Going Digital? Where to start

Is doing your own digital equipment research all it’s cracked up to be?

One of the most frequent comments I get when speaking to Lab owners about changing their digital equipment is ‘before I decide, I’ll do my own research’. At first this sounds like a sensible approach, but over the past 24 months there has been such an acceleration in digital how can a lab owner keep up with the changes and make an objective decision. So, is doing your own digital equipment research all it’s cracked up to be?

Most Labs owners I meet up and down the country still spend significant amounts of time at the bench themselves, as well as managing staff, seeing clients and supposedly making time to win new business. Something has to give! So how does a lab committed to growth and change decide which way to go, so they make the best decision? In this article I’ll take a look at the pitfalls and what to avoid:

  1. The decision is delayed, or never made – at first there is no affect, you did it this way before and nothing was broken, right? Well probably not, you see you started looking for a digital solution because you were aware either your systems were getting old, behind the times or you were feeling the pressure from clinicians to make the change. It may be a blend of all three. The risk is your systems fail, you could lose out to more competitive labs who are pushing for new business to justify their digital investment and increased productivity. Your clinician concludes you’re never going to be able to change and goes elsewhere.
  2. You make the wrong choice – deciding to go down a path without all the facts is dangerous, so you either trust your own incomplete judgement, so while you may have a great deal of experience, digital is a fast moving and multi-disciplinary area. So having all the facts is vital. The risk – If you make a decision that is not completely informed the chances are it will cost you more as there is inevitably something you had not thought of.

The OEM offers a golden carrot – the trouble is as a Deborah Medan from Dragons Den once said ‘I’m out! Your offer sounds too good to be true, and if an offer sounds too good to be true, it usually is”. The risk – If you go to the OEM their sole purpose is to wrap you in to their solution. This is especially true of closed systems where incentives are offered free materials or implants if you buy xyz. This looks attractive on the surface, but sooner or later you will want the freedom to choose your own production route and I have seen time and again labs stuck in a closed solution with little choice of changing their production for the future; simply because of the cost of change.

  • It’s all about price – Isn’t it? Well let’s not pretend it’s not. For all of us price is a major consideration, but it’s not the only one. You can go to some of the large catalogue style suppliers and actually for your consumables why not. The risk – when it comes to buying a 3D printer, a mill or software it’s vital to get good advice. On paper many solutions may look right, but operationally it’s very easy to miss for example if the compressor you bought will actually give you the pressure ‘all the time’. Or if the software has a module to handle your design application.

So is there an alternative? It’s no surprise to you that I believe that at Techceram we have a new way to make sure you get the right solution. Why? Simply put, we can offer advice, because we offer a production support service to Labs we are using equipment, we speak to 100’s of labs every week and we have a team committed to researching the best equipment for a range of applications. Our training facility also offers support once you get your equipment or software in place, so you’re not left to flounder.

Starting fast – if you spend £’000’s on equipment it’s vital to be productive right away, our install and service team make this a reality ensuring you have minimal distruption.

Why would I work with Techceram rather than the manufacturer (OEM)?

To us each customer is a valuable relationship we want to develop and grow over the life of your Lab. Many companies already have worked with us and understand the difference we bring. When it comes to different equipment we can offer an objective insight in to what’s out there and how it performs. From this assessment we have sourced and enter in to distribution relationships with the OEM’s.

Our technical team, who have daily hands on experience of manufacturing for Labs, including software, milling and 3D print experts set about proving the equipment putting it through the rigours of what a labs require. Labs can often feel if occasionally there is a problem, or something goes wrong, they are just one small voice. However when you choose to buy through Techceram we offer the re-assurance there is a much bigger voice speaking on your behalf because to the OEM we are buying many machines, or licences so our leverage and influence is much greater.

This results are a higher level of service, back up and support as well as changes to equipment where a retro improvement can be made. An example of this was when an Imes-Icore mill had a sensor which was liable to get dust covered. Techceram has several comments from users and fed this back to Imes head office, their engineers in turn started working on a retro change which was then deployed to users; something like this was rarely to happen when the Lab tried to tackle this directly.

Jonathan Rayfield