Receiving Orders Via the Internet & Remote Tracing

By Dan Lundberg
Wholesale optical laboratories have been receiving Rx orders electronically for over twenty years. In the beginning, prescriptions arrived at the lab via modem, but the Internet quickly became the conduit for these orders. The average wholesale lab, operating with the DVI system, is receiving over forty percent of their work via the Internet and some receive more than seventy percent in this manner. The benefits of electronic ordering are there for both the lab and the ECP, with fewer errors and callbacks. With tight, well-written software at both ends, especially software designed to be integrated into one system; remote ordering can produce Rx orders that need not be edited. These can head directly into production, improving turn-around time and reducing costs. Redos due to entry errors at the lab are virtually eliminated. Some labs equate remote ordering with remote frame tracing, and think you can’t have one without the other. They believe that to get the ECP to order electronically they have to get that account a frame tracer. In fact, the majority of remote orders arrive at the lab without a frame tracing from the ECP. When the ECP is equipped with a frame tracer, they can transmit a frame tracing with the Rx, enabling the lab to deliver edged lens to the ECP. This process easily cuts a day or two off of an order’s turn-around time. Uncut accounts improve the quality of the lenses delivered to them (thickness, OC heights) if they send an electronic tracing. Tracing the frame at the ECP’s office also reduces the substantial handling involved in getting that frame to the lab. Most labs dedicate an entire wall to the storage of trays that are waiting for a frame. Having to manage “frames-to-come” (FTC) can amount to a full-time job. The managing of FTC by the lab often extends to the ECP’s office: Did they send the frame? Where did they send it? It is a clumsy process at best. DVI has written a lot of software over the years addressing this situation. An optical lab can successfully set up their accounts with a process that involves remote tracing and results in the lab delivering edged lenses that fit and that the ECP can easily mount. Utilizing electronic tracings, sent by the ECP, introduces the ECP into the lab’s production process. Tracing a frame, where the result is a “first-time fit” at the lab, is the product of an integrated process of operator training, calibration, and routine scheduled maintenance. This process includes not only the frame tracers, but the edgers as well. In addition, both the lab’s software system and the ECP’s remote ordering software need to be in sync. To achieve a “first-time fit” process with an ECP, the laboratory must work with that account to establish a production process that mirrors its own. Operator training is essential and must be ongoing. In the early days of frame tracers, one could tell who was operating the frame tracer based on how lenses looked after being edged. Today’s frame tracers are fairly simple to operate and tend to be more operator-independent than their predecessors. Still, the training must include the calibration procedures as well as the tracing of frames and lenses. The ECP needs to establish a calibration procedure. The calibration is generally a two-step process with the first step being to implement the frame tracer’s standard calibration procedures as defined by the manufacturer. The second step involves tracing and calibrating to an actual frame that is supplied by the lab. The lab provides the sizing information that the tracer must be able to duplicate to produce a lens with “first-time fit”. Once all of this is in place, it is important to run some tests. The ECP should transmit a test Rx, (not a live job) along with the frame tracings to the lab. Start with a weak plus or minus power Rx with a plastic or metal frame that the customer will be comfortable mounting. Transmit the orders and make sure that these orders are back in the ECP’s hands the next day. It is important to maintain the momentum and interest with the customer through this process. With the proper staging, as described above, you will find that the edged lenses will have an excellent fit and that they mount easily into the frame. If, in fact, the lenses need to be sized up or down a bit, make the necessary adjustment to the software controlling the sizing of the tracing, retransmit the test job and try it again. Repeat the training process until the job is correct. In order to maintain a high success rate of edging lenses using remote tracing, it is best to identify potential problem jobs and let the lab do both the edging and mounting on those. Wrap frames, drilled rimless, or any high plus or high minus Rxs that may present a challenge to mount are probably best left to the experts at the lab. The same goes for an Rx where there is an expensive lens involved. The ECP may prefer that the lab’s technicians mount that Image Drivewear with the Carat Advantage AR coating. The lab should work with the ECP to help identify the types of orders that are reasonable for the ECP to process. Certainly Zyl and metal frames requiring a standard bevel should be fine, as would grooved rimless. Labs and ECPs should work together to identify potentially difficult mountings, where the difference in the curve of the lens and that of the frame is significant, for example a wrap frame with a minus Rx. It should also be noted that the ECP calibrating and working successfully with one lab does not guarantee that the same process will work with another lab. Differences in calibration, differences in the handling of 3D data by an edger, and differences in the bevel types all create a situation where the same setup and testing needs to be done with each individual lab and ECP. Is this process for everybody? Frame tracers are expensive and there is always a question as to who will be footing this bill. A lot of offices are not interested in having to deal with the mounting of the lenses, much less the disciplines of the production process. Both the lab and the ECP have to be committed to making it work. The ECP needs to take responsibility for the quality of the tracings and to maintaining a staff capable of handling the production process and mounting of the lenses. ECPs committed to the process have a competitive advantage by reducing turn-around times. The lab serving that ECP has achieved a relationship that extends beyond a price list. The number of edged “lens-only” orders should increase in the future as the 3D technology for tracers and edgers continues to improve. As this technology advances, electronic frame databases will become more reliable as well, which will allow edged “lens-only” orders to happen without a tracer at the ECP. Perfecting this process will be a boon to the industry. Labs already implementing these processes with their accounts will have an advantage when it comes to upgrading them to the newer technologies as they arrive.

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Labtalk May/June 2018