What You Need to Know About Creating Your Own AR Brand

By Arman Bernardi, Ph.D.
Lenses treated with anti-reflective coatings reduce eyestrain, increase visual acuity, enable safer night driving, and provide aesthetic benefits by removing unwanted glare and reflections. If done correctly, bringing AR production capabilities in-house can be a profitable long term investment.

iCoat Company, a leading U.S.-based provider of optical coating services and technologies, has been a pioneer in developing state-of-the-art lens treatments that enhance lens function, performance and aesthetics by making them anti-reflective, anti-static, and scratch and smudge resistant. Historically, iCoat has performed all lens treatments on-site at its coating facility in Santa Fe Springs, California. However, since early 2008, the company has started a “Technology Licensing Division,” that offers, via a licensing program, its immense technological expertise and process know-how to other optical manufacturers that want to replicate iCoat’s lens treatment technology at their own locations.

In-House AR or Outsource AR

To answer the question of having in-house AR or out-source your AR jobs, there are a variety of factors that one needs to consider. Among your first considerations must be your current and future AR volume.

Capital investment in AR chambers, peripheral equipment and build-out will be costly. Calculate what your payback will be. Staffing, maintenance and other ongoing costs must be included in your calculations. Do you have enough space to layout the entire operation workflow or would you need to remodel to accommodate the expansion? Preparing a cost projection on a per job basis should be an essential part of your decision process.

Consider the product mix that you currently offer and what your customer demands are for AR products. Are your customers really demanding certain brands and if so which one do you invest in? Would you or your sales staff be able to convert your best customers to your own brand if it had all the attributes (and lower manufacturing costs) of a name brand?

Standard vs. Premium AR

Basically, there are two levels of AR coating that you can provide to your customers. You can choose either a standard AR operation (AR on spin hardcoat) or opt for a more premium option that includes dip hardcoating. The standard AR operation will involve less upfront investment and provide a lower margin product whereas choosing to include dip hardcoating can provide the ability to offer several premium AR products that provide the highest level of AR quality and durability, long term growth opportunities and higher margin potential.

Some additional things to consider when purchasing the equipment:

• Are you going to coat edged or uncuts? • Do you want the AR chamber with auto-flip or manual flip? • What kind of tech support or service group do you need from equipment vendors? • Do you want hydrophobic/oleophobic topcoats to be applied in chamber or out of chamber? • Does the AR chamber have an “ion source”? AR Business Success

iCoat believes that owning and operating a thriving AR business is controlled by three components.

Having confidence in the AR coating products that you manufacture is the base of a successful AR business. Offering a proven product and consistently delivering premium quality brings along extremely high success rates and increased growth potential. With complete control over your entire AR process and quick, efficient delivery times and service levels, an in-house AR business can potentially become a profitable extension to your laboratory. Offering consistent, high quality products helps your entire company build confidence in selling premium AR products and encourages repeat buying by your customers and ultimately the consumer.

The second important component is having efficient manufacturing operations. Designing an AR operation with highly efficient workflows and procedures is the key. The entire manufacturing operation should be optimized from layout to tooling to training and rework areas. Specialized tooling designs for increased efficiencies and higher yields have shown to be extremely beneficial. Harmonized processing should be established across manufacturer, material and lens styles with minimized lens-vendor based handling. Efficient usage of consumables and supplies and standard maintenance procedures should be established. The entire workflow should be monitored and controlled by a metrics driven operation that tracks staff productivity and ongoing staff training programs. Designing efficient manufacturing operations ensures consistent manufacturing workflows, repetitive high yields and improved labor productivity.

Last but not least, a vigilantly analyzed financial plan, where each and every cost factor is taken into account, helps manage cost efficiencies and results in higher profitability. The cost preparation should be outlined for every job and every workstation through the entire workflow, to ensure a well-planned financial. Cost effective financials go hand-in-hand with manufacturing efficiencies to keep the costs low and generate higher yields and profits.

iCoat AR Technology Licensing Program

iCoat’s AR technology licensing program is a turnkey plan for a successful in-house AR operation. The program provides everything from initial planning and facility layout to ongoing support, backup coating services and optional retail AR training courses. The program contains three parts to its implementation.

To start, iCoat works with you on facility layout and workflow design and helps establish standard operating procedures integrated with the lab’s management tracking stations and finance preparations. iCoat will recommend a list of ancillary or peripheral equipment to buy and work with you on selecting your large capital equipment based on your space capacity, process requirements and your vendor relations. They cover every detail from the largest machines all the way to the spoons and safety recommendations. They also provide staff level planning and recommendations on the hiring of AR laboratory personnel, if needed.

Following the planning phase, iCoat works with you on the rollout schedule, provides on-site equipment receiving and setup assistance and loads their proprietary processes and formulas on the various pieces of equipment. Leaving nothing to chance, iCoat provides complete assistance from going live with production to hands-on on-site production training to achieve smooth operations. iCoat also provides classroom training and training via live video streams to make sure that all the operations are efficient, all questions are answered and you experience optimal production times with little or no down times.

iCoat also offers on-going services that provide quarterly process and workflow audits to ensure everything is running smooth. They provide only the highest quality, rigorously tested chemicals and consumables, recommend and design production tooling services and offer 24/7 live tech support. They also provide video tutorials for trouble shooting, continuous lens testing, on-site emergency services and coating backup services.

Benefits of Licensing iCoat Technology

• Name your own AR brand – Private Labeling • Lens vendor independence - AR coat any lens brand, material, and style • Equipment vendor independence - Lower equipment cost • Wide range of product offerings - Different grades of AR coatings • Troubleshooting process and system maintenance • Backup coating services with 24/7 operations • Cost efficient training & support • Flexible program options for customers of any size

iCoat believes that offering premium AR choices enhance the opportunity to develop and operate a successful and efficient coating business. Offering premium AR options develops confidence in corporate strategies that in turn increase AR sales, resulting in satisfied customers and consumers.

Licensing iCoat’s AR technology provides several benefits from private branding and lens vendor independence to an efficient turnkey operation and an easy entry into the coating manufacturing market. The program holds no R&D costs and provides optimized investment planning and manufacturing layout. In a nutshell, iCoat’s “Technology Licensing Program” provides you the best profit margin potential of any programs available in the market.

iCoat has coated millions of jobs and has become an expert in developing successful coating technologies together with efficient operations and profitable manufacturing, and they can help you do the same.

iCoat has been a pioneer in developing state-of-the-art lens treatments that enhance lens function, performance and aesthetics in a variety of ways such as making them anti-reflective, anti-static, and scratch and smudge resistant. Founded in 1988, iCoat Company is a 20,000 square foot independent optical lab that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and has processed in excess of 8.5 million orders since 2005. Under the umbrella of its lens coating technologies, iCoat Company also provides an assortment of super-reflective mirror coatings and a newly engineered Maximum Transmission coating technology that improves the performance for 3D optical lenses.

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Labtalk-November/December 2017