Picking partners

March 21, 2012
Noah Levine

Issue 11

When it comes to achieving success in the dental industry, partnerships can be a huge factor. Whether it’s the collaborative relationship between a GP and an oral surgeon on a complex implant case, the cooperation between a dentist and a laboratory technician working on a smile design case, or a dental lab relying on accurate production from a trusted milling center, in every case both parts of the equation focus on their specialty in order to produce the best possible outcome.

When it comes to achieving success in the dental industry, partnerships can be a huge factor. Whether it’s the collaborative relationship between a GP and an oral surgeon on a complex implant case, the cooperation between a dentist and a laboratory technician working on a smile design case, or a dental lab relying on accurate production from a trusted milling center, in every case both parts of the equation focus on their specialty in order to produce the best possible outcome.

It’s this same spirit that brings dental manufacturers such as Nobel Biocare to form partnerships of their own. The Swiss company has built its global reputation as a leader in CAD/CAM processes and implant solutions, but rather than attempt to expand its expertise into in-house produced materials for finishing their industrially milled restorations, the company instead reached out to industry leaders with its Preferred Partner Program that has solidified close working relationships with VITA, Ivoclar Vivadent and Noritake.

“There’s a lot of commonality and synergy between the companies in terms of philosophies based in science and education,” said NobelProcera Product Manager Peter Murphy.

“We really try to drill it down to what’s in it for the end user. It’s all about making patients happy, making doctors successful and making laboratories successful as well,” added Nobel Biocare Senior Product Manager – Professional Marketing Robert Riggs. “We are the leader in what we do, and Ivoclar, VITA and Noritake are clearly the best at what they do as well. It’s nothing but a win for the end user.”

Coming together

While Nobel Biocare initiated the partnership programs, they made perfect sense to the other companies taking part. Andy Klein, Laboratory Marketing Manager for Vident, a VITA company, said it basically came down to the fact that while Nobel Biocare creates great frameworks and other products they don’t have their own porcelain to finish off the esthetic and functional restorations.

“They realized it was not one of their core competencies, and certainly precision CAD/CAM processes is not a core competency of VITA. It’s really a classic case of two heads are better than one. It made perfect sense to become partners in materials.”

Murphy pointed out that the partnership is about much more than two companies with products and reputations they stand behind. Rather for the two entities to work in concert they needed to have similar approaches to the industry and to the way in which their products are developed and brought to market.

Of course, in the case of Nobel Biocare and VITA, Klein pointed out that geographical proximity didn’t hurt either. While in different countries, Nobel Biocare’s Zurich headquarters is just 40 minutes away from VITA’s headquarters in Bad Säckingen, Germany. Proximity is just one factor that allows Nobel Biocare and its partners to work closely on a wide range of projects and initiatives.

“As far as R&D, engineering, product development and the creation of worldwide educational curricula, the opportunities are endless,” Klein said.

Partnership in action

The ties between Nobel Biocare and its Preferred Partners go deep into product development for each of them. Murphy said it is important for everyone to know that the frameworks, copings, abutments and other products that can be produced through NobelProcera will work seamlessly when paired with the porcelains, denture teeth and other products created by partner companies, so while products may be marketed under one company’s brand, they often are designed and tested in conjunction with a corresponding offering from the other side of the partnership.

“They are connected at the very early stages. It’s not something that’s just folded in at the end. This partnership is something that extends far into the companies,” he said.

Vident Technical Sales Director Jim McGuire said a very noticeable outcome of this partnership is on display in the precise shade matching available when using NobelProcera produced substructures with Vident’s porcelains. Because they’ve been tested together, labs can use the products from two sources with the same confidence in their continuity that they might have using one system.

“There’s many combination cases that clinicians and labs do together, and it’s important that they can rely on predictable materials that are cost effective and fit together such as with VITA and NobelProcera,” McGuire said. “Our products are really the end point for Nobel Biocare’s end-to-end solutions.”

The key to this working so well is that neither company is diverging much from their areas of expertise, Riggs said. VITA focuses on materials development and precise shade performance, while Nobel Biocare is able to focus on the precise medical device manufacturing processes they make available through NobelProcera.

The collaborative relationship and shared expertise comes into play in more than just product development. Klein said Nobel Biocare will be the sponsor of a Vident panel discussion at the upcoming Lab Day meeting in Chicago in February. The event will bring together Nobel Biocare’s audio-visual expertise and experience running large-scale interactive multi-media with Vident’s hands-on education style to hopefully create a lively discussion.

“We want to present the best opportunity for customers to ask questions and to get answers that are objective,” Klein said.

While they continue to solidify their connections with regular meetings and collaborative efforts, neither company is tied completely to the other. While the products and services they develop may be optimized to work cohesively, the partnership is fluid and open, so each company is free to market and promote separately under their own brand and in their own way.

What’s in it for you

The bottom line with the Preferred Partner Program is always the customer who will put the products from Nobel Biocare, VITA, Ivoclar Vivadent and Noritake to use in their lab or practice, Riggs said. Just as Nobel Biocare took its time in carefully selecting and solidifying its Preferred Partner relationships, the company is aware that dentists and labs will take a similar approach to choosing the manufacturers they will partner with to find success.

Riggs said Nobel Biocare sought out the materials partners it felt were the best at what they do, and the most capable of enhancing what can be done through the NobelProcera system. He hopes dentists and labs make a similar consideration when looking for a manufacturing partner to enhance the high quality work they are already doing.

“What we truly want to communicate is that the dentists and the technicians are choosing us as their CAD/CAM vendor not only because we have selected the very best materials partners, but because we are best-in-class when it comes to automated manufacturing and CAD/CAM processes,” he said.

Dental Lab Products Senior Editor Noah Levine can be reached at nlevine@advanstar.com.