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Laboratory’s Success Hinges on Smart Decisions
The right digital technology proves to be transformative
The Rego family moved from Cuba to the US in 1967 in search of a better life. “I didn’t come here to have you punch a time clock,” Luis Rego told his sons. “I brought you here to own the time clock.” So the Rego boys never have been afraid to make difficult decisions or drastic changes to ensure that their business succeeds. It’s all they know.
That willingness to change the direction of their business whenever necessary has made Smile Designs by Rego a hugely successful operation. With 20 employees at their Santa Fe Springs, California laboratory, CDTs Nelson and Juan Rego have increased their production by approximately 400% during the past few years, and they still work reasonable hours.
“I have not spent a nickel on marketing since 2000,” Nelson Rego says. “Every year, we are growing. So my approach, I believe, is working.”
Nelson Rego was a 17-year-old college student when he and his brothers Juan, 21, and Luis Jr., 22, purchased a dental laboratory near their Whittier, California home in 1980. They built their client list at first by going door to door and asking dentists to name their prices.
The brothers were driven, though. While Luis Jr. left the business in 1987, Nelson and Juan took courses to improve their skills. The courses worked so well that dentists started calling to ask if they had hired a new ceramist.
The business really took off thanks to some advice they received during a course taught by Lee Culp, CDT. The brothers had decided to change the direction of the laboratory, so they asked Culp for his recommendations, and one of the things he suggested was raising their fees to become a higher-end laboratory. “My brother called me from Las Vegas, where he was taking a course with Lee, and he said, ‘We are going to double our fees,’” says Nelson, now 53. “I said, ‘What have you been drinking?’”
Despite their reservations, the brothers doubled their fees. At first, the results were mixed. “Some clients left, but we no longer were running around like fools trying to make everybody happy,” Nelson says. “The quality of our work increased even more, and in about the fourth month, half the clients who had left came back. And that was the beginning of the transformation of our laboratory.”
Some years later, digital dentistry began to emerge as a promising option for laboratories. The Rego brothers tested the milled zirconia market by outsourcing, and when they found sufficient demand existed, they purchased their first milling machine around 2003. They bought a second one soon after, but about a year later, it became apparent that those early milling machines were not robust enough to handle the heavy workload that their business demanded. So they sold the machines and avoided CAD/CAM for the next decade. “I heard that I was anti-CAD/CAM,” Nelson says. “But I was only anti anything that did not make my life easier or faster.”
Things changed about 2 years ago. Nelson’s friend Matt Roberts, CDT, called and told him that Ivoclar Vivadent’s Wieland machines were milling wax beautifully. A Wieland representative brought them a machine to use on a trial basis, and “it was apparent within a week that this was not your father’s milling system,” Nelson says.
The brothers bought a Wieland Zenotec mini and a scanner. “Since then, our business has been transformed thanks to the capabilities of that milling machine,” Nelson says. They purchased a Wieland Zenotec select hybrid in October 2014 and have been pleased with that machine as well.
The Wieland machines produce the high quality to which the Rego brothers’ clients are accustomed. The technology also has opened other revenue streams, such as milling PMMA temporaries along with each diagnostic wax-up and selling them to the dentists. They also have begun producing zirconia abutments.
In addition to the machines’ capabilities, the Wieland Precision Technology (WPT) customer support is an important component, Rego says. If they have problems with a machine, the WPT milling center in Michigan provides free outsource service until it is fixed. “When a laboratory becomes reliant on a machine, and the machine breaks down, most laboratories have to suspend their services,” Rego says. “The WPT service was one of the things that really made me excited about getting into CAD/CAM.”
The technology has helped the Rego brothers continue to improve their business while still working only 8 to 9 hours a day, which is unheard of for many laboratory owners. Even better, they are fulfilling their father’s dream: They don’t punch a time clock.
The Wieland Zenotec select hybrid from Ivoclar Vivadent is authorized to mill IPS e.max and distinguished by its precision and productivity. The milling system combines state-of-the-art five-axis simultaneous operation with the advantages of automated manufacture and compact design. It offers user-friendly software, wet and dry grinding options, and a 16-position tool changer for efficient and universal milling.
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