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Thursday / June 20.
HomemibusinessRodenstock Lens Labs Building a Healthcare Community

Rodenstock Lens Labs Building a Healthcare Community

At a recent visit to Rodenstock’s laboratory in Bangkok, Thailand, Australian practice owners were updated on plans for local growth and shown the intricacies of lens production.

Rodenstock Australia is on a growth trajectory, opening a new lens glazing lab in Queensland, and with plans to open in Victoria and then Auckland, New Zealand in the coming months.

No-one can produce a lens from as much data as we are able to acquire from the DNEye Scanner

The company has come a long way in this region since 2015 when Tim McCann was appointed General Manager Australia/New Zealand and tasked with the job of turning the regional office around.

By looking carefully at the business, and how it could better meet the needs of the independent optometry market, in partnership with Guenter Raichle, now Managing Director of the Asia Pacific Region, he was successful in achieving the former.

“We always knew we had a premium product at a premium price, and we weren’t going to change that,” Mr McCann explained. “But the challenge we had was service. Most of our manufacturing was being completed in Europe and so we couldn’t get the lenses to our customers fast enough. In a competitive market, it wasn’t good enough to make practices (and their patients) wait two or three weeks for their lenses to arrive.”

At that time, Rodenstock had a well-established lens lab in Thailand, however its capacity was limited and challenges with transportation meant any lenses that could be produced in that country took time to arrive in Australia and be processed through customs.

Mr McCann and Mr Raichle decided to focus on these issues of capacity and transportation, eventually achieving a rapid, and competitive turnaround for a wide range of lenses.

Today, with literally millions of lens blanks ready to be ground, tinted, and coated at the Bangkok lab, individualised lenses “can be completed within three days, shipped to Australia overnight and immediately processed through customs”, Mr McCann said. He added that although not all lenses for the Australian market are produced in Bangkok, the lab is “well on the way to becoming a full range supplier”.

Checks and Balances

Having gone through a number of expansions, the Bangkok lab has become Rodenstock’s largest Series production and second largest RX production facility, filling orders for optometry practices worldwide.

Rodenstock recently took practice owners who are members of the EyeBenefit Group to Bangkok to tour the facility. I was fortunate to tag along.

Together with this passionate group of optical dispensers, I explored the vast lens manufacturing facility and had the manufacturing processes – of lens moulds, blanks, and the final product – explained step by step.

Other than Mr McCann, who had seen it all before, our group was staggered by the complexity of the lens production process, which involves multiple steps, completed with a mix of human labour and technology.

From the manufacture of lens blanks to the receipt of patient data points used to calculate the optimal lens design, lens grinding, tinting, coating, polishing, baking, and packaging, much of the work is enabled by technology and completed by hand. Additionally, there are regular human interventions throughout the process to check for defects.

The lab operates three shifts, six days a week and employs around 1,300 staff members, 60% of whom are women. Staff, most of whom come from regional Thailand, are bussed to site, where they are provided with meals and access to healthcare and paid a competitive wage.

As a consequence of its exacting manufacturing processes and stringent quality controls, Rodenstock’s Head of Production for RX lenses, Uwe Schnabel, said the lens lab has a very high success rate with lens production. Very few of the 6.5 million individualised spectacle lenses produced at the Bangkok lab each year need to be re-made before despatch.

As Mr McCann explained, “it’s the detail that makes the difference”.

“There is a lot of intellectual property, and it’s not so much that this is anything that couldn’t be reproduced. It’s just that what we do takes a lot of effort.”

Growth In Australia Continues

Having “turned the bus around”, Mr McCann continues to focus on big picture growth plans for Australia.

Globally, Rodenstock Eyewear has been sold to De Rigo, with the full handover already complete in Australia, allowing Mr McCann and his team to focus 100% on the core product of lenses. Locally, Nicola Peaper, well known as Professional Development Manager, has been elevated to an Asia Pacific role, Grace Dobbins has been appointed Sales Manager and Katie Cran has joined the team to work with EyeBenefit. Sasha Sergejew has come on board to build the supply structure, specifically by setting up and managing the new glazing labs in Victoria and Queensland so that Rodenstock can keep as much of the action as close to its customers as possible.

With total group revenue of €500m, Mr Raichle said Rodenstock was “very small compared to the lens giants, but very effective”.

“No-one can produce a lens from as much data as we are able to acquire from the DNEye Scanner.”

And this, Mr McCann believes, is how independent practices can differentiate themselves within a competitive market.

Speaking to the practice owners on tour in Bangkok, Mr McCann described Rodenstock and its customers as a “medical healthcare community”.

As a supplier to that community, he said Rodenstock was determined to give practices “something to compete with” by enabling them with tools to give their patients “experiences that the others cannot”.

“Make yourself unique, find something the others can’t offer, and price it accordingly. Think of your expertise, your community focus, think of why you’re an independent and differentiate yourself. And I am sure we can give you the tools to do that… You win, we win”

mivision was an invited guest of Rodenstock.