STARTING A LAB – AND A MOVEMENT

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PACIFIC ARTISAN LABS IN PORTLAND, OR, IS CHALLENGING THE NORM IN THE WHOLESALE LAB BUSINESS.

For Brandon Butler, opening Pacific Artisan Labs was more than just a business or career move — it was about starting a movement.

“The trend in the industry was not favorable to independent lab owners for many years,” he said. “Now, that trend has changed based on decisions made by larger corporate companies, which made independent labs relevant again.”

“Every industry, in my opinion, needs multiple options and we are fortunate that the ophthalmic industry is so fragmented and diverse to the degree it is.”
– Brandon Butler

With 19 years of optical industry behind him (Butler started in retail, working his way to R&D lab manager at Younger Optics, then to Hoya, where he was the free-form operations manager and later as general manager for Essilor’s Opticraft lab in Portland, OR), Butler said he always wanted to start his own lab and decided last year was the right time to do it.

In recognizing a need for a “smaller, nimbler” approach, Butler partnered with good friend Kevin Lewandowski to open Pacific Artisan Labs as an alternative to larger, corporate labs.

“Customers have all heard the same story when a lab is trying to capture their business,” Butler said. “We just want to prove that what we say and claim is exactly what we deliver. Our slogan is ‘Join the Movement’ and that is exactly what it says: Join a movement away from the norm and team up with a lab that is fully vested in the customer experience.”

Lewandowski and Butler started the lab build-out last February and were operational by June. With approximately 6,100 square feet, Pacific Artisan Labs is capable of processing 250 to 300 jobs per day. The lab processes Hoya lenses and six categories of Artisan Signature Series private label lenses, ranging from dual-surface progressives to basic full backside PAL designs, and soon will offer Shamir designs. Pacific Artisan Labs uses lens design software from IOT and Hoya and a lab management software system from The DVI, Inc.

“All of our designs are chosen to meet the lifestyle demands of every consumer type and we teamed up with IOT to provide an in-depth catalog that meets this goal.”

In addition, Pacific Artisan Labs does AR in-house and recently brought on True Blue lenses.
“We certainly knew that having AR and dip coating capabilities on site were a must from day one to minimize turn time and ensure our responsibility for quality,” Butler said, adding that choosing equipment came down to knowing these manufacturers had the technology to meet the lab’s demands.

Butler said Pacific Artisan Labs is capable of processing lenses for “some of the toughest frames,” such as Lindberg, Götti, Mykita and Gold & Wood, to name a few, which he says “speaks to the ability to separate our lab from the others.”

Pacific Artisan Labs has also instituted several training programs for its customers, including a “Lab Tech for a Day Program” in which opticians tour the lab and process their own lenses from start to finish.

“This gives them a taste of what it takes to make a pair of lenses at a high level with some of the most advanced machinery available,” Butler said. “Opticians who have gone through our program all have stated they have new-found appreciation for what it takes to make a pair of lenses. It has a trickle-down effect that permeates confidence in a brand.”

So, is there a need for another independent wholesale lab?

“Absolutely,” Butler said. “Every industry, in my opinion, needs multiple options and we are fortunate that the ophthalmic industry is so fragmented and diverse to the degree it is. This forces every manufacturer to stay true. If they don’t and their quality and turn time take a turn for the worst, the customers have other options to provide the best service to the consumer.”

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