LMS, Friend or Foe?

By John Greco
In this day and age, if you run a small surface retail lab or a large wholesale lab you use some type of lab management system (LMS). These systems can be very complex or just a simple calculator. I remember the first days of “computer” programs for calculations. The Olivetti computer was one of the first that had program cards you ran though every morning to start up. Next was the HP calculator with a date tape that contained the software and spit out a job ticket that looked like a cash register receipt.

From data entry, machine interfaces, customer service, inventory, to shipping modules, you use LMS software every day to run your lab. No matter what LMS system you use, until it goes “down” no one realizes how important it is to your operation. I’ve come from both sides of the fence, meaning I’ve worked for two of the major LMS software systems and have used two other systems. This means I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. One thing I did have the luxury of learning was the programmer’s side of what LMS should do. I’ve worked with some of the best programmers in the industry Tony Leblanc and Jeff Pratt come to mind. I was able to share the lab side of many situations with some of the most brilliant minds in the programming side of the industry. Having a lot of lab experience, I worked with them on calculations and what the needs would be from the “user” side of the software. A programmer’s way at looking at things can be quite different from the user’s stand point.

To run your lab you’ll want the best LMS software. The saying “garbage in/garbage out” is very true when setting up LMS. Database maintenance is the heart of your operation and controls everything in your lab. Production settings in LMS control aspects such as power, thickness, and OC placement on a job. From what I’ve seen, most of the software vendor’s I’ve either worked for or have used have their strong points and their weak points. Point is there is no perfect system.

One thing I can say is new lenses and new technology will always be changing labs and put LMS software to the test. For example, digital surfacing has become a critical part of the LMS software. This means LMS must interface with the LDS (lens design software) vendors such as Shamir, Seiko, Indo, or Essilor. Some of the LMS systems handle the “digital” software exchange with LMS and LDS without having to enter the job twice and some don’t.

One thing I did notice at the OLA last year was that some new edgers—mainly coming out of Europe—were not supported by the LMS systems. The LMS systems couldn’t support all the “bells and whistles” the edger could perform. This means if you want that robotic edger that does the wraps and other difficult frames, you’ll still need operator intervention. The machine vendors are growing with today’s challenging frames and LMS is trying to keep up the pace. I saw this watching several demos from different machine vendors. One company owns three of the larger LMS systems, with one independent company still out there.

Be sure your LMS has capability to grow and never forget its importance. You can’t change LMS systems like buying a new laptop.

CURRENT ISSUE


May/June LabTalk 2017