Many of you have been kind enough to share your stories and challenges with me as I spent my 2nd year in the dental lab industry. Organizations such as Whip Mix, and NADL, and countless state dental lab associations have included me in various meetings and gatherings so I can better understand how this industry works, and what opportunities lie in front of us.
All the labs and owners I was fortunate enough to work with this year had productivity and profitability as a goal. Granted, some have more work to do than others, but the focus is there. The one piece of advice that I will offer to achieve these goals is simple. Get your employees involved. One of the 8 Wastes (ref. IDT September 2013 Business Watch “Be More Productive-Remove waste from your processes) talks about Not utilizing the Employees brainpower. Virtually every lab has good, experienced employees who are more than capable of providing insight and ideas to make improvements. Take time to let team members discover solutions (rather than applying someone else's). Labs become self-sufficient much more quickly, and can drive future improvements on their own in all areas of their organization. We all know the saying “Two heads are better than one..” Unfortunately, they have never had a forum to get involved, or they never get asked because they are too busy in production (doing the time-wasting activities). Also remember that quick and crude improvement is better than slow and elegant (although the Six-sigma devotees may argue).
It doesn’t matter if you are traditional, digital or some mix of the two. Your people are a major strength and unfortunately, an under-utilized asset that can drive major change in the way your business drives profits. Now that 2014 is behind you, and you have time to catch your breath, ask yourself these questions: “Why isn’t this situation working as well as it might?”, “What if we were to change it in some way?” and “How might we begin to do that?”. You may find out that your employees can help you answer the questions.