Scheduling Profits

By Matt Cummins
As technology continues to leap ahead, the playing field for labs of all sizes becomes more level each day. At times it seems that it has become harder to make a bad lens than it is a good lens. The technology is there to run a high quality lab regardless of how many jobs a day we each run As technology continues to leap ahead, the playing field for labs of all sizes becomes more level each day. At times it seems that it has become harder to make a bad lens than it is a good lens. The technology is there to run a high quality lab regardless of how many jobs a day we each run.

In the processing areas of our labs, technology continues to impact the skill level of operators needed. In the surface department we now have three axis generators as a standard and we progress all the way to the robotic four axis milling machines that have the ability to cut their own progressive lenses. We also have the technology to use a computer-aided camera for blocking and many labs have eliminated the fining process in their operations.

In the finish department we have automated inspection equipment, tracers and edgers that actually work together to create a correctly sized product. One of our most labor intensive areas, drill mount frames, has also been computerized which speeds that process and allows for more focus on the cosmetic aspect of these orders.

One might ask: “Who needs opticians these days?” The answer is all of us. The reality of the above possibilities is that not one of them works on 100 percent of the variables you encounter on a daily basis. A conservative estimate would be that at least ten percent of all the orders we process on a daily basis require “special handling.” In addition, none of these technologies will work long term without timely maintenance and adjustment.

Each lab would benefit from the development of a uniform processing system for their individual tasks. The first step towards fully realizing the benefits of this system is to identify how each task should be performed. This should be a very detailed step-by-step guide to every job function in your lab. A guide like this can be used as a training tool for new or recently reassigned employees and also to create job descriptions if you have that need. Every step in the process should be fully documented and placed in manuals for daily use.

Part of the individual guide that makes up this uniform processing system should be proper daily, weekly and monthly maintenance. Recommended calibration procedures and frequency must also be documented. In addition to the individual guides you will also need to compile these maintenance and calibration duties into a format that is easy to use and, more importantly, easy to monitor at the supervisor level.

A maintenance and calibration program is only as good as the implementation of it. That is why it is important to communicate this program to all team members. You should also make people responsible for the individual items and make sure that they are held accountable for good performance on these procedures.

All information on the maintenance or calibration is available through your equipment vendors. They can give you their recommended procedures and the frequency with which they should occur. It is incumbent on you to evaluate those procedures within your organization to determine if they are adequate. As machines age their performance changes so, in your lab, you may find that you need to increase or decrease the calibration procedures. These decisions can be arrived at through diligent monitoring of spoilage and production levels. Don’t wait until the end of the day, spoilage must be monitored and addressed as it occurs. We use simple spreadsheets to track spoilage and the time that it occurred. Many lab software systems also have the ability to drill down to a certain group of breakages so that you can evaluate them for consistencies.

While all of us are faced with the “incredible shrinking margin” we can better control our costs through scheduling. We all need to schedule our staff to make sure we have the right people, in the right place and at the right time so that we can meet our customer expectations. Running a high yield within your lab will contribute to a higher level of quality, speed turnaround time and reduce costs. A uniform processing system, properly administered, will work to improve your yield rate and give you better control of spoilage costs. So take the opportunity to create a system that allows you to schedule higher profits.

Matt Cummins manages both sales and operations in the Midwest for Walman Optical.

CURRENT ISSUE


May/June LabTalk 2017