An Interview with Fred Ketcho
Inside Dental Technology (IDT): When you entered the dental industry 16 months ago, what did your research and experience reveal about this industry and how has that learning experience impacted your vision of Vident’s role as a company?
Fred Ketcho (FK): What I saw then, and still see now, is a very profitable industry where working closely with the customers and taking an interest in their needs is highly valued. I also see an industry with some real staying power relative to the consumption of product. Patients will always need restorative dentistry to preserve their quality of life. In order to get my arms around the dynamics impacting the clinical and laboratory side of the market and to evaluate our competitive position, I pulled together my leadership team last summer to assess everything from offshoring and industry consolidation to the entry of venture capital and private equity money. The result was a strategic plan that would uniquely position our company for growth, but would also make a contribution that would better the industry.
IDT: How will this new strategic direction impact the customer experience?
FK: On the laboratory side of the market, we took a hard look at the existing customer segments in the market, from the large production-oriented laboratories to the smaller businesses—what Vident refers to as “crown jewel” accounts—that are more focused on the art and craft of the restorative process. Those two segments, as well as the segments that lie in between, all have varying needs to enable them to remain successful and profitable. I saw great opportunity for our company to help those in each of these market segments meet their differing needs in terms of marketing, promotion, client pricing, and other services geared to improving business outcomes. Vident set out on a course to get closer to our customers in order to be a better solutions provider, business partner, and trusted advisor.
IDT: In terms of new product development, how does Vident plan to service all these market segments?
FK: As we continue to move ourselves in this direction and become more intertwined with our customers’ operations, we will better understand their workflow processes and training needs. When we think about products in the future, we will be thinking of new, innovative materials and shade systems that help improve the productivity and workflow of those processes. This is going to give us the opportunity to map out our North American product requirements based on what our customers value most.
For example, we are looking at new materials in the CAD/CAM block arena. Currently, there are certain post-mill processes required for finishing a unit. As I look at that existing workflow process, and we start looking at building new materials, I want to be looking at what unnecessary steps can be eliminated to allow faster completion of the restoration with a higher grade of quality. The benefits of strengthening our customer relationship will help better determine requirements for new products, systems, and services to drive greater productivity and efficiency gains in the laboratory.
IDT: What types of new services do you plan on providing to your customer base?
FK: One of our initiatives for the market segment represented by smaller operations is a variety of learning modules. Because these customers cannot always afford to leave the bench due to the current economic climate, we are looking at new ways to deliver education through distance-based learning that addresses their unique needs. To maintain our educational leadership position, we are putting together a roadmap of learning programs that delivers high-quality education in a more efficient way. For example, we are building programs that can be accessed through the Internet, as well as personalized video instruction with Continuing Education (CE) program content that addresses the laboratories’ compelling needs.
IDT: When you look at the dental industry 5 or more years from now, how do you see it changing?
FK: I see a closer connectivity between the clinician and the laboratory. There is a supply chain relationship between the two, and automated tools used in conjunction with information technology will strengthen the quality of information that flows between the practice and laboratory, favorably impacting the quality of the delivered restoration. Our electronic shade-taking system, the VITA Easyshade Compact, is a great example of our efforts to improve this continuity. Shade-matching remains the top challenge between clinicians and labs. Our slogan,“VITA Shade, VITA Made,” is more than a tagline for us; it represents our personal vision of continually striving to simplify the communication between laboratory and dentist.
For the dental technology industry, I see a movement toward an efficient means of producing and delivering superior quality. Switching to a more automated production process will help reduce some of the offshoring issues as dental professionals make greater investments in technology.
There are many complexities putting pressure on the industry today. One of the things we are striving for is to reduce those complexities for the laboratory owner. Buried within the threats to their business are real opportunities with VITA materials, systems, and services. It is our job to become more of a restorative solutions provider, while ensuring that our customers have the education, business support, and services, as well as the materials and system solutions to offset and overcome these challenges.
About the Author
Fred Ketcho is the CEO of Vident, Inc.