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An Interview with Bob Miller, cdt
Inside Dental Technology (IDT): How has the relationship between milling centers and laboratories evolved over the last year and what do you see in the near future?
Bob Miller (BM): I think that more and more laboratories have recognized outsourcing as a truly useful resource. Because we don’t work with dentists, and therefore are not in direct competition with them, we are considered business partners by our laboratory customers.
Today, many dental laboratories are encountering a lack of skilled labor, and this void can cause major production issues. Milling centers provide the staff and capabilities to deliver restorations that adhere to the strictest of quality standards.
Milling centers also assure laboratories remain competitive in the market. Owners know they need to stay current but don’t want to invest tens of thousands of dollars in additional upgrades or new systems. CMC has standardized production with industry-leading CAD/CAM systems. By using industrial CNC technology, we can offer additional products and services that laboratories would otherwise not have access to due to the large capital expenditures required for such robust equipment. New materials and options are being developed every year. Given our versatile capabilities, we can supply laboratories with that competitive edge.
IDT: CMC is committed to innovation. What major shifts have you seen in the market and what do you foresee will be the next hot products?
BM: The custom abutment market has definitely grown recently. Many laboratories want the flexibility to support a wide range of implants coupled with the workflow efficiencies of using a single supplier. We were quick to respond to this demand. CMC offers abutments that are compatible with 14 major platforms and available in titanium and zirconia. We can complete both the scan and design process, or for laboratories using the Dental Wings or 3Shape scanners, we provide scanning locators and interface libraries. These tools allow the laboratory to perform the scan/design processes in-house for total control. We also want to make working with us as simple as possible, so we offer online ordering of the scan locators.
I definitely think there will be continued advancements in ceramic materials, and we are excited about our latest offering—precision-milled implant bars. These incredibly precise devices are custom fabricated from titanium to create a perfect, passive fit. Our bars are compatible with most implant systems and are ideal for “all-on-4” cases. Crafted using our industrial 5-axis CNC milling machines, our bars provide excellent stability and are resistant to rotation and lateral movements.
IDT: Laboratories are sometimes challenged with making the transition to digital dentistry and automated processes. How do you help customers who are first engaging, and trying out equipment that is new to them, ie, scanners?
BM: Custom Milling Center is the pioneer of the open-architecture business model and one of our main objectives is to keep abreast of the latest CAD/CAM systems. With a staff of computer software consultants, IT specialists, CNC operators, and dental technicians, CMC’s experience and knowledge provides a skill set that isn’t offered anywhere else.
When our laboratory partners purchase scanners from us, we provide two and a half days of interactive, on-site training as well as online webinars. We also recognize that there is a learning curve so we deliver ongoing technical assistance, including remote design services.
IDT: Are laboratories responding to the shift toward CAD/CAM?
BM: We have seen the biggest responses to CAD/CAM in the last year and a half, demonstrated by our record breaking Q4 sales of scanners. Laboratories today recognize that in order to remain relevant in the market place they must embrace CAD/CAM and get plugged into supporting the digital workflow.
By merging traditionally separate functions into an automated process driven by CAD/CAM technology, laboratories can incorporate a complete digital workflow. Laboratories can work with dentists who have digital impression systems and send STL files to their outsourcing partners. This creates maximum productivity in the laboratory production process. Our goal is to assist our laboratories with this CAD/CAM integration in any way we can.
IDT: How do you help laboratories remain profitable and competitive?
BM: Working with CMC provides tremendous flexibility, allowing our partners to transition from a fixed business model to a variable one. You don’t have to stock financially burdensome inventory or hire additional personnel in order to have access to a broader range of products. The easiest way to say it is—We make the capital investments so our laboratory partners don’t have to.
We recently invested over one and a half million dollars into expanding our facilities and purchasing new equipment. We added 2,800 feet to our center and a state-of-the-art milling machine for fabricating precision implant bars. New staff members have joined the CMC team in the CAD design, milling strategy, and data analysis departments, which allows us to deliver additional value to our laboratory partners.
Another way we help our business partners is by providing marketing support. We have dentist-facing materials, including brochures and direct marketing pieces, to help increase product awareness and interest.
Bob Miller, CDT is the president of Custom Milling Center in Arvada, Colorado.