Top Ten Questions to Ask Your Digital CAD CAM Provider Before You Buy

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A CAD CAM purchase is unlike anything you will ever buy. Unless you are a trained machinist, you simply don’t know what you don’t know. As a result, it’s really important to your success with this major purchase to get the answers to the following ten questions. I have put a “*” before the absolutely critical questions and related answers, but all are very important.

  • *Do you provide advanced education? Based on the complexity of CAD software, you should be looking for a company that will continue to support you and one that also offers advanced CAD programs. Unlike most prior purchases, none are like CAD software.
  • Do you use the equipment I am purchasing? To me, this is a biggie. There are many distributors that receive boxes of mills and scanners, put them on a shelf and have a crew of sales people that have never milled or designed a crown, trying to sell this high tech production equipment. In some cases, no one in the organization has ever designed or milled a crown. That said, how much quality support can one expect from these providers? Would you want to learn to fly from someone who is not a pilot or who has never flown a plane?
  • *Does you company have engineers or an R&D department?  This is a definite value added that will enable you access to things like best in class mill strategies, milling complex geometries and very logical personalized workflows. Without R&D you are buying the cookie cutter solution. Today, it’s much easier to compete when having best in class solutions provided by an R&D team.
  • *If I call tech support how long will it take for someone to get back to me? When working with CAD CAM, unfortunately, problems do occur. That said, having immediate access to tech support is a very high value proposition. For example, you’re planning to get a large case milled today, due to both your lab’s schedule and the doctor’s due date, and you run into a design problem. You call your distributor and the call goes to voicemail. You leave an urgent voicemail only to be called back two or three days later. Look for a company that can answer the phone when it rings and answers your question(s) immediately.
  • *What is your customer satisfaction rating? Most quality companies will maintain metrics around their customer satisfaction rating. After all, this is very important to future growth. There are a couple of universally accepted means for measurement. First is a net promoter score. This is a very commonly used customer satisfaction measurement tool for companies. Apple scores in the low 70’s and that is a great score. The other metric commonly used is the CSAT (customer satisfaction) score. This is generated from a single question survey that goes out to customers after a tech support problem is closed. The question: “Were you satisfied with the tech support you recently received from us?” A company providing good support should have a metric in the high 90’s. When thinking about this, if the CSAT is 75% that means 1 out of 4 customers was disappointed with the quality of support received. A rating of 98% relates to just one in 50. If a company is not tracking customer satisfaction, it is likely not a priority and that is a red flag. 
  • *When speaking with a sales rep, ask about their specific CAD CAM experience. If your sales rep has never worked in a product facility, his knowledge is simply obtained from taking a program at the headquarters and thus the information being provided is likely skewed to be that of the sales and product managers. The information provided at these sales seminars are best practices for sales of the equipment, rather than actual in depth knowledge of what you want to purchase. If this is the case, you need to look elsewhere for more information about the specific piece of equipment. Ask for references and ask these references what they DON’T like about the product.
  • *How many full time support and training technicians does your company employ? Providing support in dental technology is very expensive. Some companies subcontract support out to dental lab owners who use the equipment they sell. Others are grossly understaffed. Getting a comprehensive understanding of the support network you will be working with will help determine where to buy your CAD CAM equipment.
  • *What are the limitations of what I’m purchasing?  Let’s look at a mill purchase first. Is this 4 or 5-axis? 4-axis will limit indications and totally eliminate your ability to manufacture some cases. However, I don’t think purchasing a 4-axis mill as a second mill is a bad idea. Is the mill open to all materials, is another big question. When purchasing a scanner, I would find out if the scanner is fully open. Can you send work anywhere you want? Can you add any open architect mill later and still use the scanner?
  • Will you be able to support me with materials that go into this mill? Today there are so many materials you can put into a mill. In fact, there are likely close to 100 different zirconia materials on the market in the US. If the company sells only one, this may not be the one for you. If not, using random materials may cause support issues as the support team is likely not familiar with other materials.
  • What EXACTLY is included in the purchase?  In CAD CAM this can be somewhat confusing. When purchasing a complete system, the CAD may have capabilities that the mill can not mill. In addition, when pricing equipment, the quotes from different distributors can look very similar, but including additional indications that can add significantly to the cost. Make sure you have an apples to apples comparison and you get everything you want and don’t pay for things you do not intend to use.
  • How do you provide training? If you are buying a scanner and CAD, the initial education should be 2 days minimum. In addition, according to Dr. William Thalheimer PHD, most people forget 40% of what they learned in 20 minutes and 77% of what they learned in six days. Doing business with a company that will continue the education for months and even years will be critical to your long term success.

Thanks for reading,

Bob Cohen, CDT

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