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New workbenches improve image, morale and productivity at New England Ortho Lab

Wilmington, MA / Orthodontic and pediatric appliance laboratory


Problem
New England Orthodontic Laboratory (NEO Lab) and their staff of 20 technicians produce 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" 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 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."

Objective
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.

Solution
NEO Lab chose Lista International's Arlink® modular bench system. 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. "The Lista setup 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." 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. 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.

Benefits
A number of the Arlink benches' features have been a hit with NEO Lab's technicians, including 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. 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.

NEO Lab also benefited 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."