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31 Oct 2013 | eLABORATE

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Henry Schein - Connect Dental: Step by step into digital dentistry

New premises and facilities

Henry Schein Connect Dental answers questions about the decision-making process for investments in digital systems and talks about the selection criteria and factors contributing to the success of laboratory owners.

What advice would you give a dental technician opening their own lab today?

Henry Schein: Firstly, go digital. The digital lab is no longer a futuristic vision. When it comes to the actual design, however, there are countless possibilities for the fully digitised laboratory. Thus, the first questions lab owners should automatically ask pertain to future direction and the scope of digitization. These range from the basic equipment for receiving digital data from dentists to the creation of digital production models or perhaps even their own milling centre. For entrepreneurs in particular, it is not always easy to specifically define the direction they want their lab to take. In these cases, it is helpful to share experiences amongst colleagues as well as talk to expert advisers as this provides new insight and perspective. When consulting with our clients, for example, we not only ask them what they want but also how they envision the laboratory in the future. Sometimes they have ideas for similar things that are actually already on the market, or based on these ideas, we can then figure out what is particularly important to the customer.

What does digitally upgrading an existing dental laboratory entail?

Henry Schein: Experienced lab owners know more precisely what they need and what is most important. Lab owners shouldn't lose sight of their existing customer base and analyze the systems currently in use as well as those likely to be used in future. They also have to analyze the numbers in order to decide which hardware and software facilitate the best workflow. And when it comes to investing in an established lab, there are no off-the-shelf solutions. Rather, the entire package must be developed individually.

What is the next step once the basic direction has emerged?

Henry Schein: Only when laboratory owners know the direction the lab will take in the future and what their requirements are can they proceed with actual product selection. At this point, professional consulting that encompasses all manufacturers is crucial. Again and again, we see technicians that come to us saying "I know exactly what I want!" and then rethink this because new aspects emerge in the course of our discussions. It takes a great deal of experience to keep track of the big picture when deciding which specific systems and equipment will be purchased. In other words, this involves the optimal planning of the processes in the laboratory as well as between the laboratory and dentist. It is essential to be familiar with both sides of this process. For this reason, here at Henry Schein we work with an interdisciplinary team of specialists under the umbrella of "Connect Dental".

How do I find out which device best suits my needs?

Henry Schein: This is impossible without direct testing in practice. We recommend bringing in an actual case in order to try out the equipment from various manufacturers. We invite customers, for example, to our training laboratory where all systems are available. This way, the customer can experience and compare the entire process chain for themselves under the direction of our in-house technical experts. This allows lab owners to work on the same model, using all of the different equipment and software and make direct comparisons and ultimately determine very precisely which advantages and disadvantages different systems offers. Together with staff from various manufacturers, our specialists present systems such as 3Shape Trios intraoral and 3Shape bench top scanners, VHF and KaVo mills and give participants the opportunity to try them out and ask questions.

What role should price play when choosing equipment?

Henry Schein: There are, in fact, significant differences in price, which does of course affect decisions. However, you should always look at the system as a whole while calculating and comparing lifecycle costs as well. Depending on the manufacturer and vendor, the costs for software updates as well as training and support services differ considerably. Some equipment is subsidized, so to speak, by the manufacturers - the selling price is cheap, but the buyer is permanently bound to the manufacturer, be it as a materials supplier or as a milling center. Lab owners should be impartial when considering all of the factors that will affect their own operations. Basically, we are convinced that open systems are better because they allow for more flexibility. But in some cases, closed or partially closed systems may be the right solution. The manufacturer's total package must therefore suit the individual needs and wishes of the laboratory owner while at the same time offering a long-term, economically viable solution.

What factors are crucial for the sustainability and profitability of investments in digital systems?

Henry Schein: One very important success factor is how much the new devices or systems contribute to optimizing processes. What we're talking about here is a better and more efficient use of staff, resulting in sales growth and greater profits. This relates closely to the strategic acquisition of new customers. This does not simply take care of itself. Rather, the other products or services offered by the laboratory must be marketed with precision. With help, laboratories can, for example, host events for customers and potential customers where they can showcase their new services and demonstrate the benefits of the digital workflow.

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