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Inside Dental Technology
February 2017
Volume 8, Issue 2

Experience Outside the Laboratory Helps in Making Good Business Decisions

Discovering a faster, more versatile scanner increases the laboratory’s efficiency

Randy Blackburn earned a degree in Business Adminstration from the University of Mississippi, but the education he received in the years immediately following his graduation proved to be just as useful when he eventually returned to the family business, Blackburn Dental Laboratory in Pearl, Mississippi.

Blackburn worked as a sales representative for Thompson Dental Company, which has since been acquired by Patterson Dental. In that capacity, he visited laboratories of all sizes and gained valuable insights.

“The primary lesson I learned was the importance of relationships,” Blackburn says. “I don’t like to think of our products as a commodity, but to a certain degree, dental laboratories all make similar products, use similar materials, and follow the same basic steps, whether analog or digital. You need to offer more to your customer than good restorations.”

Working in sales, Blackburn observed a growing trend of dentists needing education on new products and processes. Manufacturers in many cases were offering this service, but Blackburn anticipated a movement toward laboratories providing education.

“If you can serve as a resource for dentists, then you bring more value to the relationship,” he says. “We do not just fabricate restorations; we teach our dentists how to best utilize what we provide. We have done this successfully with the introductions of lithium disilicate, zirconia, and now the new technology and materials for complex implant cases. We might make the same product as another laboratory, but holding dentists’ hands and walking them through each step with confidence makes a significant difference.”

Another way to separate oneself from the pack is to identify and capitalize on the most efficient and effective technologies and processes. One way Blackburn accomplishes that is by participating in industry associations and events; he serves as President of the Mississippi Dental Laboratory Association (MDLA) and the Southeastern Conference of Dental Laboratories (SCDL).

“Just as the technicians in my laboratory benefit from sharing ideas and advice with each other, I have been able to benefit from the wealth of knowledge that is disseminated through these organizations,” Blackburn says. “Attending seminars, sitting at the bar with a group of laboratory owners, and networking with decision makers from manufacturers is invaluable. It helps us anticipate future trends and formulate our strategic plans for the future. Keeping up with technology is more important now than it has ever been, because one wrong move can cripple you financially.”

In 2016, one scanner caught Blackburn’s eye at two different association meetings: Medit’s Indentica Hybrid. While he was happy with his current scanners, Blackburn observed that he could accomplish certain tasks much more efficiently with the Identica Hybrid, so he purchased one.

The Identica Hybrid offers exceptional accuracy and faster speeds than his other scanners, but what really sets it apart is the ability to scan impressions and to more efficiently scan large full-arch fixed implant cases.

“When we convert a complex implant case from a denture setup to zirconia or a large-span bridge, scanning the wax-up into a fixed case is much easier than it is with other scanners,” Blackburn says. “Previously, that process took more than 3 hours; with the Medit scanner, it takes less than 1 hour. We did not change anything we were doing, but we are able to do it more efficiently, and time is our most valuable commodity.”

Medit’s software also helps the laboratory’s efficiency. With other scanners, Blackburn has experienced situations in which software quirks force the technician to start over and re-scan everything, but he says that has not happened with the Identica Hybrid.

“The software is very user friendly,” he says. “It is easy to train people on it. Even though I spend less time at the bench than I did when our laboratory was smaller, everything came back pretty easily after I spent just a small amount of time with the Medit scanner.”

Medit’s strong reputation and the relatively low cost of the Identica Hybrid compared to other popular scanners on the market are other factors that make it more attractive, Blackburn says.

“One thing I would recommend to any laboratory owner is partnering with a solid company that has proven itself over many years,” he says. “The last thing you want is to invest in a large piece of technology and encounter problems when the company folds and support is no longer available.”

Blackburn has no plans to immediately replace his five other scanners, as they still function adequately for simpler cases, but as needs arise for new ones or replacements, he says he will strongly consider purchasing more scanners from Medit.

“If I were starting over today, I would purchase all Medit scanners,” he says.

Utilizing the best technology, after all, is what has allowed Blackburn to quadruple his laboratory’s business in the 20 years since he took over.

“All laboratories have access to the same zirconias, lithium disilicates, and other materials,” he says, “but the ability to use those materials more efficiently has been a key differentiator for my business.”

Identica Hybrid

Dental laboratories prioritize speed and accuracy in scanners. To meet customers’ needs, Medit’s Identica Hybrid sets a new standard for speed in 3D dental scanning, with an accuracy of ±7 μm. It can scan an upper and lower 3-unit bridge and Artex articulator in less than 5 minutes. Additionally, Identica scanners support an open STL file format, giving your laboratory the freedom to work any way you choose.

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