Our Greatest Anxiety, A Plan For Relief



The greatest anxiety for me is canceling patient appointments for my customers or not having cases back to a dentist office on time. What are the solutions? Cross training staff, developing workflows that insure on time every time, and having redundancy in equipment. All are critical to staying on time and being as productive as possible five days a week, 52 weeks a year. All of us who have ventured into CAD CAM understand just how amazingly productive scanning, CAD and milling are. Adding CAD CAM to a lab results in a large capacity increase without the addition of a lot of staff. Not that long ago, I would have said that a one man lab producing 20 PFM’s a week was considered very productive. Today, adding CAD CAM can bring this number closer to 20 units a day (not PFM’s). For the purpose of this blog, let’s agree that a mill is about 5X more productive than a technician.

Now that you have added a CAD CAM solution to your lab and are dependent on it, how do you manage when unforeseen problems occur? Mills have dozens of moving parts and it’s inevitable that at some point production will be interrupted. This interruption could last for a week or more. Sintering furnaces also have parts that go bad and need replacement. Rescheduling patients and pushing off production hurts your customers and your business, adding stress to the job. In addition to problems, how do you best manage spikes in workload? Are you prepared to accept work from a group practice that calls you looking to send you their cases? If not, it is likely your competition is.

I have often written that once a mill is at about 80% capacity, it’s time to add a second mill. More recently, since the cost of a mill has become so reasonable, adding another mill and/or sintering furnace comes with a lower ROI than the first and has many more benefits than just being a backup piece of equipment.

The additional mill can make your entire operation far more efficient. The second running spindle will enable you to reduce backlogs in the workflow and make you far more productive. Mill a large case at the same time you are milling your smaller cases. Mill wax for pressing in one mill while milling zirconia in the second. When do you mill that full arch PMMA provisional? There are nearly endless benefits to running two spindles simultaneously.

Sintering is a similar deal. You have a rush case and a large bridge as well as all your more standard cases. Having an additional sintering furnace could enable you to sinter the rush case in just 2 hours and then put the large bridge into the same furnace while the other furnace is sintering your standard work.

In an analog lab, redundancy cost is the cost of a dental technician. In a CAD CAM workflow, there is a one time expense or a lease that is about $600 a month. No way you get a lab technician for just $600 a month and the mill produces 5X what most technicians produce. My final message for this blog is don’t skimp on needed automation. In the long run it costs much less than rescheduling patients and reduces anxiety.

Thanks for reading. Please share with a friend.

Bob Cohen, CDT

Director, Product Development

Zahn Dental, CAP

Back to All Posts