OLP interviews Steve Schneider, vice president, aftermarket, Satisloh North America.
How does Satisloh’s aftermarket consultants team work?
They cover many different aspects. After machines have been installed and production has started, what comes next? If, for example, a customer is changing from traditional to digital surfacing, the lab needs time to adjust and learn a new process. The goal of the Satisloh aftermarket consultant is first and foremost to make sure that the equipment, the installation, the process, everything is completed to the customer’s satisfaction and they understand how it works and how to maintain it.
Then we look at productivity. Is the machine providing what the customer anticipated, from the quality of the lens to the throughput of the machine? Obviously, no matter the process, the goal is always to turn the raw blanks into a pair of high quality ophthalmic lenses ready to be dispensed to a patient.
We want the customer to not only focus on their equipment investment but also on their entire process. And we educate them on the support programs that we offer to maintain their machines and ensure maximum productivity.
OLP: You mentioned going from traditional to digital. Is that still happening a lot?
STEVE: Oh sure, especially in the North American market. When you look at this industry on a global basis, the U.S. market is by far the largest. Digital surfacing, the new way of creating the lens, has only been around for about 10 to 12 years. The majority of the laboratories have transitioned into some type of digital, but there’s still a lot of production being done conventionally with a fining pad and a polish pad. It’s probably a 60/40 split, about 60% digital and 40% traditional.
Many labs still run quite a bit of their standard jobs traditionally because they invested in conventional equipment that continues to work. It’s definitely an educational point to train the labs to fully transition into digital surfacing. Plus, even with digital processing, labs can still experience many of the same issues: an off power lens, or an aberration, or a coating pit. These are challenges that need to be addressed no matter if you’re doing traditional or if you’re doing digital surfacing.
OLP: Does the aftermarket consultants team usually get involved when the lab has a problem and asks for assistance, or do they work proactively with the lab to prevent problems from happening?
STEVE: We’re definitely proactive. For 2017, we’ve split North America into four quadrants, northeastern, southeastern, northwest and southwest, and we have an individual aftermarket consultant located within each of those regions. Their responsibility is to travel throughout their region to visit primarily Satisloh customers, but we also have customers that have invested in multiple companies’ equipment and that we consult with.
A key role is to observe the lab and really see how things flow. A lab manager’s goal is usually moving the work quickly through, and they don’t have the chance to step back and look at where potential bottlenecks are or to look into where they’re having a problem.
Our aftermarket consultants will come in and determine where the lab is running effectively and efficiently but then also look for areas of opportunity. The goal is to help improve quality or throughput based on changes in the process or in the flow of the lab.
The team, including myself, has about 120 years of combined experience in the industry.
If there’s a situation where a customer is having a challenge, they either contact our team directly or through our main office.
In today’s world, we can do a lot over the phone, at least to get an understanding of the problem, define the challenge, and see how long it has been happening.
We try to give our customers some recommendations that could get them going in the right direction. If it’s a critical scenario, we travel to the lab and spend a few days to study in depth what the challenge is and where it came from.
We look for the root cause to the problem and avoid putting a band-aid on issues just to get by. We want to go all the way back to the root cause, understand it and correct it to prevent the problem from happening again.
OLP: What specific challenges are you seeing?
STEVE: One key challenge is with generating and proper diamond tooling. Laboratories look at every expense, and cost per surface has become a major focal point. Everybody is defining their process based on the cost per surface. So, if they buy a diamond tool for their generator, how many cuts do they get out of it before it has to be replaced or re-sharpened, and what did they pay?
If they pay $500 and get 5,000 cuts, the cost per surface is 10 cents. But if they pay $1,000 and get 15,000 cuts, the cost is now 7 cents per surface. The cheapest tool is not always the most cost effective one. All costs, including broken lenses and additional labor need to be taken into consideration to really understand the final cost per surface. We help our customers to do just that.
OLP: You mentioned diagnosing over the phone. Do you use any other remote diagnostic tools?
STEVE: We can investigate various issues by logging into the machine. Today’s machines have macros and different speeds and feeds that can be adjusted. If we suspect macros and settings to be the root cause of a problem, we can log into the machine to review the macros. For a lot of those machines we have backup files that we can look at to compare current settings to the way the machine was set up originally.
If the customer is running a substrate that we can go faster on, most likely we’re going to speed up the machine. But sometimes customers change things on their own and create a problem. In these cases we might have to bring the machine back to its original settings.
OLP: What specific problems have labs encountered that the aftermarket team corrected?
STEVE: Take polishing for instance. Polishing seems to be one of the forgotten areas. We put polish into a tank and the digital machine continues to push lenses through. We don’t see the problems until we get to final inspection.
This is something that drove us to developing the new polish chemistry. Customers were trying to push the number of lenses they could get through one tank of polish higher before completing a polish change. But when you run as much polycarbonate as we do in the U.S., this depletes the capabilities of the polish much quicker when compared to running just CR-39. The poly material, because it’s sticky, encapsulates the particulate within the polish and it gets to a point where it starts to scratch.
In the world of digital, if you start to see poly lenses coming out hazy or with surface scratches, most likely it’s the polish.
That’s what led Satisloh to start working on the chemistry of polish, not only the liquid portion but also the particulate, the solids, and to develop unique shapes and unique hardnesses that work much more effectively with substrates like polycarbonate, Trivex and other materials.
OLP: So what was the result?
STEVE: Digi-Pro Digital Polish was released at Vision Expo West. We’ve been implementing the new polish in labs for the last six months. Our customer base has been asking for a longer life polish. Instead of changing their tank out every four weeks, they want to change out every six. This means less labor. And you can finish more lenses per gallon which translates into a lower cost per surface. Digi-Pro accomplishes this for our customers.
With Satisloh, the consumables and the process are just as important as the piece of equipment itself. If you have a half million dollar piece of equipment, but you don’t have the right diamond or coolant or calibration, you’re still going to make bad lenses.
OLP: What other consumables does Satisloh provide?
STEVE: Satisloh offers consumables for every process, from blocking to finishing to AR.