Top 100: People who make it happen

March 21, 2012

Meet the men and women behind some of this year’s biggest product launches.

Meet the men and women behind some of this year’s biggest product launches.

Septodont
Cass Campbell, Product Manager, Materials
2 years with the company, worked on the Biodentine launch

What goes into the development of a product like this?
Several years of development-it took 10 years for Septodont to finalize Biodentine’s formulation, and this included many diverse clinical trials and testing. Years of scientific data and research were done to create only the purist materials. Special equipment and manufacturing procedures were developed and tested time after time to bring Biodentine to its present form.

What do you think dentists would be most surprised to learn about the behind the scenes of product development?  
They may not know how long it takes to bring a product to market. Intellectual property needs to be scrutinized. There are patents on existing and non-existing product formulations that have to be reviewed. An infringement on another product’s patent can halt/stop a new product’s progress. Different types of delivery systems also are patented, which makes a huge impact on how the dentist will accept the product.

Once a formulation and delivery system are finalized then the chemistry needs to be assessed within the delivery system. Before becoming a full-fledged, ready-for-sale product, hand samples are made and filled for testing. These samples are sent to a group of dentists for their feedback and evaluation. It takes several months for theses results to come back and be analyzed. Time is needed to make any necessary changes to formulation or packaging. There always is the “what if” factor to contend with. You never know what might interfere with your progress.  

What is your favorite part of product introduction/development?  
That is difficult to pinpoint-there are many aspects of product development that I like. First, the initial idea mining to generate what we would like to see most in a new product, or what we can do to improve an existing product is always a fascinating step in exploration. It’s like making out a wish list.

My favorite aspect of bringing a product to market is brainstorming ideas and seeing them come to fruition. Another one of my favorite aspects of this process is the actual product launch, which is usually scheduled for one of the larger dental shows. This creates excitement around the product, giving it a focus and energy that otherwise wouldn’t happen. Depending on the magnitude of the product‘s innovation, it also gives the launch a resounding pool of energy. This was the case with Biodentine’s launch.

For a product to have a successful launch and longevity in the marketplace, it needs an integrated marketing plan, a driven professional and educated sales force and a message from the company to the end-user of the benefit to them and/or their patients. The company needs a clear resounding message and image.

Straumann USA
Guillaume Daniellot,
Head of Global Sales for CARES
4 years with the company, worked on the Straumann CARES Digital Solutions launch

It’s all about finding solutions.

This is a key part of product development, said Guillaume Daniellot, and to do that you have to know what your customers want, what’s missing in the marketplace. That’s why keeping in touch with customers throughout the product development process and even after is so vital to a successful product launch. Customer feedback was a huge part of creating Straumann CARES Digital Solutions, which encompasses everything from digital impression-taking using intraoral scanning to computerized production of prosthetics using CAM processing.

“We try to understand the workflow, from creating the digital data from an intraoral scan, to transferring that data to the lab, to the lab designing and manufacturing the final restoration,” he said. “When you understand the entire workflow you can think about simplifying and improving the precision and consistency. You can only do that by listening to your customers and by visiting them often.”

Guillaume was part of the strategy team and worked to resolve two major challenges in digital dentistry: the need to simplify the complexity the current multiple prosthetic design software applications offer thanks to an open platform and the need to provide a validated workflow between the software, the scanner and the milling center. These complex interfaces must be tested. The parameters of the milling machines also must be incorporated directly into the software to ensure users get consistent, high quality results every time.

With Straumann CARES a team of individuals with varying areas of expertise worked together throughout the process to make this happen. Teamwork is a huge part of product development, and you really need the right team spirit to be successful, he said.

Educating customers about your product and what it can do for them is another area that shouldn’t be overlooked, Guillaume said. “We value education. When a new product is ready, we as a company want to make sure our customers understand the product indications and handling so they can enjoy made up the whole company at the time. We hammered issues out together until we reached resolution…and that was great.”

Azenic
Dirk Schipper, Chief Technology Officer
6 years with the company, worked on the disposable handpiece (DHP)

From the start, Dirk Schipper led the DHP’s development process.

As the engineering mind on staff, he was a driving force behind the DHP and provided project management support for the development program and the management team. He worked directly with Azenic’s manufacturing partner to create a disposable handpiece that could compete with the leading high-speed handpieces already on the market. Azenic was a small start up company at the time, which just added to his  excitement about what they were working toward.

“I love working for start up companies because you have many of the same challenges that you do if you’re working for a large company, but the beauty is there is no bureaucracy,” he said. “Only four of us

To start the process back in 2005, Azenic in-licensed intellectual property to a disposable handpiece that was developed in the 1990s. It wasn’t a great handpiece, and the team diligently worked to re-engineer it using innovative engineering and manufacturing techniques, which led to an amazingly improved product. They also bought five each of the three leading air-pneumatic metal handpieces on the market at the time, to benchmark what they were doing with their disposable against the perceived “Cadillacs” of the industry.

From there, Schipper and the management team came up with critical success factors for the handpiece-they discussed how it should perform, how much it should cost, how much power it should have, and used that information to determine the product’s requirements. He also had to determine when the product should go to market, and based on that when they needed the 510 (k) prepared and the critical FDA approval. From helping the marketing effort conduct focus groups to assisting regulatory compliance in designing and implementing a Quality Management System, Schipper had his hands in just about every aspect of product development and subsequent launch.

And those early focus groups were key to finalizing the product’s design. In that first focus group, dentists, hygienists and patients all experienced the handpiece prototype in a variety of different versions. Some of the handpieces had fat bodies, some had round necks, some had big heads and some had little heads. The feedback they got from the first round of focus groups, including color preferences and exterior finish of the DHP, drove the product’s final design, but the second focus group prior to product launch saved them from making a design mistake that may have been costly. Clinicians who used the handpiece in their practice in that second round found it was difficult to push the burs in and out of the handpiece. The fix was easy: Azenic just needed to modify the internal turbine. But if they had skipped that second focus group, which Schipper said manufacturers often do, they would have been scrambling to make that fix during the market launch.

In the end, Schipper and the team at Azenic developed a disposable handpiece that advances infection control eliminating the risk of cross contamination from handpieces, features no chip air, making it well suited for surgical applications, has performance and disposability that make it a great stand-in handpiece for difficult reduction cases; and is a great back-up for busy days, equipment failures and emergencies.   

Schipper enjoys many aspects of the development process that led to what this handpiece is today, focus groups included. But there was one moment during the DHP’s development that really stands out, before anyone outside the company had a chance to try the handpiece.
“We were about 6-to-8-weeks into the project and we had our proof of concept. We actually made a very crude prototype and immediately found we could match or even outperform the three leading metal handpieces that were in the market,” he said.

Doxa
Jesper Lööf, Msc.E, PhD, Vice President R&D
9 years with the company, worked on the Ceramir Crown & Bridge  launch

A new class of dental cement-a bioceramic luting cement-entered the U.S. dental market this past summer. But long before Ceramir® Crown & Bridge made its mark here, Jesper Lööf, Msc.E, PhD, and his colleagues in Sweden did plenty of research and ran plenty of tests.

First the Doxa Dental Inc. product-which uses calcium aluminate combined with glass ionomer components-gained popularity in Europe. Then it came to the states and was featured on the cover of the August 2011 issue of Dental Products Report.  

The new bioceramic luting cement has been well received. But Lööf, Vice President R&D Doxa Dental AB in Sweden, began researching the science behind this development long before the product became available.

“I have been working for Doxa since 2002 first as a R&D Engineer, later as project manager and since 2007 as Vice President R&D,” he said. “Doxa has a strong connection to Uppsala University and especially the material science department and also we have a close collaboration with the faculty of Odontology at Malmö Högskola in Malmö.”

It is these strong connections and impressive resources that helped with the development of Ceramir.  Lööf, who trained as a chemical engineer with a Master of Science in Material Chemistry from Uppsala University, also has a PhD from the University in material physics. It should come as no surprise that the subject of his thesis was on using Calcium aluminate (Ceramir) as Biomaterial. (“Calcium-Aluminate as Biomaterial, Synthesis, Design and Evaluation”).

He led Doxa’s R&D team with the development of Ceramir Crown & Bridge, beginning back in early 2006. The research behind the product has been led by founder Prof. Leif Hermansson and by Lööf. Ceramir C&B was approved by the FDA in early 2010 and launched in the U.S. in June 2011. The product was launched on the Swedish market in 2009 after showing superb results in the first clinical study, conducted by Prof. Steven .R. Jefferies at Temple University in Philadelphia.

“Sweden has been seen as a test market and the results have been very good,” he said. “The product is developed and produced in our high tech facilities designed for ceramic manufacturing in Uppsala Sweden, all under rigorous Quality and regulatory control of course.”
Doxa has a history of being an R&D company, developing materials for both dental and orthopedic indications. Since late 2008 the company has focused more on dental materials, and since launching Ceramir, “our focus has been more towards production, marketing and sales,” Lööf said.

There are more than 20 employees in Uppsala, another five in the U.S., and one in Germany.
“The clinical studies show excellent results for Ceramir Crown & Bridge in all clinical parameters,” he said of some of the findings backing clinical results over the last couple years. “Especially there is a total absence of any post-operative sensitivity or marginal discoloration and also the marginal integrity is excellent.

I am very proud that we have managed to develop a product that harmonizes with and functions in the oral environment without the need for any chemical treatments or alterations of the natural teeth or tissue.”

Emil Abrahamsson, who heads Doxa’s U.S. operations, has received plenty of positive feedback on the product’s easy handling and lack of post-op sensitivity. He credits the research and planning that went into the product’s development with helping deliver such a unique material.

“Our founder is a professor at the Uppsala University and we are very connected to the University,” Abrahamsson said. “In one way we act as a department of the material science department.”

Orascoptic
Matthew Gotto, Product Manager
2.5 years with the company, worked on the Orascoptic Freedom LED Headlight

No matter what type of product you’re developing or who you’re developing it for, in the end it all comes down to what the customers think.

Getting that customer feedback during the process is critical, and that’s why Product Manager Matthew Gotto looks forward to that first interaction his customers, the dentists, have with a product. That first time they get their hands on a prototype is a great experience, and a great opportunity for the team at Orascoptic to find out what their customers think is working and what they think can be approved.

With Orascoptic’s new Freedom LED Headlight, clinicians loved the fact that the headlight is a portable system with no cords to get in their way or hold them back, something Gotto said clinicians initially told him and his team was needed in the industry.

Clinicians also weighed in on where the on/off controls and setting adjustments should be on the headlight for the easiest usability, which ended up being valuable information for the final design of the product. Gotto brought in various mock ups with toggle switches and push buttons for them to try out. Clinicians came back with concerns about infection control, cleanability and reliability issues that come with traditional mechanical control switches. That led the team to incorporating capacitive-touch technology in the headlight, an innovation that eliminates the need for a mechanical switch and the concerns that come with it.

Watching clinicians work with those first prototypes is such a rewarding experience for the whole development team, Gotto said, and it’s great to hear customer thoughts about what you’ve done to that point in the development process. Knowing they played such an important role in a product’s development is something clinicians really get excited about, and that’s also great for the team to see.

Patterson Dental
Jim Garrett, Senior Commercial Software Architect
15 years with the company, Helped develop, launch CAESY Cloud in 2011

Patterson Dental’s Jim Garrett has always enjoyed using technology to accomplish tasks that most previously thought to be unachievable.

The Senior Commercial Software Architect, who works at the recently remodeled Patterson Technology Center in Effingham, Ill., was the leader behind the innovative Eaglesoft practice management software almost two decades ago. Now Garrett oversees a team of software engineers that helped Patterson develop and launch CAESY Cloud in 2011, a patient education platform that delivers more than 280 multimedia presentations online.

“There’s no installation, no hardware to purchase,” Garrett said. “Since it’s online it’s as easy as signing up and you can go from being interested to being a user in about 30 seconds.

“What makes it different in general and special is the CAESY content,” said Garrett, who has worked with Patterson for more than 15 years. “It’s a vast library of high quality content with 3D videos and animation, and multiple language audio. What makes CAESY Cloud so valuable is you’ve taken the content that had really been the gold standard for a long time and just made another delivery system and made it even more available to people out of the box.”

CAESY Cloud is PC and Mac compatible, and can also be viewed on iPads, iPods and smartphones. But Garrett and his team did plenty of research and testing before releasing this latest product. Garrett and his team started this project off with extensive research on the best way to deliver videos to users without losing any quality, not wanting “to put something online in an inferior way that would damage the product.” The goal was to make sure that the user experience for CAESY Cloud was as high-end as it could be.

“The technical team spent four or five months just researching the best avenue to deliver this content with the best quality before ever even developing the product,” he said. “We didn’t want to come out with it and miss. We didn’t want to come out and have it be slow or pixilated. We didn’t want to come out and have it be YouTube…we wanted to be a little better than that in the quality.”
Between the PTC facility and Patterson’s Vancouver, Wash. location-engineers got to work on developing CAESY Cloud. “The Vancouver people deserve most of the credit and our senior engineer Shane Stapleton did a lot of technical legwork and a lot of the heavy lifting,” Garrett said.

The product was beta tested in June and featured on the cover of DPR in July, and user comments indicate that CAESY Cloud has been well received by clinicians.

“The feedback has been great. Most of it has been asking for more functionality,” Garrett said. “That’s great. They’re using it and wanting to see how it expands and how they can use it more in their practices. We’re not getting, ‘My videos are slow,’ or ‘I can’t connect.‘ It’s all, ‘This is great and I’d also like to do X with this.’ ”

Garrett was one of the core Eaglesoft developers when Patterson acquired Eaglesoft in 1997, and has served as a programmer, a clinical development manager, and as the technical manager on all of Patterson’s commercial products in the dental, medical and veterinary markets.
“One of the main things we wanted was to get the same quality of video by varying the bandwidth that’s delivered so you can watch video on your PC with a highspeed video connection, or you can watch it on your iPad and it’s going to adjust itself to give you the best quality it can at your connection all of the time,” he said. “You can watch it on an iPhone, iPad, you can watch it on a PC or Mac; it just instantly made CAESY much more portable than it was before.”

When ideas come together and develop into a better way of doing things, Garrett’s job can be quite rewarding.

“The most fun that we have as a technical division comes from Patterson trying to stay current on the technology and to look at things outside the dental, medical and veterinary markets,” Garrrett said. “If you look at technology and you look at the needs of your customers and then you try and marry the two it’s always really rewarding when you feel like you saw something where these two things that didn’t play together, could play together and make a viable product that could help make people’s lives better and make their business better, run smoother.”

Henry Schein Dental
Maureen Knott, Vice President of Product Advertising
25 years with the company, worked on Henry Schein Cares

Maureen Knott loves working for a large health care distributor, but what really makes her smile is reaching out and helping those in need.

Through her work at Henry Schein Dental, Maureen is deeply involved in Henry Schein Cares, the Company’s global corporate social responsibility program. Maureen, who recently celebrated her 25th year with the company, takes great pride in her involvement in Henry Schein’s Think Pink, Practice Pink and Global Reflections programs.

In the six years since Maureen developed the Think Pink program, which raises awareness and support for breast cancer, it has been extremely gratifying for her and her team to see the tremendous impact that the program has with the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Jerome L. Greene Family Center in New York City, where funds from the Henry Schein Cares Foundation help adult guests stay free of charge while undergoing radiation treatments or chemotherapy.

“Henry Schein Cares is something that (CEO) Stanley Bergman has always been very passionate about, because our company firmly believes in doing well by doing good,” said Maureen. “We were looking to find a way to engage our customers in this work, and that is how I created our Think Pink, Practice Pink program through Henry Schein Cares. I pitched it to senior management, they trusted me, believed in me and I had the opportunity to run with this program.”

A brochure displaying pink products was created  with Henry Schein’s supplier partners, and now a number of manufacturers actually create exclusive pink products just to distribute through the company for this program. When customers purchase any of these products from September through December, a portion of the proceeds goes to the Henry Schein Cares Foundation, and that funding goes to the American Cancer Society, which in turn helps operate 48 Hope Lodge locations.

“When we initially visited the Hope Lodge location in New York City, we were so impressed with their program and what they had to offer their guests, that we knew we had to work with them,” said Maureen, who added that information on the various programs is available online at henryschein.com. “Henry Schein made a half -a-million-dollar contribution to Hope Lodge to support this program. Think Pink has evolved to become a terrific program with an impact that we could have never imagined when we first began this effort. It makes our team, and me personally, feel very gratified to give back to our community.”

“I am fortunate that Henry Schein gave me and our team the opportunity to make this program happen. When I go to Hope Lodge and have the guests there come up and say ‘Thank You’…it means more to me than a million dollars. Just knowing that we can help people in need in this way makes it all worthwhile.”

Similar to the Think Pink program, the Global Reflections program, which aims to raise awareness about and support for the protection of the environment, has a brochure featuring green products. Funds raised through this effort are disbursed to organizations focused on environmental protection and related health concerns, and helps to educate dentists about strategies to building a green practice.

“Our lives are so busy, and I feel very fortunate that I can give back to the community through Henry Schein,” she said. “The one thing that makes Henry Schein stand apart-and I feel like I have been able to contribute-is our steadfast commitment to giving back to the communities in which we serve.”

As VP of Product Advertising, Maureen develops strategies to educate dentists about the range of products and services available through Henry Schein. She manages product advertising, and she and  her team develop all of the marketing materials distributed to the dental community, including both print and electronic. One of her team’s key strategies is to assist in the coordination of new product launches so that when a supplier is ready to roll out a product, both the advertising message and the sales staff’s messages and actions are all connected.

“Our key message to customers is  everything that you need, we have that and we do that. We create monthly fliers and work with our supplier partners to make sure their products are visible within our portfolio of marketing programs. We want to make sure that they are successful, because when they are successful, then we are successful.” Maureen cares about people within and outside of this industry  and she is passionate about developing strategies to not only help the business succeed, but also to help as many people have reasons to smile as possible.

Hu-Friedy Mfg. Co. Inc.
Andy Xilas, Vice-President of GP/Specialty and Surgical Strategic Business Unit Division
25 years with the company, worked on the Pedo Crowns

What was your involvement in the Hu-Friedy Pedo Crown’s product development?
My role is making sure the development and launch teams have the resources they need. I help manage road blocks that come up throughout the process. And then there’s the voice of  the customer. I ensure we not only have the customer in mind at the beginning, but that it’s always there in front of us, leading the way throughout the entire development process. So overall I serve as an advocate and champion for the team, helping connect them with the proper resources such as engineering, focus groups, KOL partners, packaging and more so we are meeting the customers’ needs by developing the right product.

What do you think dentists would be most surprised to learn about the behind the scenes of product development?  
I’m not sure they’re aware of the amount of corporate energies dedicated to regulatory compliance. It’s really staggering, but of course it is totally appropriate for companies in the medical device arena to be held to a high standard. We take it a step further than the FDA and GMP requirements and are voluntarily part of the ISO standard.
That means we have to go through vigorous testing and auditing from outside agencies to earn and maintain certification. This is just one example of the regulatory rigor. It’s one of the larger elements of a product launch that people aren’t aware of, but it’s critical to ensure we meet and exceed customer expectations.  

What is your favorite part of product development?  
I’ve got a couple favorites. One is bringing new products to the market that make it easier for practitioners to deliver more consistent clinical outcomes. It’s gratifying to be able to do that. And then working with the various customers, from the private practitioners to the universities, and getting their feedback early and often. It’s just fun. It’s a good way of learning and you engage in interesting dialogue that often leads to new solutions and new choices. It’s a great thing.  

What are the Pedo Crown’s main benefits?
Four things come to mind for me. It’s pre-trimmed and pre-crimped, which saves a lot of time and allows for quick placement. The next two go back to the occlusal surface. The occlusal anatomy mimics natural tooth structure and has a thickness that gives great resistance. If you need to do any finishing, the properties of our materials allow for ease of cutting.

But I’d like to think we go beyond the product itself. We want to make sure we offer great programs and services, and have worked hard to have an adjunct in terms of education. We put together a step-by-step tutorial video on how to place the crown.  

How many people were involved in the development?  
We had more than a dozen people spending a significant amount of time behind the scenes making this product a reality. I may be the face behind the scenes but the reality is this a team effort. Regulatory, engineering, R&D, marketing, corporate sales management are among the many players. It truly is a team approach.

Reality Engineering/GURURick Henriksen, President Reality Engineering/GURU1 year with the company, worked on GURU 5

Rick Henriksen doesn’t like to describe GURU 5 as “just patient education.” No, the President of Reality Engineering thinks of the latest GURU patient communication suite (thehouseofguru.com) as a whole lot more.

He believes practices implementing product will positively change a slew of important things along the way, namely both the oral and whole body health of its patients, the health of the practice, and just as importantly, educating the population of the importance in choosing the best oral care.

“GURU is really a teaching tool. It has hundreds of animations, illustrations and images that are designed to help doctors and staff teach better-what the patients’ conditions are, what the consequences of those choices will be. We see that educated patients make better healthcare decisions.”

GURU’s strength is digital visual learning and the product’s success formula is comprised of four elements: 1) compelling visualization in both 3D and 2D; 2) audio narration; 3) customization; and 4) interaction and motivation. The combination of all these elements leads to both better understanding and a significantly higher retention rate compared to just hearing a case presentation or seeing a procedure sketched on a sticky note.  

Henriksen has been involved in the dental industry since 1997 in a variety of roles starting with independent sales of Kreativ air abrasion systems and Surgitel loupes, to helping build DEXIS into a leader in digital x-ray, and then overseeing all of Danaher’s imaging systems including Gendex and i-CAT in North America.

Now working with GURU, a new wealth of information linking oral health to overall health gives Henriksen and his team an extra incentive, one that can help change people’s lives.

Knowing the dental industry well, he has learned that doctors by and large have a difficult time having a conditioned treatment option and consequences conversation with their patients. Very many don’t like the idea of selling dentistry and often times assume what patients can and can’t afford, or where their value lies.

“We think that that’s unfortunate because both patients and practices suffer in the process,” he said. “With the growing understanding that there is a link between oral health and whole body health, the big ideas for me are: I believe we have the ability to have a positive effect on the health care conversation in this country. Because if we can get people to understand the importance of better oral healthcare and choosing up in their oral health options then that will have a positive effect on their whole body health and over the long term have a positive effect on the healthcare conversation.”

So an easy-to-use and implement visual system like GURU 5 can help doctors and staff both educate their patients and increase case acceptance, he said.

VOCO AmericaLeif Ebert, President VOCO America14 years with the company, worked on launch of GrandioSO

For years, many dentists used and liked the company’s GrandiO nano-hybrid resin composite for universal restorative use. Yet VOCO scientists back in Germany were hard at work making an even better material, and they were backed by requests from dentists who let VOCO America President Leif Ebert and his colleagues know just what they wanted.

That research and hard work resulted in GrandioSO, a universal 89% filled nano-hybrid composite introduced in early 2011 and manufactured at VOCO’s Cuxhaven, Germany facility, a modern laboratory and production area that exports to more than 120 countries.

“The way we do things at VOCO is when one product is launched we pretty much start looking for the next one,” explains Ebert, who works at VOCO’s New York offices and travels to Germany about twice a year. “How can we make it even better?”

Early plans for GrandioSO began seven years ago when company chemists attempted to develop a material that would address requests from doctors who were currently using GrandiO, but who wanted to see improved polishability, less light sensitivity and more opacity for anterior restorations.

“Our chemists found out that by making our filler size more we were able to get the better polishability of the material,” said Ebert, noting that this year’s launch was the company’s biggest and most important product launch ever. “The rest was fine tuning with a couple of things here and there.”

After plenty of tests in-house, and use of state-of-the art science with independent university studies and with clinical advisors who sampled the product, GrandioSO was launched and the results have been great.

“When we launched that product we had a 38-page documentation of all the independent studies, and we are very proud of that,” Ebert said. “This is the best product we’ve ever launched. We spent about a million dollars (to promote it), and we invested a lot into a sampling program to give doctors a chance to try it out.”

Information on VOCO’s free sample program can be found at dentalproductsreport.com and at vocoamerica.com.