in the lab :September 2004 Optical Lab Products
The eTech Phenomenon and the Optical Lab
The Internet has changed the way we communicate; for many labs, it has also changed the way they do business.
|Benjamin Disraeli, the 19th century English Prime Minister and author once stated, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Whether that’s true or not, we cannot ignore the statistics on the use of the Internet. By 1994, about 13% of adults over 18 were using it; by 2003, the figure approached 70% of the total population of the United States! And over half of the users have used the Internet to make a purchase.The implications for our industry are impossible to ignore. Consumers who are comfortable with, and are already using the Internet for personal purchases, will do so in their business lives as well. About 76% of people aged 18 to 24 use the Internet, and 72% of those 25 to 34 do so as well. These are fascinating statistics, and ones that will continue to grow rapidly in the near future.Several companies are jockeying to become the premier e-commerce site for the optical industry. Many offer a variety of products for true, one-stop shopping for the dispenser. Individual labs are also working to develop their Internet strategies and offerings. Here is an overview on how three labs are working with their software providers to offer high-tech ordering and tracking to their customers. The companies offer an explanation of how technology has changed their businesses — and what it can do for yours.—Jim Grootegoed||Six years ago, NEA Optical in Jonesboro, AR, made the switch to C.C. System’s technology and remote ordering system — and it’s never looked back. “This is the way ordering systems should operate,” says Jim Evans, owner of NEA Optical. “An order or frame is never lost, all the data is entered accurately and completely, and we save a tremendous amount of time” A member of Optical Services International, NEA Optical is part of an elite group of approximately 35 labs that are on the cutting-edge of technology.As a full service lab, NEA Optical runs approximately 250 orders each day for its service areas, which include Arizona, southern Missouri, western Tennessee, northwest Mississippi, and parts of western Kentucky. About 40% of the company’s orders come in electronically, sent seamlessly through Eyefinity. The only time NEA Optical manually handles the order is if an ECP calls with changes to the order. Otherwise, when the order comes in, it goes into a work tray, lenses are placed, and the order proceeds directly to the lab.
It’s an added convenience for ECP’s to locate their orders.
|Frame Tracing: Approximately 40% of the company’s orders are for frame tracing, and because of the company’s years of technology experience, tracing accuracy easily reaches 98%. “We have the technique and experience in frame tracing, that’s why we have a high level of accuracy,” Evans says. “We know how to utilize the technology to the fullest extent.”High-tech ordering and tracing can be a problem for some ECP’s, as some practices are skeptical of using the system. The solution: Evans offers his customers the opportunity to install the system for three to four weeks with absolutely no risk. After trying the system and understanding its time-saving benefits and efficiency, about 90% of practices decide to adopt the technology. In fact, Evans has hooked up 12 additional customers in the past six months.”We’ve seen a large amount of growth in the ordering system,” Evans explains. How does he view the future of remote ordering and tracing? “It’s going to grow tremendously, especially for smaller to mid-size labs.Compared to bigger labs, we are able to make decisions faster and put new systems in without much time delay.”Evans also sees a boost in remote ordering and tracing as lens vendors help labs to persuade their customers to utilize the technology. “There’s an opportunity to partner with lens vendors to increase the installations of the technology,” says Evans. How? Evans has gotten some lens manufacturers involved with supporting this system by offering lens vouchers to NEA Optical customers who install and use the system. “The vouchers virtually help our customers cover the cost of the system,” Evans explains. Incentives like these will help labs and ECP’s implement more high-tech software for an easier, efficient, time-saving ordering process.|