It’s welcoming to see many parts of our lens industry still vibrant and progressive. For both Contact Lens and Intra-Ocular Lens manufacturers, the trend is definitely toward greater levels of automation and new speciality lens products. New materials for those products create new challenges for manufacturing too, yet expand the range of modality and application to meet the exacting demands of the lens fitters and surgeons. New and improved lens delivery systems or customer service products seem to go hand-in-hand with these new developments. All-in-all, these efforts require greater investment, so why do some feel compelled to continue expecting their ageing equipment to be capable of meeting the newest of demands of our industry?
It is said, we live in a disposable world (most of us certainly know what that can mean too), but yet, our human instinct encourages us to make the most of what we have. However, our children certainly embrace new technologies and do not hesitate to use it to enhance their lives.
So let me ask this question; how often do you change your car, mobile phone or even your computer equipment?
I suspect that for the vast majority of you, the answer would be around 12 – 18 months for a mobile phone and probably 3 – 5 years for a change in car or computer equipment!
It stands to reason, that the purchase of a new lathe for your lens manufacturing, is a significant investment that has to be carefully calculated in relation to your business plan. Most laboratories will depreciate that investment over maybe 3 or 4 years, perhaps even 5 years. If the return-on-investment was calculated accurately, then that investment should have met or surpassed the requirements of the business that the initial decision was based upon.
When you look at the machinery in your lab today, what do you see….
What it cost you to buy, can’t change it because it’s what you/your employees are used to, it’s done such a great job so why should I change it (the ‘old ones are the best’)?
Instead, shouldn’t you be asking yourself….
When is “Old”, Too Old..?
What is it costing me to keep, is it still making me money, is it allowing my business to develop and grow, is that the reason I can’t make those new products and to the consistency and quality my customers expect?
These are but a few of the dilemma’s that go through the minds of those of you facing crucial business decisions of what and when to invest. So when is a machine too old to be expected to perform at the same capabilities of recent or current generations of machines?
There can be many different reasons, amongst which are; when either the technical staff or the components are no longer available, when it restricts your profitability and business growth, where machine breakdowns are not only costly to repair but production is lost so orders are delayed and customers become dissatisfied. But there are also many instances within this ‘developing’ industry of ours, where older machine systems are still being pushed beyond their design capabilities, risking loss of quality and consistency in lens supply that could have implications for the reputation of our industry!
Technology is moving at an ‘exponential’ rate not linear, so we can expect obsolescence to continue to be a feature of our daily lives. It’s a wonderful thing that we have so many people and companies willing to support older technologies, but ultimately, even they will succumb to the inevitability of new advances. Component and system manufacturers are always offering the latest developments to enhance equipment builder’s products. Not all of those developments are necessary to implement immediately, but they will be inevitable. For suppliers to continue manufacturing old components is simply not justifiable when their product demands drive them in new directions also. So can we expect these suppliers to continue stocking old parts? It’s a very costly exercise to maintain old stock and especially the resource necessary to support ageing products and components, for example, where the technical staff has been replaced with new staff that understand its history, but are trained and motivated to apply what is new!
Equally, the requirements of the lens patients, lens fitters, doctors, surgeons, etc…, insist and have come to expect the latest generation of lens products, which in-turn, often demands the application of the latest generation of lens manufacturing equipment. Those new manufacturing systems bring with them, the ability to operate more efficiently and help to reduce manufacturing costs through lower maintenance charges, greater productivity, the capacity to introduce new lens products that generate higher incomes and new automation integration, to name but a few. All of which ultimately delivers ‘higher profit’.
Both of these scenarios result in a ‘Push-and-Pull’ effect that will always heavily influence the direction of machine technology developments.
Investment, whether it’s upgrading for continuity of supply or investing for new capabilities, is vital to any businesses long-term strategy. It is not suggested that all old equipment must be disposed of, but it is crucial to know when it’s time for a change…
When does “old” not make sense anymore!
Global Contact – Issue No. 1
Ken Payne, Managing Director
DAC International (Europe)