RLab, formerly Rochester Optical, has always believed in putting its best foot forward for its customers, its people and the planet. So, in June 2020, when the lab experienced a main water line break that flooded its 30,000 square foot facility and damaged millions in equipment and infrastructure, leaders already knew they were facing a complete rebuild. But they took it one step further—viewing the challenge as a tremendous opportunity to transform its entire operations, and ultimately, achieve an aggressive goal to reach a zero-carbon footprint.

Their Challenge: Rebounding From a Massive Flood

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the devastating waterline break nearly wiped out all of Rochester Optical’s operations. Lab equipment that once engineered the latest optical solutions were suddenly inoperable. Facilities that once welcomed clients and customers to meet their vision care needs and experience new optical virtual reality (VR) technologies were no longer able to invite people through their doors.

Initially, the lab called in professional remediation specialists, machine vendors and every imaginable support team in hopes of resuming operations as soon as possible. But despite their best efforts, some equipment never restarted and others continued to degrade over time, resulting in less reliability and more quality issues. Lab leaders quickly learned that many of their assets had degraded past the point of no return.

Rochester Optical had no choice but to replace some equipment to stay semi-operational. But after several months of working with not-enough equipment in a loosely held-together facility, leaders decided to make a bold move. In 2020, they chose to rebrand as RLab, and in early fall 2021, made a commitment to completely rebuild the lab from scratch—but this time, with a whole new vision for sustainability.

 (L to R) Greg Novak, COO, and Patrick Ho, CEO, with the company's electric delivery vehicles and free charging stations available to the community.
Their Commitment: More Sustainable Manufacturing

RLab’s dedication to sustainability starts at the top—a strong reflection of CEO Patrick Ho’s personal philosophy. “Every resource on this earth are gifts from God—and we’ve been tasked to be good stewards of His creation,” said Ho.

“Therefore it’s our duty and responsibility to embrace and restore the environment that has been taken for granted. Our commitment to recycling; consuming sustainably and using renewable resources; reducing our carbon footprint, restoring and regenerating nature—these are all part of our declaration of gratitude that yield benefits now and for generations to come.”

Driven by Ho’s whole-hearted commitment, the company has always paid a significant amount of attention to recycling and waste reduction. “We’ve had electric car delivery vehicles since 2018 and provided free charging stations on most of our buildings to encourage EV adoption for neighborhood residents,” explained Greg Novak, COO. “But we now had the opportunity to consider our equipment and infrastructure decisions and incorporate sustainability with renewable energy into our plan design.

Optical technicians training on RLab's newest automated Schneider edger.

“We always believed that those were good things for the planet and for our employees, but now we came to believe they would be good things for our clients and their customers, too,” he added. “For people who care about sustainability, it matters deeply. We want our clients to be able to tell their customers that they work with an environmentally responsible lab that cares about the future of our planet.”

With that in mind, RLab sought to carefully design its infrastructure and select all-new equipment that would transform operations from end to end—with a mission to lead the way in building a viable, clean and green optical lab with a zero-carbon footprint.

To learn the full story of RLab’s remarkable transformation into a green facility, including details of the rebuild process, read our feature article, “From Devastation to Transformation.” You’ll find it in the Lab Report section of the October issue Vision Monday, in both the print and digital edition as well as online at visionmonday.com.