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The In-Office Edging Dilemma
The dollars and sense of in office lens finishing

By Mark Mattison-Shupnick ABOM

Release Date:

June 2009

Expiration Date:

July 31, 2010

Learning Objectives:

Upon completion of this program, the participant should be able to:

  1. Understand how to analyze whether in-office edging is right for your office
  2. Learn answers or plans for each of the questions that need to be answered
  3. Know how others like you have done a competitive analysis of current technologies.

Faculty/Editorial Board:



Mark Mattison-Shupnick, ABOM, FNAO is currently director of education and training, program development for Jobson Information Services LLC, has more than 35 years of experience as an optician, was senior staff member of SOLA International and is a frequent lecturer and trainer.

Credit Statement:

This course is approved for one (1) hour credit by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO).
Course #STWJMI114-2.
The course is granted by the Partnership for In-Office Edging - Briot, Nassau Lens Group, National Optronics and DAC.

 

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.

yellow boxIn-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 know?

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 time? 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 promised.bubble

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 efficiently.

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 usually required.

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.

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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.
* www.aitindustries.com
* www.briot-usa.com
* www.dacvision.com
* www.nationaloptronics.com
* www.nassau247.com
* www.santinelli.com

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 shapes.

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 person.

bevelLens 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 correct prescription.

Conclusion

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.