New Technologies That Save You Time/$$$

By Catherine Skelton
When we think of technology in the optical laboratory, the large volume computerized generators and sophisticated edgers complete with grooving and drilling capabilities, come to mind. Some of the reasons for moving to these new “super machines” are to increase productivity, decrease turn-around-time and lower labor costs.

When taking a look at some of the new technology in the wholesale lab one of the areas that will improve service and cost-per-job is in the blocking and deblocking stations.

Why would a company choose to automate this particular process in the lab? The more research you do on this subject and the more lab managers you speak to regarding their successes, the more obvious the decision to purchase this equipment becomes. The economical benefits of producing a lens at a lower cost by eliminating labor costs and significantly increasing the productivity of your surface room can all be accomplished with a machine that will work unlimited hours with consistently high-quality results. This makes the automated blocker one of the most frequent upgrades in machinery for the production wholesale lab.

The two new machines available from Satisloh, the Autoblocker and Autoblocker S, process from 60 to 200 lenses per hour. Both Autoblockers are economical—because of the elimination of labor costs and the maximization of equipment utilization; reliable—due to quality components and precise movements; flexible—both systems can be adapted to work with any type of job tray and there is no down time. The alloy and blocking chucks can be refilled during machine operation.

Bob Messa of Insight Optical, Hialeah, Fla. has had the Satiloh Autoblocker in his lab for the past two years. Messa claims dramatically reduced labor costs and no errors from the automated system while there are errors from his manual blockers. Messa states that if the work goes to the Autoblocker, there is never a problem.

Researching the numbers, with the help of Satisloh the following chart offers compelling reasons for making the move to Autoblocking. *These numbers are estimates only. Actual costs will very depending on lab efficiency, geographical region and other factors.

D.A.C. Vision has recently introduced the Duel Deblocker for what may be considered an unusual reason. A customer came to D.A.C. Vision with a request for a machine to deblock a lens or more specifically a pair of lenses. The request was, in reality, coming from their insurance company.

Manually de-blocking a lens, in the “old school” or conventional method requires a high impact to dislodge the lens. This “high impact” repeated numerous times per hour or certainly per day was increasing the reported complaints of carpal-tunnel syndrome within the lab.

This simple machine, which is compatible with all blocks, requires no electricity, is inexpensive to operate and has greatly reduced the work related injury reports and as a result insurance claims.

While the reason for the development of the machine was focused in one area, an added benefit has been discovered—there was a significant decrease in breakages. Breakage in the wholesale lab has been accepted as part of the fixed costs involved in doing business. As wholesale lab managers and owners continue to search for ways to improve productivity and service while at the same time reducing the costs involved in production. What company wouldn’t welcome that?

Of course, blocking and deblocking lenses isn’t the only way to show increased productivity, decreased labor costs and provide a safer work environment. Tool handling is another of the latest automated systems to enable the production wholesale lab to improve their productivity. An automated Lap Cleaner will pro-cess up to 600 tools per hour. Because workers no longer wash and dry the laps, your labor costs can be greatly reduced.

The ALC from Satisloh cleans and drys aluminum laps, including those with the latest pad technology, after each use. Why is this significant? This process will prevent polish build-up; increase the life of the pad by avoiding exposure to tempered water and stop costly lap damage by preventing lap contact during cleaning. The ALC’s efficient design provides immediate cost savings through reduced labor, quicker lap turnaround and superior cleaning quality.

In another example of how automation can save you time and money, check out the charts below comparing auto tool handling versus conventional tool handling. The Tool Tower System is a fully—automated tool pick and replacement machine. Some of the features offered by this system include a program that records which tool was used for which job and how many times a tool was used. This promotes better tool management. The Tower System prevents stacking and banging tools meaning they stay in perfect condition and reduce any tool related power and lens quality issues. Automated versus manual tool picking ensures against wrong tools or tool picking errors. The numbers to support these features and the assumptions can be found in the chart below.

In researching the new technology available from the various manufacturers there are many new products available that are “outside the norm.” For example the PAL Marker from D.A.C. Vision offers both a professional quality solution to the “remarking” of progressive lenses prior to sending them out to the eye care professional and a unique “branding” opportunity for your company. This technology is too new to have numbers to substantiate the cost savings or the marketing impact. It is, however an interesting option to the standard procedure of remarking lenses that could very well become the norm in years to come.

Researching your options, communicating with the manufacturers of the various new products for improved productivity and service will not only differentiate you from your competition but also improve your bottom line.

Catherine Skelton

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Labtalk-November/December 2017