What You Need to Know About Electronic Lens Ordering

By David Grotelueschen
Standardization has been the key to the development of electronic lens ordering in the U.S. optical industry. In the early 1980’s, leaders from the Optical Laboratories Association (OLA), the Optical Manufacturers Association (OMA) and the National Association of Manufacturing Opticians (NAMO) developed a uniform bar coded product identification system. These standards paved the way for all lens products to be bar coded using OPC (Optical Products Code) numbering.

The next major step was the standardization of the lens ordering format; established by the OPC Council that was formed by the above mentioned organizations.

Subsequently, lab processing software vendors incorporated this format into their inventory systems. Now a lab could produce a lens purchase order in a standard format that could be transmitted electronically using a standard X-modem transfer. Also a few of the larger lens vendors offered their customers programmable hand held re-ordering barcode scanners. (Telxon units) These systems also send data in this same standard format.

In turn, lens vendors modified their computer systems to import this data to their order processing system. This was another big step in order processing efficiency.

The use of the Internet has further enhanced these efficiencies. Internet (FTP) file transfers greatly improve the speed and reliability of the data transfer. Web site ordering allows labs that do not have inventory control software, to order their lenses efficiently and electronically.

Today a large majority of the lenses that are ordered by labs from manufacturers and distributors are ordered electronically. Specifically, these are stock finished and semi-finished lenses ordered one of three ways: 1) Using a lab software system that creates a purchase order file; 2) Using a barcode scanner to replace lenses used; 3) And using a Web site to search and click to order. These are all accurate and efficient ways to send data to a vendor’s order processing system.

Our industry is unique in that it has supported our company, Opticom, as an independent “middle man” to facilitate the efficient movement of ordering data and the maintenance of a complete lens data base. Most recently, Opticom has facilitated the availability of lens shipment data to labs. Currently, 12 major lens vendors will, upon request, make lens shipment data available to their lab customer via authenticated Web access. These vendors are posting shipment data for today’s orders the following morning.

If a lab has a software system with inventory control capacity, this shipment information will give them the capability of receiving their lens order in one step without scanning each and every lens. This is a significant time saver, especially when receiving larger orders. Some people in the industry refer to this as ASN (Automatic Shipment Notification). We at Opticom call it EPL (Electronic Packing List). But many lab inventory control people call it TSSMTHDIELWI (This Saves So Much Time How Did I Ever Live Without It!).

This is a great example of a collaborative effort from lens vendors, lab software vendors and also lab customers who requested the shipment data from their lens vendors. Our industry has been blessed with leaders who had the foresight to develop standards sooner rather than later. And with a cooperative spirit, electronic lens ordering has benefited all of us.

David Grotelueschen is vice-president of Opticom, Inc. Green Bay, WI. 800-678-4226. www.opticom-inc.com


Labtalk June 2020