Palmer Plans to Help Accelerate Zahn’s Role as a “Trusted Advisor” for Dental Laboratories
Henry Schein announced in February that Mark Palmer had joined the company as Vice President and General Manager of Zahn Dental, reporting to Rita Acquafredda, President-Global Dental Laboratory & Prosthetic Solutions. In this role, Palmer is responsible for the day-to-day operations of Zahn’s US dental laboratory business, and he leads the creation and implementation of Zahn’s business strategic plans. Inside Dental Technology sat down with Palmer for an exclusive interview to learn more.
Inside Dental Technology (IDT): You have spent more than two decades in the dental industry, including the past 14 at 360imaging, which you founded and built into an industry leader in digital case planning and services focused on implant cases. How have your past experiences prepared you for this new role?
Mark Palmer: Being a leader in the dental industry is something I have a passion for and enjoy doing. Most of my career has been spent focusing on technology, so as laboratories continue to adopt more technology, it is an exciting time to join Zahn Dental and help meet our customers’ evolving needs. As an entrepreneur building businesses, you are usually left to figure things out yourself, so I really look forward to working with Rita Acquafredda, the leadership teams at Zahn Dental, and Henry Schein to continue to support our customers and navigate the evolving digital landscape.
IDT: What are some of your goals for this position?
Palmer: Zahn Dental has built a strong brand with a credible reputation as a total solution provider and a trusted advisor to dental laboratories. We really want our customers to look to us for guidance on internal decisions that can help their businesses increase efficiencies, create better product offerings, increase profits, and more. As an entrepreneur, I know how tough the competitive business landscape can be, so using our R&D, our training, and our support to blaze a path for our customers is a goal we have in sight.
IDT: How has Zahn Dental remained a leader in this industry for so long?
Palmer: The leadership team has been critical; Rita Acquafredda and Rich Miranda have been in this business for decades, and they know all about it. As a team, we are all looking at the industry and opportunity through different lenses. Being able to work collaboratively and have different perspectives is important to our success. We value our relationships with our customers, we listen to them, and we turn their requests into actions and opportunities.
IDT: What does today’s dental laboratory and the laboratory of the future demand from a supplier?
Palmer: In today’s world, relationships continue to be number one, followed closely by technology, inventory, and technical support, as well as listening with open ears to our customer’s needs and providing solutions that help them better service the dental practices they do business with. I mentioned being an R&D arm for laboratories; this includes introducing new software integrations, platforms, and connections to improve digital workflows. As an entrepreneur, I know what our customers are going through and what they need. We are not here to keep up with the technology. Zahn is here to lead it.
IDT: Which new or upcoming technologies excite you the most?
Palmer: Artificial intelligence is very promising. We are also excited about additive manufacturing technology, especially the Trusana materials that Zahn Dental offers. These materials are becoming stronger, more esthetic, more durable, and more cost-effective. I have worked frequently with dentists in my past, and we often experienced frustrations with prosthetics lacking sufficient strength. Trusana, however, is three-and-a-half times stronger than materials we have used in the past. Because of that, we are particularly excited about the implant business and providing materials that will allow the prosthetics to help the implants instead of hurt them.
Another thing that really excites me is workflow technology. A dental laboratory—or any small or medium-sized business—needs to determine the best paths and the most efficient methods of completing its work. So much of today’s technology can help laboratories be more efficient.
IDT: You mentioned artificial intelligence, which can scare some people, but when you talk about workflow efficiencies, there are some very promising tools, right?
Palmer: Artificial intelligence and automation will not replace technicians and laboratories. The laboratory will always be the dentist’s trusted advisor on prosthetics. Patients want dental implants not for the implant itself but for the prosthetic, the tooth, the design of that tooth, etc. Because so many factors contribute to those elements from the laboratory’s perspective regarding the strength, the load, and the esthetics, laboratory expertise will always be needed. At the same time, efficiency is critical as labor shortages continue. Instead of looking at artificial intelligence, technology, and automation as replacing people, we need to consider them to be supplementing the deficit in our workforce today.
IDT: Along those lines, what do you envision the dental laboratory profession looking like 5, 10, 20 years into the future?
Palmer: They will be all digital, with streamlined workflows and efficiencies. I envision dental laboratories being that consultative advisor for the dentist. Zahn Dental will be the trusted advisor for the laboratory on technology, workflows, and efficiency. They will be partners to assist dentists in their digital adoption.