Having multiple ophthalmic lens edgers in house gives you an "edge" over competing optical retailers. You capture major cost savings—and provide patients with a wow factor when they get their new eyewear the same day as their exam.
I have always believed in having a lens edger in my office. Since day one of my practice, I've had an edger. I stretched financially to buy a second edger as soon as the practice could afford it. I think having an optical lab that is capable of making most single-vision ophthalmic lenses in an hour or less is a huge asset for my practice. That speed of delivery shows patients that your practice is technologically advanced and ahead of the competition.
At least 80 percent of our jobs are edged (finished) in our office. That can take two forms. First, we can have stock lenses that are waiting to be finished in an hour (I estimate about 50 percent of our total jobs). Secondly, we can order an uncut from a lab that we can edge here. In this second scenario, it can take up to a week to receive the uncut, but it is still faster on average by a week than if we waited for the lab to edge and finish the lenses.
We usually receive at least a $25 discount from the lab to have uncut lenses sent versus finished lenses. Zeiss can send even their most advanced progressive lenses (the individual) as an uncut to us to have finished. The main reasons we still have outside labs finish lenses are either due to the patient's insurance guidelines, an unusual or high prescription, or a proprietary lens such as Oakley or Maui Jim sunglass lenses.
ROB Bottom Line
Slow Day Busy Day
10 jobs 20 jobs
$250-$750 saved $500-$1,500 saved
The two edgers I purchased cost my practice about $50,000 altogether. Delivering time savings to patients is a key to staying competitive and providing great customer service. By having my opticians finish lenses, we save $25 to $75 per job depending on the lens type and the lens options. Additionally, I estimate we make at least one to two extra optical sales a week just because we can provide many eyeglasses in an hour or have many more complex orders such as multifocals ready a week sooner than if we used an outside lab to finish our lenses.
Offer Enhanced Speed
With our lab such an integral part of our optical's success and performance, I made the commitment to having two finishing edgers versus one. Why two expensive pieces of the same equipment when most would say even having one is questionable? The first reason is that having two edgers allows my opticians to do their work faster and more efficiently. A main bottleneck of my opticians' productivity was only having one edger to finish lenses.
It is relatively fast to prepare and block lenses to be cut. Depending on your edger speed, it takes 10 to 20 minutes or longer for a pair of lenses to be cut down. We saw how much faster it was for an optician to block and prepare multiple pairs of lenses to be cut and then have two edgers cut jobs at the same time. It allows our opticians to finish more jobs faster and have our opticians be available for other important tasks such as frame-styling, eyeglasses adjustments, communicating to patients that their eyeglasses are ready, and dispensing already finished eyeglasses to patients.
Ability to Handle Overflowing Optical
It's inevitable that the optical gets busy with patients. With only one edger, we often would have one of our opticians less available to handle rush periods. Additionally, with one edger we could not promise multiple patients that their eyeglasses would be ready in an hour. With our one-hour service a pride point and competitive advantage for our optical, having two edgers allows us to promise up to four patients at the same time that their eyeglasses will be ready within an hour.
With our opticians finishing about 10 jobs on a slow day and up 20 jobs on a busy day, having two edgers definitely makes that part of our optical run much smoother. Having a second edger may not cost as much as you think. The nice thing about having two edgers of the same make and model is that you only have to buy one tracer and blocker, which saves money. With my optical lab easily saving $300 to $600 a day on lens costs, as well as generating more sales, the last thing I want is for my optical not to be able to finish lenses because an edger is malfunctioning. Having two edgers is a great way to ensure you have at least one edger functioning and available at almost all times.
Stock Necessary Lenses for Jobs
Your edgers won't do you any good if you don't have lenses in stock for the jobs lined up in your optical. Stocking lenses is always an investment--but a worthwhile investment. I have three sets of single-vision lens inventories all with a pair of lenses for each power. We stock single-vision plastic CR-39 lenses, polycarbonate lenses and polycarbonate lenses with anti-reflection with a power range roughly from +3.00 to -6.00 sphere up to -2.00 cylinder. By having a pair of lenses versus just a single lens, we are able to make one-hour jobs for patients more often.
Order Lenses in Batches
If you just stock one lens per power, that's not enough if a patient has the same prescription in each eye or if the patient wants two pairs of eyeglasses on the same day. I tell my opticians that I'd rather have three lenses stocked in the same power than one. If you don't have the patient's lenses in stock, then you have to slow the whole process down. The wait time is at least one to two days more. Plus, you often have to pay for shipping on that lens pre-order whereas we order in batches to replenish stock, and therefore, often avoid extra shipping charges because we order stock lenses less often.
When you can't make the lens right away, you become less efficient. The opticians have to go through extra steps such as making a tray, filing the tray in a holding area to wait for lenses, keeping track of the tray, printing an extra lab order with notes, calling the patient when they are done and filing the eyeglasses in a different area where finished eyeglasses are held. Whenever possible, have two lenses or more for each power so your optical won't miss out on opportunities to grow by pleasing the customer more efficiently.
Sufficient Edgers and Lens Supplies = Wow Factor
We have received many positive, even glowingly positive, reviews and surveys from patients because they received their eyeglasses within an hour. I like to say that patients don't mind waiting on their eyeglasses, but they are ecstatic to get them the same day. There is a wow factor when we efficiently deliver their eyeglasses. An extra goal to aim for: deliver the patient's eyeglasses in 20 minutes, and they are even more impressed.
Oliver Lou, OD, owns Signature Eye Care in Cedar Park, Texas. He also is adjunct professor at the University of Houston College of Optometry. To reach him: [email protected]
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