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Thread: Starting a New Lab/ Looking for Advice

  1. #1
    OptiBoard Novice
    Join Date
    Jan 2020
    Optical Wholesale Lab (other positions)

    Starting a New Lab/ Looking for Advice

    Hello All,

    I'm currently working for a large optical Lab in PA and have been for the past 8 years. Now I'm looking into starting my own optical lab in NW PA and I am looking for the Do's and Don'ts, pointers, opinions that the community may be open to giving me. I'll be starting off small (3 person operation) just processing SF uncut lenses only with an standard House AR coating. We will be offering digital lenses, PLY, Plastic, H67 in SV, Progressive and FT28/35.

    I have spoken to dozens of providers and gotten their input on what they would like from an optical lab that they are not currently getting. even though they all have their own criteria that they would what improved some of the more common issue where customer service/satisfaction, quality, and turnaround time on jobs. Price did play a small part be most said that if I could meet their currant labs price they would try us out for a period of time.

    I currently have 11 providers who would use my lab when we open and my business plan calls for 50 with an average 5-7 jobs being sent to my lab per provider each week (350 jobs per week). I am guaranteeing a 2 day turnaround time (lab in/ Lab out) based on when the job is received into our system and not accounting for shipping.

    What I'm looking for is constructive advice from those who have been in my position and have done this before. What should my realistic starting capital requirements be? Cost of SF equipment? Would it be difficult for a starting lab to get approval from SHAMIR to carry their digital product? What are the industry average profit margins for SF uncut? is there anything that I am over looking? Am I better off not accepting insurance and just charging providers a fee?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Flat Land
    Dispensing Optician
    The only thing I will say is unless you have it in writing that those providers will send you work it means nothing.

  3. #3
    Rising Star
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Washington State
    Dispensing Optician
    The only thing I will say is unless you have it in writing that those providers will send you work it means nothing.
    Well said. Especially if you cold-called those providers, what they said could very well be lip service and/or just being nice on the phone. As an eternal optimist, I'd rather hope that's not the case, but as a realist you must prepare for empty promises.

    However, it's good that you're taking a direct approach with providers in asking what they like/dislike with their current labs. If possible, ask what labs those providers are currently using.

    The last optometry clinic I worked at started its own digital surfacing/edging lab from the ground-up: five years ago, they had just two edgers and ordered uncuts from larger wholesale labs. Just a couple years later, they had their own blocker, generator, fining equipment, AR process, tint tanks, etc. After about a year of having a complete surfacing lab, they brought in Shamir lenses and once they passed their verification, became certified to process their lenses (not the Shamir Glacier AR however). Seeing how Shamir WANTS to get into as many labs as possible, you shouldn't have any trouble getting the process started once you contact them. Even though I worked adjacent to this lab and I have some idea on average cost of lenses (which can vary depending on output), I obviously wouldn't post that number on a public forum, and the prices could vary wildly regarding margin because the lab/optical were one in the same company.

    Regarding cost of equipment, that depends on how much equipment you'll need and how new you want it. The lab I worked next to, they bought brand-new equipment and were becoming high-volume right away. They also had redundant equipment for a lab that intended to staff 5-6 full-time workers so their equipment cost was near seven figures, though that cost could also vary significantly. You may have to retrofit your lab to accommodate various equipment as well. I know of another lab somewhat close to me that had to get in touch with their local electricity provider because their AR machine drew so much power that it would shut down the entire lab if they ran it with anything else operational. Thus, they had a dedicated technician who worked overnights when everything else was off that only worked the AR/edgers, until they were able to work with their utility company.

  4. #4
    OptiBoard Apprentice
    Join Date
    Jan 2020
    Other Eyecare-Related Field
    In terms of designs, just go to IOT. Their designs are as good as anything out there. In terms of AR I really believe to be competitive you need to have a thermal dipped hard coat, any UV cured spin just doesn't hold up, and trust in AR will be your biggest push back from potential accounts. Also you need to negotiate a good shipping rate with either FedEx of UPS because you can't focus your energy locally, in order to have success you must find the low hanging fruit all over the country.

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