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Thread: When do you fire a lab?

  1. #1
    Eyes eastward... Uilleann's Avatar
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    When do you fire a lab?

    I know all labs go through patches where basically everything falls apart for a time. People leave, equipment fails, 3rd party suppliers go out of business etc etc...I get it.

    But when is enough enough?

    One issue that seems to come up repeatedly with full service wholesale labs is lead time creep. Almost always when a new account is opened, jobs will routinely come back in a timely fashion. Anything from a couple days to maybe 7-10 if it's something more complex such as a mirror, high wrap, step bevel, PAL for example. But if you're seeing "normal" jobs taking 10-14 days (let's just throw the whole "business/working days excuse right out the window - patients don't care. Their clock starts running as soon as the card is swiped at checkout and we all know it.) Should mirror suns be taking three to four weeks? Two months? Should even "modern" digital PALs with common AR be taking 2-3 weeks?

    Do you have any particular unacceptable patterns or scenarios from your labs that you just won't put up with in your practice? I know we're all human, and its surprising more errors don't creep into the system with more regularity than they do. But it seems that we're seeing a much more lax attitude from more and more wholesalers on everything from "you'll get it when you get it." to "It's within tolerance." etc.

    How do you guys handle these situations? TIA

  2. #2
    Rising Star
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    I've 98% fired two long term labs recently.

    A little different than you, I'm 99.9% uncut. I finish allllllllmost everything in house. LOTS of difficult stuff too. Tons of crazy wraps. Custom drill mounts. The easy stuff is, well, EASY. For the last decade or so I've used 2 main labs and loved them both for what they've done. I know, like and respect the owners/managers. In the last couple years they've both really started to suffer. Countless errors, many STUPID, countless remakes (all free, no questions asked.... but STILL). About 4-6 months ago I started tracking both accounts (and a new one I had opened) how many jobs were being re-done for "Lab-errors"... their lab, not mine. I found that in both of the 'OLD' suppliers I was around 33% remakes. One slightly more, one slightly less. Regardless, both were beyond unacceptable. The 'new' lab I'm using is much, much more accurate. I've had countless discussions with both 'OLD' labs' owners/managers and have now had enough. I've basically dropped them. We're talking ~$5k lab bills per month down to less than a grand and declining fast. I'm still shopping but I've been too damn busy to try anyone 'new' at the moment. Have talked to several. Everyone promises the moon but few can deliver. I'm a 1 person show (ok, I just hired some help...) and I DEMAND fantastic products and service and provide the same to my customers. I generally expect a 5 day turn around time(order to delivery!) on just about everything and I know that's asking a lot. And I'll find a way to deliver it. Customers love it. Demand more!

    I guess that rant was slightly different than your situation but the moral of the story is the same... Demand more! There are suppliers out there that do a better job. It's a pain in the *** to research and start new accounts but can be well worth it.

  3. #3
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    I also am 95% uncut.
    I'm having this problem with my newish lab and my old one the only reason I left was because I had 15 people coming back because they could see the laser engravings within a six month period. Who knows how many didn't come back.

    we had used this lab for decades, they were free form pioneers. Never had a problem with their lenses before then all of a sudden I did. Then their management acted like I was the only one who had the problem with patients coming back complaining about seeing laser engravings.

    That was the final straw, don't bull**** a bull****ter.

    Now I have a different great high quality independent lab that is SO EFFING INNEFiCIENT it makes me hurt inside.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tallboy View Post
    I also am 95% uncut.
    I'm having this problem with my newish lab and my old one the only reason I left was because I had 15 people coming back because they could see the laser engravings within a six month period. Who knows how many didn't come back.

    we had used this lab for decades, they were free form pioneers. Never had a problem with their lenses before then all of a sudden I did. Then their management acted like I was the only one who had the problem with patients coming back complaining about seeing laser engravings.

    That was the final straw, don't bull**** a bull****ter.

    Now I have a different great high quality independent lab that is SO EFFING INNEFiCIENT it makes me hurt inside.
    B-u-l-l-s-h-i-t- always starts from the source and goes in circles. So there's really no issue with the engravings. People just have to love to complain since everyone is so entitled these days and life is really really hard living in a social media fishbowl.

    Tell your patients next time those laser etchings that one of their friends spotted in the right light and said what's on your lenses (that they could possibly not see themselves while wearing them) is why their lenses are so expensive and custom made so they look so dapper in all their selfies.

    Fight BS with BS. You're lab is correct.

  5. #5
    Master OptiBoarder rbaker's Avatar
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    Sounds like an opportunity for someone to go against the syndicate and open a new lab.
    Last edited by rbaker; 08-24-2019 at 01:02 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lab Insight View Post
    Fight BS with BS. You're lab is correct.
    No. You are wrong. I never had this problem before with them nor have I had I it since with my new lab. The only thing that changed was their cheap co2 laser that didn't have settings for different materials.

    For what they lost $ wise from my account in one year, let alone two, they could have avoided losing me. It was really hard to leave them because I really loved the guys and girls there but management ****ed up.

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    Engravings. Step back a decade, before FF was widespread. Too dark-too light-no one seemed to complain back then, or did you?

    With FF, there are two main options. Mechanical or CO2. Both etch the surface. Both require maintenance. I’m not sure about “cheap” CO2, as I have never used a cheap CO2. All engravers have material settings. All engravers have darkness settings. How often these get calibrated is another issue.

    Here is where this gets complicated for labs. Every account has their own requirements. Some want them nearly invisible. Others complain that they can’t find them. Labs cannot calibrate for every individual account’s tastes. We need to average these and then maintain the engraver to remain consistent. We also need to be willing to “break” those that are too light or too dark.

    So, let’s not forget that engravings have ALWAYS been an issue, well before FF, when everything was molded. And, if you remember the first of the Shamir designs, those engravings were so visible, more than any branded designs produced today, and more than any molded design. Nobody complained back then, so what has changed?
    I bend light. That is what I do.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lensmanmd View Post
    Engravings. Step back a decade, before FF was widespread. Too dark-too light-no one seemed to complain back then, or did you?

    With FF, there are two main options. Mechanical or CO2. Both etch the surface. Both require maintenance. I’m not sure about “cheap” CO2, as I have never used a cheap CO2. All engravers have material settings. All engravers have darkness settings. How often these get calibrated is another issue.

    Here is where this gets complicated for labs. Every account has their own requirements. Some want them nearly invisible. Others complain that they can’t find them. Labs cannot calibrate for every individual account’s tastes. We need to average these and then maintain the engraver to remain consistent. We also need to be willing to “break” those that are too light or too dark.

    So, let’s not forget that engravings have ALWAYS been an issue, well before FF, when everything was molded. And, if you remember the first of the Shamir designs, those engravings were so visible, more than any branded designs produced today, and more than any molded design. Nobody complained back then, so what has changed?
    A decade ago I was using IOT freeform from the lab I am talking about (okay 8 years ago) No problems. As far as Shamir are you talking about the Autograph? We had plenty of those coming in from central lab at the tail end of when I worked for SuckaLux.

    I am talking about 15 people in 6 montha time who you could see the engravings on their lenses while talking to them from 5 feet away, maybe 7 of those high dollar patients I could even see them from 7 feet away. They were only a hair less noticeable than chemistrie clips, I'm not joking.

    I posted something once to bounce against the polysoaked brains on here before I left the independent lab. You told me there were co2 lasers with settings per material and those with one global setting. Something happened at my old lab. I miss those pittsburgh folks. Super good people.

    Engravings have always been 0 2 4 or 6 drop in my experience. Drop, haha.

    I'm just as certain it was the new hardcoater as it was the engraver. After I complained that multi thousand dollar pairs were coming back to me complaining (not to mention the ones I never let leave the finishing lab) They decided to "double dip" my lenses to make them less noticeable. Then the engravings looked linked 3 super shiny specks of dust on the lens markings. Who cares? Opticians just dispense them and deal with the fall back. Why would I want my employees to be able to trouble shoot problems with progressives? GTFO

    When I left I was also sick of the "stamps" being 35 degrees off axis, but I'd just wash those off. They have fixed those and got a new machine since then, I miss them but haven't gone back yet.

    I think I might. They are good people.

    They started to try to compete with the cheapness of FEA and came out with a cheap lens to compete, the SOLA zeiss lens they used was fantastic, they didn't need to go cheaper.

    Maybe I'll go back, but I'll be independent until I die. We do a lot of funky RXes
    Last edited by Tallboy; 08-24-2019 at 03:02 PM.

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    Lol, now this thread has turned into an argument on engravings? Only around here... lol...

    The engravings absolutely should not be too prominent, I'm a stickler on them too. And, I also gripe when they're so faint I can't find them. It's the lab's job to keep their equipment calibrated and and perform the appropriate quality control to ensure the engravings are appropriate. I've made labs re-do jobs before for both too light, and too prominent engravings. If I had to choose, I'd rather they be a little light than too prominent.

    Like Tallboy above, if I can easily see the engravings while having a conversation with the customer they're too prominent and I will have them re-done.

  10. #10
    What's up? drk's Avatar
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    We've had a couple of complaints and I thought the patients were crazy from even noticing. I guess I should be more sympathetic.

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    Laser engravers are very difficult to control not because they are out of calibration but we are trying to engrave a non uniform surface. Yes there is a setting by material but one side of the engraving will be closer to laser causing a deeper mark. The higher the curve the more of difference between one side of the engraving and the other. We try and find a setting that comprises the result usually giving a very light setting which never makes for an unhappy patient. But finding the engraving can prove somewhat frustrating. Using an arc lamp never fails to work, a small investment for the lab or for anyone who needs a little help finding engravings.
    This is never a problem with front side engravings as the surface is always spherical and the curves are never to extreme. In the early days of Freeform pre engraved (on the the front) blanks were used but they were not able to be used once we were able to de center the design.

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    That's great lens man, but there is zero doubt that the lab I am talking about, the 30 year relationship with our company I had to end, went from great and reasonable engravings to a cluster duck of a situation. Then they acted like I was being unreasonable.

    It was solved easily by switching labs, none of the labs I use today have this issue (beyond the odd job).
    Now I have other problems with my wholesale lab. I wish it was feasable for me to have an in house surfacing / coating lab so I could only blame myself when things go wrong but it just isn't. Running a full production wholesale lab is tough work to get right, I know it. But so is what I do

  13. #13
    Eyes eastward... Uilleann's Avatar
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    At the end of the day, I suppose the two things that really will sink us as a business, is having a supplier who cares not enough about speed or quality. And in today's market, those are critical to hit - every single time. It seems there is a fourth quality we're seeing more and more from with many labs - and that's the ability to make excuses for poor work practices. It's a shame really, but seems to be the way "service" is trending. *shrug* Trying to thread the needle and find the perfect balance with suppliers is getting trickier for sure.

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    Master OptiBoarder rbaker's Avatar
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    What we have here is a lack of competition. The Syndicate has squeezed out all the little guys by making them offers that they could not refuse.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rbaker View Post
    What we have here is a lack of competition. The Syndicate has squeezed out all the little guys by making them offers that they could not refuse.
    And the Syndicate has successfully lobbied for a relaxation of tolerance values to reduce their costs, as well.

    It is not just the labs, but the general lack of knowledge in our industry as well. Gone are the days when an apprentice actually apprenticed. Learning how to perform actual calculations by hand. Understanding the principals of basic optics. Learning how to cut patterns by hand, groove by hand, or, gasp, an edger with only a start, pause and power button.
    The majority of "McOpticians" do not know Prentice's rule, cannot calculate MBS, and nominal curves - what's that? Base Curve chart? Just a pretty poster with color coded boxes.
    They don't adjust for vertex, instead, they raise the "OC" Understanding fit? Why? Just raise the fitting ht. -8 in a 58/16? PX has a large head. Why not a 50/24 instead? No clue. The computer says it can be done. The computer says it can't be done. Can't see? Blame the labs. Blame the ODs. Blame another optician/business.

    This also applies to labs. Hire machine operators at the lowest wage possible. Optical knowledge not necessary. We have computers that think for you.

    The tail wagging the dog.

    Look, we all make mistakes. Ours is a business of knowledge mixed with a large dose of subjectivity. ODs need to determine the refractive values from patient feedback. Opticians need to determine 20/good from patient feedback. Lab need to determine compliance from QA standards inspecting 10-20 prs/hr per inspector. We cannot all be 100% correct all of the time. That is why we have Dr remakes, Optician remakes and Lab remakes.

    I am just saying that there are more people in our field with less knowledge than ever before. We have more sophisticated machinery than ever before. The Syndicate has been the one major factor in all of this.
    I bend light. That is what I do.

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    Eyes eastward... Uilleann's Avatar
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    All good points. However, there are a few of us who remain that DO still care about optics, job quality, AND pt satisfaction at the end of the day. My original post was more along the lines of when is enough enough, from an inside perspective. I refuse to roll over and accept sub-standard lab work because someone in the chain is too lazy or too cheap (lab owners), to put out quality work. Pt's expect more and more from B&M shops, and we're no exception. I need lab work that can keep up with the pinnacle of quality I expect of myself, and always strive to offer my patients. If they can't or won't, then I need to keep searching for someone who can. That was part of the frustration in my OP. I refuse to sit back, stop learning, and stop trying to be better every day at what I do. I simply expect my suppliers to work to do the same. That's not too much to ask.

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    I blame bearded and/or tatted and pierced millenials.

    (Ducks and runs for cover...)

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    Not sure what lab you use, but my lab had a new laser installed and the setting on it wasn't correct. We had a couple jobs (maybe 2 or 3) that had heavy etchings. When I complained they told me how it happened and quickly remade them. I saw the etchings before they got to the patients and told the patients they could wear them while new lenses were being made. Patients were happy that we inspect the lenses.

    If my lab kept screwing things up, they'd be gone. I have no problem telling them that. I only had to do that once, and I spoke to the lab rep before I did that. He said things were bad there and that they fired a lot of people and got a new manager. He said to give them another shot to redeem themselves. So, I said sure. Then after that I got an order where I supplied a thin metal frame and they edged it into another account's black zyl. Done. I worked in a wholesale lab. I know and can understand how things happen. We're all human. What makes me angry is when it happens a lot affecting your patients, and when the lab lies and gives you false information. I KNOW WHEN YOU ARE MAKING CRAP UP! Ugh!

  19. #19
    What's up? drk's Avatar
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    Using an arc lamp never fails to work, a small investment for the lab or for anyone who needs a little help finding engravings.
    Lensman11: Can you link to one? I may be interested...

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    I am in business because people are willing to pay a little more for a lot more service and expertise. I can't be the only one on here who would be willing to pay more per job if it meant the people making them cared and were well trained (and compensated!)

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    Present company excluded, of course. Optiboarders are a cut above.
    Our lab errors run about 1%, which on average is good, but not good enough.

    On occasion, we need to outsource. Just today, I had a conversation with a high quality, well regarded lab that we needed to complete an order for us due to several reasons. It has been close to a month, and they had to reorder lenses due to breakages. I ended up canceling the order and sourced the SF blanks to do them in house. I get and understand your frustrations.

    At what point would you throw in the towel?
    I work closely with my lens and equipment vendors to continually improve our products, while keeping my pricing as low as possible. I also try to work closely with our locations to improve quality from start to finish, up to and including product and optical training.

    My frustrations come from vendors that point fingers at each other. From locations that ignores the information and training that I provide. I am currently chairing a joint project addressing total quality and standardization. Most of the panel members refuse to acknowledge their role in this, citing lab issues. Bear in mind that half of our locations are in LDO territory, and all of our opticians are ABOC, including my lab techs. Total remakes are over 7%, not including BPP remakes. So where is the 6% differential?

    I can work towards controlling the manufacturing side of the equation. I cannot control the lack of optician knowledge.
    I bend light. That is what I do.

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    The labs in the US are not properly staffed to maintain the processes and equipment that are required in today’s market. My last position before retiring was with an HMO owned lab. We were the first non Zeiss lab to process their Free Form designs. Part of the qualification process involved Zeiss engineers to inspect and approve your process and equipment. The first question I was asked when they arrived was where is your engineering department. My response we don’t have one. How can you run a lab without engineers.
    The honest answer is you can’t You have chemical processes, mechanical processes and stringent standards to maintain. It cannot be done properly educated and experienced professional manufacturing people.

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    The arc lamp is available from Bulbtronics.

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