The Future of Work: Challenges and opportunities for dental labs

Digital Transformation of dental labs: Beyond 2020 image

The dental industry is in the midst of wide-spread digital transformation. For dental labs, that means what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow. But with change comes great opportunity. 

What is changing?

The Third Industrial Revolution is changing how we work across a range of industries, and the dental laboratory is not an exception. New and emerging technologies are driving wide-spread digital transformation, and business models must adapt to survive — and thrive.

However, at the same time, we’re seeing a distinct skills shortage across Australian healthcare industries. According to Australian government research, more than 28 per cent of Australian healthcare employers attracted no suitable applicants for their job vacancies in 2017-18.

Increasing offshore competition could further exacerbate this skills shortage as potential graduates fear a tightening market at home and look to greener pastures for their careers.

New and emerging technologies are driving wide-spread digital transformation.

What are the challenges?

As the cost of manufacturing technologies like 3D printing decreases, it is likely that more dental practices will manufacture their own lab products in-office.

And the corporatisation of the dental industry will likely also play a role as independent dental practices are consolidated into corporate networks — potentially with their own centralised lab facilities — and off-shoring to overseas dental labs will add further pressure.

For dental labs, that highlights the need to reassess the value you provide to other dental businesses.

More dental practices will manufacture their own lab products in-office.

Where are the opportunities?

It’s not all doom and gloom. With change comes opportunity, and there’s plenty forward-thinking dental labs can do to capitalise on changing market conditions.

Looking to the future there is opportunity for dental labs and dental practices

While it may be possible for dental practices to purchase machinery or send their business offshore, it’s much more difficult to buy expertise and experience. And that’s where opportunity lies for dental labs.

The relationship between dental practices and dental labs should run much deeper than the transaction, and dental labs that reassess the value they provide to dental practices will prosper.

So what does that mean in practice? It goes beyond simple product delivery. The dental lab can become a trusted partner that guides dental practices through the complex matrix of new technologies and market disruptors.

Think of it this way. Dentists want to provide the best possible treatment outcomes for their patients. Their relationship with their dental lab needs to support this — from helping to improve digital workflows and efficiencies to providing expert advice.

When a dental practice has a partnership with a dental lab that adds real value to their business, they’ll be more likely to baulk at the hefty capex investment required to set up in-house manufacturing.  

Dental labs can guide dental practices through the complex matrix of new technologies and market disruptors.

Emerging technologies, corporate networks, the skills shortage and off-shore competition will all present challenges to dental labs. But those that keep the focus on building human partnerships that deliver real value to dental businesses will stand strong.

This regular newsletter will deliver articles and information for business-minded dentists looking for ways to improve patient care and their businesses.

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