Digital Immersion: Cherry Optical, Green Bay, Wis.
NEW YORK—Some of the latest trends in ophthalmic lenses today run the gamut from digital and free-form design, to customization, and personalization. While many laboratory owners and operators are acutely aware of the impact digital lens processing is having on their businesses, the cost of installing the technology is considerable, and the learning curve steep. However, many lab owners believe the added expense and effort is well worth it because of the gains in speed, accuracy and efficiency their labs derive.
|Adam Cherry blocks a lens on a Scheider CB bond blocker. |
VM profiled executives from six optical labs—five independent wholesalers and one integrated retail chain—and asked them to describe the process of “going digital” and discuss how these new technologies are transforming their lab’s operations, workforce, inventory, product mix and service. Here is what we learned about Cherry Optical’s foray into the world of digital lens processing. Read about the experiences of “going digital” from the other five labs in our
Maintaining Equipment Results in High Performance LevelsAfter immersing himself in digital lens processing the past several years, Adam Cherry, vice president of Cherry Optical, an independent wholesale lab in Green Bay, Wis., has learned to admire both the precision and the power of the technology.
“Running this type of equipment in a digital lab is like owning an Italian sportscar,” he said, referring to the Schneider Optical Machines’ CB Bond blocker, HSC Smart A generator and CCP Swift polisher Cherry Optical purchased when it went digital two years ago. He emphasized that achieving high performance levels is only possible by rigorously maintaining and calibrating the equipment. “You better know what you’re getting into as far as taking care of it properly to keep it running well. That’s been a big lesson.”
Cherry Optical’s introduction to digital surfacing was actually its first experience with any type of surfacing. Consequently, the lab did not have any established manufacturing procedures in place.
“We didn’t know any other way to do it,” Cherry recalled. “The biggest thing we worked on was creating procedures and quality control standards. Calibration is extremely important. So is understanding how consumables affect the process, and how the laser engraver is going to interact with the different resins used. Also, the humidity and temperature of the environment the laser is in can have an impact. Everything is a lot more scientific with digital.”
Cherry Optical began slowly, producing 50 to 60 digitally surfaced jobs a day before working its way up to doing as many as 200. The lab has also expanded its finishing capabilities, acquiring a National Optronix Helix industrial edger. An MEI 641 edger is currently on order.
“So much of what we do is verification of the lens curves and other data to make sure the lenses are perfect. “We couldn’t have done it without the folks at DVI,” noted Cherry, who said the LMS company worked closely with his team to ensure that the lenses consistently met the lens companies’ specifications.
Cherry pointed out that implementing manufacturing protocols has allowed his team to pinpoint production problems faster and more precisely. “You can quickly tell where there’s human error, like if a lens is blocked incorrectly,” he said. “When you’re having an issue, you can very easily drill down and see what the problem is.”
At Cherry Optical in Green Bay, Wisconsin are (l to r) Kurt Atchison of Schneider
Optical Machinery, Joe Cherry, Lynn Cherry and Adam Cherry. At right is the
lab’s new Schneider HSC Smart A generator.
From the start, Cherry Optical has utilized the cut-to-polish capabilities of its digital surfacing equipment to streamline production efficiencies. Recently, though, the lab has been expanding into free-form
“We’re doing Essilor free-form lenses, Seiko is in the works and we’ll add Hoya in the next two to three years,” Cherry said. He noted that the lab has already been selling those products even though it was producing them in-house. “We built that market before we invested in technology, so it makes it less of a risk,” he noted.
Cherry said he is also examining the possibility of launching a private label free-form product. “Private label makes sense if you can find the right niche or provide it as a good alternative for managed care patients. The doctors can charge a premium for it. We see good see potential for that.”