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Keeping Up With Demand
How to use new technology to keep up with your laboratory’s workload.
Based out of Naperville, IL, about 30 miles west of Chicago, LSK121 Oral Prosthetics full-service laboratory is owned and operated by Luke Kahng, CDT. A renowned ceramist, Kahng has invested nearly 25 years in the dental technology industry and an equal amount of time building and promoting his brand equity. If he is not lecturing or teaching, he is writing articles for major dental technology and clinical journals. And when he is not lecturing, teaching, or writing, Kahng is inventing innovative products that aid communication between dentists and technicians and committing himself to growing a nationwide business with a reputation for producing extremely esthetic fixed and removable restorations. Kahng’s dedication to quality and esthetics is a business philosophy shared by each of his 50 employees and is the secret he says to the continued growth and success LSK121 has experienced consistently from year one. Even in the economic downturn that has strangled the businesses of many laboratories, LSK121 continues to thrive and produce a desired commodity of high-end, esthetic restorative work many other laboratory owners have abandoned.
The key to LSK121’s success has been their ability to adapt to change and make change work in their favor. As the industry made the dramatic shift from metal-based restorations to all-ceramic, Kahng and his team quickly made the transition. “When I started in this business, my laboratory was primarily fabricating PFMs,” says Kahng. “Today, however, the industry is shifting toward more esthetic solutions and the majority of my clinician clients are requesting that their restorations be completely metal-free.” Currently, about 40% of LSK121’s total business is based in producing metal-free restorations. The first all-ceramic wave in the 1990s was for pressed all-ceramic crowns and bridges. Kahng responded by investing heavily in pressing equipment to meet the demand. But when clients jumped onto the milled zirconia-based restorative bandwagon, Kahng was reluctant to make the huge capital investment that it required.
“I outsourced all of my milled zirconia work,” says Kahng. “It was a business decision that at that time made sense for a large operation that was generating the volume of work our laboratory was.” However, outsourcing presented its own unique set of difficulties for the quality-conscious Kahng and his technicians. “We were encountering a lot of human and machine error in the substructures that we outsourced,” says Kahng. “I also lost control of my turnaround time.” And losing control of turnaround was a huge problem, especially for large reconstructive cases where his clients had scheduled a patient appointment only to have to reschedule because the milling center didn’t deliver on time. “The situation was very frustrating for my clients,” says Kahng. “They would have to completely change their schedules, and I would then have to give them credit to make up for the error, which cut into our profits. It was not a good situation.”
Kahng began to re-evaluate the outsourcing model and the productivity workflow in his laboratory. As the demand grew for full-contour zirconia restorations, he realized this was a business niche that he could bring in-house and produce more efficiently than porcelain layering single unit zirconia copings. “My technicians do fantastic work, but they can only make so many restorations a day by hand. And while outsourcing lessened their load, our outsourced restorations came with their own set of problems,” Kahng describes. Bringing production into the laboratory would help solve those problems and also pave the road to increased profit and business growth.
As Kahng began to analyze the many CAD/CAM systems on the market, paramount to his purchasing decision was a system that offered an open-architecture platform and a company that not only manufactured the machinery but also made the milling materials. Amann Girrbach’s Ceramill Motion 2 mill was one of the few that met his criteria. Today, LSK121 is milling its own full-contour zirconia restorations in-house from Ceramill Zolid zirconia. Not only has the milling system made a significant difference in the number of restorations LSK121 is able to produce per day, but the strength, fit, margin integrity, and the esthetics are of higher quality than anything they ever received when outsourcing. “Everyone wants a natural looking restoration, and the quality of this zirconia helps us to create more true-to-life esthetics,” explains Kahng.
By milling in-house and solving their turnaround time, Kahng and his technicians are able to spend more time concentrating on something they are extremely passionate about—the esthetics.
The exceptional translucency as well as the high level of stability and functionality that Ceramill Zolid offers allows his technicians to add the unique LSK121 signature to each individual piece. Designing the teeth digitally gives Kahng and his technicians the opportunity to not only work with Amann Girrbach’s extensive tooth library, but to also put their own signature on each restoration that they design. Kahng also found that milling restorations with the Ceramill Motion 2 is very fast, and much more quiet than he initially anticipated. Speed was another factor that sold Kahng on the machine. “You’re able to design zirconia abutments, long-span zirconia bridges, or full-zirconia crowns in 10-15 minutes, and then all you have to do is press a button! It saves my technicians a lot of time that could be better spent focusing on other tasks.”
Since introducing Ceramill Zolid zirconia into his laboratory and incorporating the Ceramill Motion 2 into his production processes, Kahng has been able to increase his profit margins, as well as maintain control over the restorations LSK121 produces. This control has allowed Kahng to build stronger relationships with his clients and has resulted in a business growth rate of 15% per year, despite the sluggish economy. “The clinicians I work with are looking for restorations that are not only esthetic, but that offer longevity. Full-contour zirconia gives that to them because it’s milled from a single piece of material. It’s great to be able to provide my clients with exactly what they need on my own terms, because I am now creating their restorations in-house,” says Kahng.
Disclaimer: The preceding material was provided by the manufacturer. The statements and opinions contained therein are solely those of the manufacturer and not of the editors, publisher, or the Editorial Board of Inside Dental Technology.
Ceramill Zolid from Amann Girrbach is an advanced translucent zirconia with exceptional esthetics, strength, and stability. Used in combination with the Ceramill CAD/CAM digital system, the laboratory can produce esthetic full-contour, zirconia dental prostheses, without the need for veneering.
A crucial factor in developing the zirconia’s exceptional translucency and optical depth effects is the sintering temperature. If the temperature is increased in favor of light permeability, excessive grain formation develops that can reduce the material’s long-term strength and stability. Without using excessive sintering temperatures, sintering for Amann Girrbach’s esthetically optimized zirconia occurs at a temperature of 1450° C, the same temperature as non-translucent zirconia. The results are brilliant for both clinicians and their patients.
Ceramill Motion 2
The sophisticated Ceramill Motion 2 from Amann Girrbach is a compact hybrid dental CNC milling machine that combines five-axis milling and grinding technology, in both wet and dry applications. This enhanced flexibility allows the lab to keep fabrication processes in-house, including the dry milling of zirconia, wax, and Amann Girrbach’s new non-precious alloy Sintron® (CrCo-Soft), the wet milling of PMMA and temporary material, as well as wet grinding of glass ceramics.