What makes a system stand out

March 21, 2012

At Ziemek Aesthetic Dental Lab, technology has become a big part of the workflow and an integral aspect of the business’ operations. Lab manager Jamie Stover, CDT, said evaluating new systems to see what fits with the lab is critical to the lab’s success.

At Ziemek Aesthetic Dental Lab, technology has become a big part of the workflow and an integral aspect of the business’ operations. Lab manager Jamie Stover, CDT, said evaluating new systems to see what fits with the lab is critical to the lab’s success.

At its core, the lab is simply looking for ways to do what it does faster, with fewer costs and with improved outcomes. A lot goes into evaluating a system before it is adopted by Ziemek, and Stover said the company behind the product is a big factor in their decision, because you are really entering into a partnership that needs to be a lasting one.

New companies may have breakthrough technologies, but Stover said the customer support and training is often better when working with companies with a proven track record in the dental industry, and he’s seen the advantages of investing in the 3rd or 4th generation of a technology rather than jumping into something that’s brand new. A company that has been working with dental labs for a long time is often Ziemek’s first choice, but he also takes into account experience in other industries. Stover cites 3Shape’s scanner, and how the company moved into the dental lab industry after revolutionizing the manufacture of hearing aids.

Often established companies are prepared to allow a dental lab a trial period with a new technology prior to completing a purchase. But when that isn’t possible, Stover likes to be in touch with other labs using those systems to get a sense of how they work in real world situations. Those evaluations can be difficult because all labs are different, so a system that works great in one business might not be the perfect fit for his lab. Still talking with other labs can be helpful when trying to assess the value of the customer support a company provides to labs using its systems.

Another key factor to the evaluation process Stover uses is whether or not a system is a closed or open technology platform. Open systems are more attractive to him because they allow a lab more freedom in how the system will be used. The trend of companies even partially opening their systems has been good for the industry.

As an example, Stover cited the new Straumann CARES Scan CS2 scanner that works with the open Dental Wings software. This means the scanner can be used for Straumann cases as well as everything Dental Wings can do, making it more valuable than a scanner that could only be used for cases involving Straumann implants. Another example is the way Sirona selectively opened the CEREC system. Ziemek was then able to accept digital impressions from CEREC AC users and design the cases in the lab’s existing 3Shape software. The lab didn’t need a new scanner at the time, but wound up purchasing a MCXL Mill to produce the restorations.

“Sirona sold a mill to a lab that may not have purchased one prior, because their (formerly) closed architecture business model was not attractive to us,” he said. “Labs need to invest wisely to get the best ROI while being able to provide a myriad of restorative options to their dentists.”