I'm lucky though that 45 years ago I married a woman who puts up with this. Her father was a race car driver, who in fact raced in the Indy 500 seven times, coming in 2nd in 1962. We’ve both been around cars and car nuts our whole lives.
I'm also into little things done well, be it in cars or dental equipment. As I look back on my career in dental, the last 16 as the owner of Forest Dental, I realize there was a constant that I really wasn’t totally aware of during that time. It’s an element that I see in my latest car project, a 1957 Willys Wagon. The door gaps and the tolerances are way better than new. It’s too bad you won’t be able to see the frame unless you’re underneath the truck. It’s a piece of art. As you well know, being successful is really about small details done well, whether they are seen or not. This approach serves both cars and dental equipment well. Forest grew 30% from ‘08 to ’12. And now, even with dentistry having been almost shut down, we are coming back strong. No question these are my most proud reflections!
Having worked as a sales rep for A-dec for 23 years, I bought then 28-year old Forest in 2004, a company famous for plug and play reliability. Their reputation also gave them the name of Copydent, because the founder, Ken Leis, had worked for A-dec in its beginning and he would invite Ken Austin over to look at his latest control, which was simply a copy of Austin’s design.
All I did was start tuning things up a bit. For instance, at A-dec, it always bugged me that there was so much plastic that would often result in delivery systems looking faded from surface disinfectants and UV lighting after 10 years or so. Flex arm end-caps would hit a wall, crack and fall off. Things would get loose and you’d need the little yellow Allen Wrench set, which seemingly every A-dec doctor had. So, one of the first things we did was exchange the plastic end caps for triple plated chrome billet aluminum. Next, we changed the plastic air and water Ts for metal, even though they cost 10 times the plastic: I didn’t want water lines breaking and flooding an office. We began using set screws and Nyloc nuts to secure screws so trays, arms and the like wouldn’t loosen and sag over time.
Maybe the one thing that really woke up the sleeping giant, that Forest was once referred to, was our Designer Friendly concept of 9 paint colors, 3 carbon fiber look and chrome. The rest of the industry basically said you can have any paint color you want, as long as it's white, similar to Henry Ford’s statement of yesteryear. Doctors and designers love the fact that they could finish the design with “total color integration”. They no longer had to put a "white refrigerator in an Architectural Digest brown kitchen” - is what one designer said in our Hillsboro Oregon showroom a while back.
We also decided to go with an exclusive two-coat powder coat paint process, unlike any other manufacturer, for a very tough clear over the color coat. And the paint will never fade. In fact, there are about 6 grades of clear topcoats, and we are using the best product out there - it’s a polyester powder coating with 20 years commercial use as a topcoat by Ford, GM, Chrysler and Navistar International for alloy wheels.
Customers love our carbon fiber look that consists of a tough thermoplastic polyolefin. Its chemical resistant, highly scratch resistant, and meets compliance with environmental standards and more. For holder bars we have the durable chrome option. And our fastest growing delivery concept, the rear mount side delivery 7000 series, is plastic free with an all-aluminum chassis. Bottom line is that we choose materials and finishes that keep the product looking new throughout its life.
We are so confident with our control block system, that we guarantee it and the other metal bits under the hood for 25 years. A-dec’s master block has a five-year warranty and, depending on the vintage, can cost $2000 to replace. Forest has not moved away from the very simple pneumatic block design that Ken copied from A-dec back in the ‘70s. If it’s not broken, why change it? Sometimes it’s smart to keep it simple.
As I look back, what I am most proud of is our growth through tough times and how we accomplished this. I believe the “why” is because you and I, today’s consumers, are ever more sophisticated. Especially since the internet and high-def imagery makes it easy to see even the smallest detail of a potential product. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the Forest booth at a dental show, and a doctor would say “you don’t need to tell me about it: I’ve watched your YouTube video on the product”.
I’ve been told (many times) that I possess a childlike enthusiasm when talking to doctors about Forest, especially at dental shows. Now that I have sold my baby to DENTALEZ, I am pleased to say that my enthusiasm for this equipment has only increased. Together, we are doing what they said they would do and building on what Forest had put into motion: our affordable excellence and designer friendly brand focus as well as our industry leading after-sale customer service, despite the higher associated costs of these little things done well. And to make it even sweeter, their President, who insisted they buy Forest in the first place, Heather Trombley, is leading DENTALEZ back to the number one position they once held.
When I started with A-dec in 1975, DENTALEZ was a much bigger outfit than A-dec. They were the top dog with innovations like the first patient chair that allowed for sit-down dentistry; the J-chair. And it wasn’t only equipment, as they also had innovations with the Star line, introducing the first dental handpiece with a built-in light source, the first and only LubeFree high-speed handpiece system with advanced ceramic technology, and the first sonic scaler.
Pay attention to DENTALEZ and what they will do with Forest, and these other product lines like Star and Ramvac. Earlier this year they introduced a couple of evolutionary, very smart products in a new platform called Aeras.
Whoops, I seem to have my enthusiastic hat on again, but the new Aeras 500 Elite high-speed handpiece is the first air-driven handpiece that brings all the benefits of a pneumatic but with the power output nearing that of an electric – but costs a fraction of the price. Another first, the handpiece has embedded RFID technology, that when used with a reader system, can track location and when it last visited the sterilizer. The Aeras compressor by Ramvac has embedded sensors tracking critical parameters with proprietary software that can identify small problems before they become real issues. All Aeras smart features are accessible from any device, with exclusive cloud-based technology. Like today's big league race cars, it communicates how its performing, warning of a pending failure, preparing you or your dealer to take appropriate action.
I can only suggest that you insist that your dealer and/or your PSA representative show you what a product line looks like that is based on the very things you hold dear: lots of little details done well. I know you will be glad you did!