Gazing into the crystal ball…through the eyes of DLA President Steve Campbell
Many businesses have had a difficult time this year and dental laboratories are no exception. Much of the work being done by the DLA right now is all about providing the guidance and support that labs need to get them through the rough patch and into brighter days. However, the long-term impact of the coronavirus on businesses in the sector could yet be a big one. Looking into the proverbial crystal ball, this is what I would predict for the future of our great profession…
Digital will be king
I have long advocated for digital dentistry. It has become the lifeblood of a successful laboratory now more than ever and I don’t foresee this changing any time soon. Those labs that have already invested or are investing now will be best positioned for long-term stability. In fact, I would personally go so far to say that those who don’t board the digital train now, will not have a future. Of course, this isn’t a great time for many labs to be investing significantly in capital equipment, but that’s not what I’m suggesting. Several labs already employ a fully digital workflow and have the capacity to work in collaboration with colleagues as an external service provider. In doing this, even small laboratories can make the most of the increased quality, predictability and time-saving benefits afforded by digital, without needing to purchase all the technology themselves.
The situation of 2020 has also encouraged more practices to work with British suppliers and peers. As the DLA’s Save Labs, Buy British campaign promotes, keeping business within the UK is the right thing for everyone. It will keep more UK labs afloat, it will support the UK dental profession as a whole and it will help to ensure the safety, quality and efficiency of dental care for UK patients. With the risks of importing goods or working with labs that have lower industry standards overseas, it is important that we protect ourselves and our patients by staying local in the future.
I would also predict that dental labs of the future will develop a plan to protect themselves and their teams should we ever face similar circumstances as a lockdown again. That might include building financial reserves that cover at least a few months’ of bills should income stop, as well as a payment structure for practices to ensure work completed is paid for within a reasonable time frame. Business models may adapt and team structures might be adjusted, but the result will be more streamlined laboratories.
Opportunity is out there
The outlook for dental labs may initially seem grey, but there is opportunity both politically for dental technology and commercially for dental laboratories willing to seize it now. Building up the business and appreciating the skills and talents of team members will be key for a brighter future.