Entrepreneurial Laboratory Owner Embraces New Scanning Option
Kulzer’s cara Scan 4.0i allows dentists to go digital without changing their workflow
Men in Jay Collins’ family typically have worked as union steamfitters for several generations, but that mold was broken when Jay’s uncle Jimmy joined the military during the Vietnam War and was trained to become a dental technician. He eventually opened his own facility and trained another of Jay’s uncles, John, who opened a laboratory of his own. When Jay became the family’s first male college graduate, he had no intentions of becoming either a fifth-generation steamfitter or a second-generation dental laboratory owner.
“I told everyone, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I am not doing pipes and I am not doing teeth,’” Jay Collins says. “Well, that changed.”
Collins initially started a construction business, but when the housing market collapsed in 2008, he took a sales position with John’s laboratory, Cornerstone, and quickly realized that this industry offered what he wanted.
“For financial reasons, I targeted medicine, government contracts, or banking,” Collins says. “Dental laboratory technology was the closest profession I could find to medicine that was not completely crushed yet with regulations. Our industry is still a bit like the Wild West in terms of being open, and I like that.”
Collins increased sales and was promoted to vice president within a year. From there, Cornerstone merged with John Collins' other lab, Bio-Comp, providing the opportunity to both produce in-house in Pennsylvania and outsource. Collins went on to purchase the company from his uncle in 2011. The facility is now based in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, and Cornerstone has acquired additional laboratories in recent years.
Collins’ aim, he says, is to build an organization that puts the patient first.
“I sell a product and a service to someone I almost never get to meet,” he says. “I do not work directly with the end user. Because that end user’s satisfaction and health are still the priority, though, we approach everything in a way that our clinicians will view us not as a vendor but as a partner.”
The 12-person operation that Collins took over approximately 5 years ago had outsourced 90% of its production to China. Since then, Cornerstone has nearly doubled its revenue and brought most of the work back home; now, 60% of its production is in the US and 40% is in Vietnam. Collins says he is open about his offshore operation and that many dentists still prefer that, but that most now choose the domestic option.
“Dentists face immense pressure to reduce their laboratory bills, but getting a restoration a week earlier often is worth the additional expense,” Collins says.
Another way dentists can reduce turnaround time is by sending files to the laboratory digitally. Collins has observed that many dentists are reluctant to implement intraoral impression scanning either because of the cost of entry or because they are uncomfortable abandoning the conventional impression-taking process. However, the new cara Scan 4.0i from Kulzer eliminates both those obstacles.
An extraoral impression scanner, the cara Scan 4.0i can be purchased by laboratories to place in dentists’ offices. Each machine is programmed to send files only to the laboratory that purchased it.
“With the cara Scan 4.0i, the dentist’s workflow does not change,” Collins says. “The only change is to the method of shipping; instead of putting a case in a brown box for a brown truck to pick up, the dentist or assistant places the case in a black box and it is sent to the laboratory instantaneously. The dentist can enjoy the time savings and accuracy of digital dentistry without an intraoral scanner.”
The laboratory can achieve its ROI in several ways. Primarily, the scanner incentivizes the dentist to send more cases to the laboratory. Additionally, the workflow is streamlined; Collins says his laboratory spends approximately $2 per unit on the intake of physical cases.
“If we can eliminate half the time that we spend opening, disinfecting, panning, marking, etc, the savings will be significant,” he says.
Collins says he expects to have very little trouble selling dentists on this workflow.
“When I can ask dentists if they would like to get a zirconia crown in 4 days, with no shipping costs and a remake rate of less than 4%, it makes their decision easy,” he says.
In addition to digital precision, the fact that dentists can see their work on the screen before sending it to the laboratory increases the likelihood of a successful outcome.
“That is one of the greatest resources that intraoral scanners offer,” Collins says, “so we are excited to add that capability for traditional impressions.”
Collins might never have expected to be that excited about anything in dentistry 15 years ago. Things have changed, however, and now the cara Scan 4.0i has the potential to be transformative for his business.
“Our goal is to have a repeatable sale cycle within 6 months,” he says. “I am excited to show other laboratories how to do it. It gives us something we have never had.”
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