As you well know, change comes quickly to our industry. Collectively, you have become masters at adapting to those changes over the past 10 years in order to meet market demands, remain competitive, and offer clients best-in-class products and services. However, unlike any other mass-production industry in the world, the members of the dental technology community have become masters at producing tens of millions of highly individualized products, each of which is customer-unique and customer-specific, with nearly mass-production efficiency. At this time in history, there is no other manufacturing giant that, to my knowledge, can make that claim on a mass production level. Yes, you can buy a built-to-order desktop from Dell and customize your Nike athletic shoes or even build the Mini Cooper of your dreams. But the basic product remains the same. You still receive a Dell desktop that looks and feels like any other Dell product; your customized Nike athletic shoes come only in limited sizes and are not built to the exact dimensions of your foot; and the construction of that Mini Cooper still is embodied within the production standards and dimensions established to mass-produce that car. What the dental technology manufacturing community has mastered from its inception is the capability of processing tens of millions of orders each year with each end product built precisely and uniquely to fit the exact dimensions of the individual end user. No two products are exactly alike.
If Dell, Nike, or Mini USA attempted to attain the same level of customized mass production standards as the dental technology industry, think what that would mean to the end user. Most likely, consumers would have to incur fairly significant financial costs to have that computer, shoe, or car built specifically to the non-standard dimensions, color, and amenities desired. Most likely, that same consumer would suffer the cost of a longer wait time for the customized product to be assembled and delivered. And most certainly, the company delivering the customized product would incur increased production costs associated with producing a non-mass-production-line product.
What the dental technology industry has mastered is the holy grail of customized mass manufacturing. Not only is this industry undergoing transition to produce more with fewer people (with the significant expense of investing in technology to do so), it also is producing a unique customer-specific, precision-fit crown, bridge, or implant abutment without charging the average client significantly more for that custom end product. Most significantly, for client and end-user alike, the wait time is most often less, not more today. No other manufacturing industry or service can make all those claims, in particular overseas providers.
It is an extraordinary accomplishment taken for granted by the dental community and often not shown the appreciation or given the recognition it deserves. And it is testament to the incredible flexibility and ingenuity of an industry and group of individuals who continue to persevere challenge after challenge to survive and thrive. There is still much more that needs to be done to perfect this manufacturing concept. But as we move forward, keep in mind that what this industry is accomplishing is the blueprint for the future for many in the manufacturing community.