Going digital in the dental lab: To fear or not to fear?

There is nothing to fear when going digital in your dental lab

Dental Lab Fear

Reprinted with permission from WhipMix

Are you letting fear get in the way of transitioning your lab to a digital one? It was Franklin D. Roosevelt who said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” So why are we so afraid, and what do we have to fear?

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Are you afraid of the capital investment and the cost of buying the equipment? Are you afraid of new technology and computers? What about the learning curve - understanding the software and the new digital workflow? What about the new terminology or the transition itself — training staff, setting up the equipment, and creating new processes? Making the transition can be overwhelming for anyone.

It was just about a year ago when Al Fillastre, CDT and owner of Ceram-O-Arts Dental Lab in Lakeland, Fla., decided to transition his lab into a digital lab. When talking about his lab’s transition, Al refers to fear as False Events Appearing Real. Worrying can really bog you down and let the fear creep in. But all that worrying is for nothing because what you fear usually doesn’t up happening. Al said he had two choices — Forget Everything And Run orFace Everything And Rock.

Face Everything And Rock
Al chose Face Everything And Rock. The advantages of going digital far outweighed the fear of moving forward. Transitioning his lab to a digital lab has given him more accuracy, control, consistency, efficiency, and time savings. In addition, it has opened his lab to new markets and opportunities he was not able to access as a traditional lab. However, he tells other lab owners that going digital requires commitment, time, planning, and support.

Time investment
Going digital requires time. You’ll need to research to learn all you can about the different systems. Talk with other labs that are similar in size to see how they have made the transition. Follow discussion and group forums about different systems to determine which one fits your lab. With LMT Lab Day Chicago right around the corner during Chicago Midwinter, it’s the perfect time to see the different systems in action. Talking with users, attending digital presentations, and questioning company representatives will help you form a good picture of the equipment’s capabilities.

Once you have chosen the right CAD/CAM system for your dental lab, you’ll to need time to learn the system and how to merge your processes together — the traditional workflow and digital workflow. You will also need to train your employees on the equipment and thenew processes.

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Plan ahead
So you bought your first CAD/CAM system. Now what? There are a few important things you will want to plan for. The first is how and where you want the equipment set-up, and this may even require some physical facility changes. Do you want separate scanning and design stations? Who is going to be scanning and designing? What kind of training will they need? The second thing you will need to plan for is a reliable file back-up system. It is critical to keep your system and data protected. As much as technology is our friend, things can happen and you need to make sure your work is backed up on an external source.

Finally, you want to plan for the future. You are going to be investing a lot of time and money into your CAD-CAM system, so make sure the equipment you choose will work for your current offerings and those you wish to offer in the future.

Support
Transitioning your small lab is scary enough for you, but what about for your employees? Make sure you have the buy-in and support from everyone in the lab that the new addition(s) may affect. Receiving the full and enthusiastic support of your staff will help make the transition a lot easier. In addition, support from your distributor is extremely important as there can always be a glitch in the programs, or problems may arise that you’re unable to solve. Here are a few things you should look for:

• Make sure your distributor has a comprehensive training program available to give you one-on-one assistance to learn the basics and beyond. Make sure the distributor is certified to train you.

• Make sure you have unlimited remote assistance. You certainly won’t learn everything there is to know in a one- or two-day training course, so make sure you have access to remote assistance for quick questions or troubleshooting.

Given this information, what are you going to do? Face Everything And Rock? Sure hope so!

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