At one busy dental laboratory specializing in the manufacture of orthodontics and pediatric orthodontic appliances, installing new workbenches at a newly opened facility was more than just a simple equipment purchase. It was also the key to increasing productivity, and improving its image and laboratory technicians' morale.
Sophisticated designs, flexible configurations, enhanced lighting, and a host of other improvements give the new space the high quality European designed image the lab coveted for its work areas - at an affordable price. The Lista Arlink modular bench system from Lista International Corporation provided just the right combination of affordability, flexibility, and durability to meet their current needs and allow them to adapt to the future expansion the company envisions.
Time for a change when facility moves to new digs
New England Orthodontic Laboratory (NEO-Lab), in Wilmington, Mass. is a dental laboratory specializing in orthodontics and pediatric dentistry appliances, in business since 1976. The staff of 20 technicians produces more than 150 different acrylic and stainless steel products, including retainers, night guards, mouthguards, expansion appliances, and holding arches.
These orthodontic products had been produced on benches father and son owners Bill and Christian Saurman put together from stock cabinets purchased more than 13 years ago at a home improvement store. Long, narrow, laminate counters, with drawers on each end and a cubbyhole for knees were set up in 20-foot rows to accommodate technicians working side by side. Lighting was supplied by a combination of ceiling lighting and a bench light consisting of two small fluorescent bulbs that were only about 15 inches long.
When their business expanded, the pair began planning for a move to a larger, brand new facility with all new computerized equipment in a space of 7,000 square feet. Their growth and success allowed them to consider replacing the aging benches with something more durable, modular and which could grow with the business. And yes, they confess to harboring just a little "bench envy" for the sleekness that the higher end benches have.
"When we put the old benches together 13 years ago, we were not in the position to invest heavily in high end benches," said Christian Saurman. "While serving our purpose, our old benches did not hold up well and we wanted the new ones to be sturdier and more functional."
Bill Saurman added, "The bigger laboratories that invested in nice benches usually bought them from overseas, because European benches were for the most part far ahead of the United States, but these are extremely expensive."
Exhaustive searching for just the right workbench system
Moving to the new facility gave NEO-Lab a clean slate and a golden opportunity to create a better atmosphere for their technicians, improve the workspace configuration, replace worn out benches, and install a universal look that could grow with them as they expand. With the larger space, the pair wanted to configure the lab floor flexibly, depending upon the need, rather than continue with their existing way of operating with older benches bolted to the wall.
Conducting a thorough and thoughtful search for their new system, the Saurmans spoke to dental equipment distributors, emailed industry colleagues who had recently purchased new bench systems, and searched online for available options. They eventually compiled a list of four bench system options and looked at different ways of building out their new facility.
NEO-Lab looked particularly at those with orthodontic laboratories because they knew they needed something that could hold up to the wear and tear and daily abuse that the benches get in the orthodontic laboratory setting.
NEO chose Lista International's Arlink modular bench system after their research. The Arlink system has both stationary and mobile configurations, for the greatest flexibility. The extensive offering of system components and accessories allows a lab to design the exact bench they need. Since it comes in five widths and three heights, choosing the dimensions to meet a specific lab's needs is a cinch.
"Our goal was to give each technician their own bench, and to make sure that the bench was of ample size," said Bill Saurman. "When we saw the Lista setup, it reminded us of high end European-type benches, which typically cost a fortune. Price is a big factor to us, and the Arlink system is really affordable."
In addition to getting very good reports from others, they went to visit the Lista factory in Holliston, Mass. "We were lucky because the plant is about a half-hour from us and it is really nice to be able see something firsthand. We were able to put our hands on it, take a good look, see how it's manufactured, and satisfy ourselves that it would hold up."
Ease of assembly was another factor in their choice; the Lista Arlink modular bench system set up fast and smoothly, requiring virtually no hardware or tools. Bill Saurman says, "I was the one who put the benches together. We bought two of the 26 benches about six months ago and set them in the old lab to be sure they would do what we wanted them to do. It took me an hour to set up the first one, working with a pretty good set of instructions. Once we got it down, it was a walk in the park."
The flexibility to use their new space most efficiently was another key consideration. Both sides of the bench's supporting columns can be used in combination with corner work surfaces to form L, T, U and X arrangements. Workstations can be arranged back-to-back for even greater flexibility. Ergonomic design features make the benches extremely comfortable, eliminating wasted motion, and minimizing fatigue and strain. The Lista Arlink modular bench system comes in a choice of durable work surfaces, allowing the lab to select the best surface for their tasks.
Bill Saurman added that the affordability of the Lista bench made it feasible to give each technician their own 5-foot universal bench, equipped with drawers that fit the lab's exact height specifications, and incorporating ample lighting with a full length horizontal 3-foot bench light with dual lamps.
New system improves morale and productivity
Immediately after moving into the new lab, the Saurmans asked technicians to sit down at the bench and tell them what they liked best about the new setup. Top features on the list include the improved lighting, along with the 5 feet of individual work space. Working drawers and the extra wire rack on top of the bench came in for some additional praise, as well as the ability to tilt the lights and make other adjustments so the bench feels like their home away from home.
The electrical power beams containing eight plugs with one red circuit breaker switch are also a hit compared to the old system in which Christian Saurman checked multiple times to make sure soldering or other heating equipment was switched off for the night. The system is also configured so one switch can turn off the entire laboratory.
Another factor the technicians like is the benches' versatile configurations, which ensure that each bench has its own sense of space, but without such separation that people are working totally alone. On one wall there may be three benches in a line, while another may use metal privacy panels to group four units together while making sure that facing benches are visually separated from each other.
Lista offers several types of privacy panels in materials such as dry erase and tackboard, but the Saurman father-son team gave their employees the chance to choose their preference. The employees chose metal panels for a clean look and the ability to use magnets to easily post papers and such personal items as photographs.
NEO-Lab also benefitted from Lista's complete dental lab product line when it needed casework for the new facility. They were able to purchase a variety of drawer and shelf-based casework for use in storage of acrylic, metal, and other supplies and fittings. They also purchased integrated sink units from Lista for one-stop shopping, high-quality, and an affordable and stylish finish.
"The bottom line is productivity," said Bill Saurman. When we see how happy the technicians are we know we have gone in the right direction."