Optical Lab Profits: In-House or Outsource?
By Kayla Groves November 05, 2020
Have you contemplated whether your practice could sustain an in-house lab? This is a challenging question for any office, but for smaller one-or-two office practices selling less than 40 pairs of glasses per day, it is incredibly challenging to figure out whether it is worth the investment or not.
If your practice is currently selling more than 40 pairs of glasses per day, what are you waiting for? With smaller practices, typically, only finishing is done in-house. Small finishing labs solely designed to cut single vision lenses for patients who need a quick turnaround time can bring massive profits for your business. However, it can cost your practice thousands if you are ill-prepared to bring in a finishing lab. Before you decide to bring in a lab, you should consider the following:
Higher Profits and Faster Turnaround Time
Bringing in an in-house lab can offer your practice higher profits, and you can offer a faster turnaround time. Typically, plastic lenses are easy to edge, and it only takes about 30-60 seconds to complete each lens. Polycarbonate and high index lenses take a little longer at around 90 seconds per lens because they are cut slower to avoid cracking the lenses. You can control the turnaround time in this situation, and you can charge extra for this service. On average, a practice can charge $10-$35 for a 1-hour service. If you did ten jobs a day and charged $20 just for the in-house service, you would earn an additional $4,000/month. This extra income does not include the profits you will gain from cutting out the middleman. Take a good look at your current cost of goods and see how much money you would save by purchasing un-cut lenses.
1-hour lab services were once the latest craze. People would specifically ask for this service and seek out optometrists that offered it. Nowadays, it is tough to find an optical that provides a same day service. Many larger corporations have chosen to remove them from their stores, and you can use this to your advantage. While some people have no problem waiting a few weeks before they get their glasses, most need them immediately, and waiting can cause massive problems. People will flock to your office solely for this service.
A lens edger is a great way to increase revenue by lowering your laboratory bills. These machines allow you to cut, polish, and grind lenses to fit different frames. However, a suitable edger can range from $8,500 to $35,000. Not only should you consider the equipment cost, but you should also consider the cost of supporting equipment (polisher, tracer, etc.). You will also need to stock common prescriptions, and purchasing a huge bulk of lenses can put a dent in anyone’s budget. Keep in mind how long it will take your practice to recover from this type of investment. If it is longer than two years, you may want to reconsider bringing in an in-house lab.
Ideally, you should have someone well-versed with the equipment and someone who can focus solely on proving high-quality work without damaging the lenses. It is difficult to find a qualified optician, let alone an optician that can edge. Someone will need to know how to service the equipment, recalibrate it, and occasionally change parts. If you cannot find someone to service the equipment, you will need to find a local lab technician who can perform these tasks. While finding someone to operate the equipment may be difficult, consider training your current staff with one of the representatives. Many of these companies offer free training when you purchase their equipment. It is good to continue outsourcing challenging jobs (progressive lenses, photochromic lenses, and polarized lenses) when starting. Do not sacrifice quality over cost of goods. Ultimately, this will hurt your practice. However, if you decide to cut more expensive lenses, keep in mind that if the Optician breaks the lens in the edger, you are responsible for the cost.
There are many advantages and disadvantages to opening up an in-house lab. Still, whether you decide to bring an in-house lab into your practice or choose not to, there are certain things you could be doing in-house that could increase profits, such as adding a tinting machine. A tint machine runs about $240, and you can charge around $20-$35 for this service. You can easily earn back your investment and add more to your bottom-line.