Lens Processing: Future Trends

What does the 2017-channeling crystal ball predict for the main optical product categories next year? Our December issue features a clearer picture of what the new year may hold for optical retail sales (frames, lenses, and contact lenses) to give you a stronghold on business planning for 2017.
Here, in a web-exclusive, we throw our crystal ball into the lens processing arena (both in-office and wholesale lab) and speak to experts about the future of that category. Read on….
Retail Product Category:
Category Experts: Paul Wade, Lens Processing Technology Liaison, The Vision Council & Steve Sutherlin, Lab Division Liaison, The Vision Council
2017 Predictions

Paul Wade: In-Office Trends
I think that small-profile edgers will continue to become more sophisticated and easy to use. Equipment companies are focused on overcoming common objections to in-office processing—such as cost and complexity—and many of the newer models demonstrate the advances made on that front.
Equipment advances, combined with free-form processing technology, have resulted in more turnkey, full processing solutions. Even coating solutions are getting smaller and more viable for in-office processing.
Looking ahead, we’ll see the number of in-office labs increasing.
Steve Sutherlin: Optical Lab Trends
One main trend we’re seeing in the optical lab is a concept called Industry 4.0: the fourth Industrial Revolution—machines infused with intelligence or, more specifically, artificial intelligence for the manufacturing optical lab.
Equipment is becoming smarter, and more independent. It’s able to not only make decisions on its own, but also to fully implement them.
We’re starting to see systems that are integrated with, and managed by, intelligent machinery—they route and monitor each system independently. When everything is running smoothly, the machine will route all work in the most efficient, effective manner. 
If a machine needs attention, it can notify the command center and route the work to other available stations, minimizing yield reduction.
Labs are moving toward increased efficiency, less labor, greater precision, and higher accuracy rates. The integration of intelligent machines into the laboratory environment is one more step toward that goal.

PAUL WADE: “Improvements to lens processing technology can have a drastic impact on how well ECPs can service patients. Taking advantage of them can significantly boost practice profitability.”
STEVE SUTHERLIN: “The biggest question we hear from ECPs is how to educate patients about the need for different types of glasses. To help, we’ve created a ‘One pair won't work’ campaign that leads patients to”
In 2015, 72% of edger sales were to independents, 17% to chains, and 13% to larger industrial facilities and labs. That bodes well for the future of the independent.