap angle, bevel curve and frame angles
LENS CENTERING AND BLOCKING:
* Read lens power automatically, lens type (i.e., bifocal near-vision segment, progressive lens
markings), optical center, applies the edging block automatically
EDGING, GROOVING and SAFETY BEVELING: a consistent level of accuracy, features include:
* Automatic blocking pressure for each lens materials (all plastics, polycarbonate and glass) with
special settings for Trivex, fragile and hydrophobic AR lenses
* Bevel size and placement
* Screen display to confirm or adjust bevel placement
* Multiple groove width and depth selections, partial groove
* Angled grooving for highly curved lenses
* The ability to edge very small lenses
* Front and rear safety bevel settings with pressure adjustments
DRILLING: Some systems integrate the drill with the edger, others offer a separate drill and special
software that links the systems seamlessly. Features include:
* Easily select multiple holes and notch configurations on a work screen
* Automatic tilt control and adjustment of the drill angle for high base curves
* Imaging technology to capture demo lens shapes
* Memory and recall capabilities for multiple jobs and shapes
* The ability to modify lens shapes to customize rimless eyewear
RESOURCES: Visit these vendors for more information.
How much does it cost? Clearly, cost is an important question. Here’s how much to budget for the equipment purchase;
Edgers cost between $20,000 and $50,000. The total cost depends on blocking systems, drilling
options and the service agreements. It’s also a good idea to augment in-office edging with a tinting
unit at$500 to $1000. Tinting is profitable and versatile for the office. It allows fast sunglasses,
especially with CR39 plastic lenses. Of course, there is less tinting in favor of polarized and
photochromics for glare management and AR coatings on clear lenses.
As we said, the total cost of an edging system should consider its lifetime cost so consider
service contracts and update costs. This depends on the vendor, certainly something every ECP
should assess before purchasing. However, to get an initial idea of your return on investment, a
simple calculator can help. It requires knowledge of volume and product mix from your lab bill.
Then, choose the variety of equipment wanted and approximate costs. After adding in all the data, see the bottom line – ROI Years. This is an estimate of how long, with the same conditions, it will
take to pay off the purchase price of the equipment.
In this example, the lab savings 12
jobs a day pays for a $33 thousand
dollar system on less than a year.
You can get a copy of this ROI
calculator at 2020mag.com.
Budget yearly for new technology. It is good to create a 5-year budget
plan to upgrade and update tools and
equipment. Talk in detail to the
representatives from the equipment
suppliers for their suggestions of the
technologies and capabilities that
your office can grow into, where to start and when to add. Remember, benefits are in the future,
costs are in the present
Is my practice large enough or, do I do enough volume? From the calculator, it’s evident that the
pay off of the equipment is volume dependent however; don’t forget that it’s also a capability
purchase. Remember that an edger is an ability that you grow into. It increases the opportunities
for additional work that you probably don’t have now like fast service and personalized rimless
How much can I save, how much profit per month/year?
The answer to this question depends on
the number jobs done and the equipment that was purchased. It also is a function of the average
sell price versus your cost of goods. So, while this is not a discussion of pricing, (that’s your
decision), in-office specialty work like rimless takes more time so charge accordingly. Again, use
the ROI calculator for perspective. Also, consider your lab bills and construct a “Lab Savings
Analysis” looking back at the last 6 or 12 months of bills. Be sure to ask equipment vendors to
assist you in these calculations. Of course, the more work you do the quicker the pay off. Here are
some average costs – review your own lab bills for specific data. Tinting $6.00/pr, Edging $5.00-$15.00, Drilling - $30.00 (about $5/hole + edge polish + other special treatments). Another look at
profits can be seen at www.briot-usa.com/profit/profit.php and by direct consultation with the edger companies.
How much space will I need?
For a finishing lab the
average space required is 100 ft2 and that includes:
Automatic Lensometer, Edger and Tracer, Automatic
Blocker, Software & PC, Hand Stone, Tint Tank (9 pot
with gradient capability), consult with the edger suppliers for example layout ideas.
What about labor, will I need to hire more people? That again depends on volume. The skill level needed
is “Average”, a willingness to try new things and a
person should also have good attention to detail.
Good work requires quality checks continuously as
jobs are being processed. A new person should be
able to process 3 to 4 pair a day with existing staff,
when 10-12 pair a day are being processed, one ¾ time dedicated person is required. If there is a large volume of rimless, then consider one full-time
Lens Inventories are an important part of in-office work if fast service is part of the plan. Many of
the edger companies have relationships with lens manufacturers so that initial inventories of
correct power distributions can be included when the system is installed. Stock houses can also
provide next day service for all the varieties of single vision polycarbonate, Trivex, high index, AR
and/or photochromic lenses. Stock houses are local, and quick delivery, in some cases same day
can be ordered by phone or via web by job or a stock order. Lastly, don’t forget the relationship that
you now have with labs. They will continue to supply uncut lenses in progressives and multifocals
and for a period of time until skills are refined, there may be some jobs that will continue to be
finished by your lab.
Paying for Equipment is like the other capital expenditures that you have for the business.
Consider whether leasing or borrowing from the bank is a better solution. the bank will require
collateral. Industry financing usually is in the form of leasing programs. Leasing typically requires
least amount of cash outlay. For example a 5-year lease with 10% buyout is about $20.00 per
thousand per month. Don’t forget about the tax benefits.
Some company programs support renovation and have borrow-able funds available for lab
equipment. In today’s economic environment it is probably best to start with the edger
manufacturers. They have a variety of methods through leasing vendors that understand the
optical business. This can save some time. Be sure to discuss this with your accountant for both
the cost and the tax implications for the business.
What other things should I take into consideration? Like all new things, adding edging will uncover
a variety of additional questions and considerations.
What about drop ball testing? – All lenses dispensed in the US must meet the impact standards
stated in FDA 21 CFR 801.410. Only a limited number of lenses need be tested and there are a
variety of resources for additional information and how to ensure compliance. The Vision Council
(www.thevisioncouncil.org) offers a free testing plan you may follow as well as certification
programs that are also available from testing labs.
Lab configuration/flow should be discussed with vendors; they can offer terrific advice, The
electrical, plumbing and lighting needs are not special but be sure that the environment supports
the quality that you expect from the area. More space is better. Ventilation and temperature control
are of course important. If you will be doing a lot of ultra high index, 1.67 and 1.74 lenses, they do
have an odor. While not a safety concern, good ventilation can ensure that the smell doesn’t
invade the dispensary or exam area. Be sure that you understand the safety compliance
requirements for your city.
Edging is slightly noisy so noise control should be considered – visit a colleague’s office that
edges for ideas. Ask the sales representative to help set up a visit to a non-competitive office.
Determine how close the lab will be to the dispensary and whether it presents any considerations.
Lastly, there will be spoilage or errors as well as redo’s. Be sure that selling prices also includes
these considerations. The costs spent at the lab already include spoilage and returns in their
pricing so charge enough to cover these costs. Allowing staff to fix any problem unencumbered is
appreciated by patients and less stressful on staff.
Getting Started – Never Before Edged
In an interview with a newly edging ECP, they suggest the following: Be patient, allow errors and
review all mistakes so that the right training is confirmed. Use the sales rep and the vendor’s
technical service hotlines every time there’s a question – questions soon go away. It took the staff about 90 days to be comfortable. In fact, everyone in the office has had some familiarizing with the
equipment. Even reception folks can get a frame traced and saved in the memory of the edger.
On the business side, a lab bill of about $3000.00 monthly did support the decision to add
edging. Doing work in-office saved about a third of the lab bill and therefore justified the cost of the
machine. There was enough single vision work alone to justify the purchase. “We had a small
inventory of scratch coated plastic lenses but ordered uncuts and stock finished lenses from our
lab and a local stock house”.
As a final comment, this ECP offered, “Why now? It does save money but really increased
revenue since it increased our staff confidence and abilities. Discussing options and benefits with
patients is easier.”
Upgraded My Edger – Added Drilling
This ECP upgraded from an edger without drilling capability to a new edger with a separate drilling
machine and software that automatically integrated the blocker, edger and drill together.
The essential ingredient of a “non-standard” drilling job is the use of a programmable, in-office
drill. In this ECP’s opinion, every sale, every fitting option counts and the convenience that it
affords is the reason to buy in new office equipment.
They reported that in one week recently, they sold 3 (three!) additional pairs of eyewear (Sarah
Palin-like rimless), just from putting the shape in a 3 piece rimless mounting they carry. These
were sales made to people who were either going to use their own frame, or just accompanying
their spouse for new eyewear. The ASP was very high, even in this market and addressed the
patients complaint that for them most of today's frames were never really right for them. One
"custom rimless" a week yields a return twice over what the drilling system cost. Create a personal
shape, take the time to make a test lens in the frame to finalize the shape and then finalize it in the
Can you afford to do your own edging? Perhaps the question should be turned around, can you
afford not to edge and finish your own work? This author still does benchwork and as an optician
for the last 40 years believes that there is a significant advantage in doing one’s own work. It has
increased my skills at adjusting and improved my understanding of frame and lens materials. It
helps me describe and illustrate the final pair of glasses for the patient so they can best understand
benefits and make better choices. In this way, increased patient satisfaction automatically takes
care of costs, efficiency and profitability.