By Danny Chan
When you buy new dental equipment, are you looking for a piece of hardware that has specific features, good value-for-money, a certain look factor or reputable brand? While these provide a great place to start your research, other longer-term factors include interoperability, future upgradeable options, after-sales support, build quality and spare parts availability.
Interestingly, your product research is not dissimilar to due diligence undertaken by an equipment dealer scouting for new brands and products to represent in their local market. In fact, some like ICONA Pty Ltd take pride in having a meticulous curating process – bringing to market products with qualities that they believe can enhance the Australian practice.
Unlike the “supermarket” class of equipment dealers, ICONA carries a narrower band of product lines, therefore do not have the luxury to ‘test’ market sentiments or chop and change products that don’t pan out.
Having less wiggle room, however, means that ICONA is very choosy about which products they represent from the outset. Using horse racing analogy, ICONA’s Managing Director Richard Tankersley, says the company is focused on grooming “one to three thoroughbreds that we know – and can support – well.”
Their ‘less is more’ product-centric focus extends across giving suppliers the due diligence that they expect from ICONA; to being focussed on the IP of that product; to their sales team becoming “absolute specialists of the product” – not least manifested through their support of product users.
ICONA’s carefully sourced thoroughbreds include a familiar name – Midmark (USA) – as well as big European brands like Fedesa (Spain) and Airel (France). Although still relatively unknown in Australia, Fedesa is the sixth largest manufacturer of dental chairs in the world.
Besides sleek European designs, Australian dentists checking out ICONA’s dental chairs for the first time may be exposed to noteworthy features that are: Not widely available; typically available in higher-end units; or entirely original.
The Fedesa Astral is a flexible dental unit package that can be customised to fit your needs – offering continental or conventional delivery, or a delivery cart. Boasting German Hanning Electro-mechanical motors, the smooth chair movements offer easy and quiet switching between three memorised positions as set by operator, in addition to three default positions.
The Airel PE8 dental chair features a balanced instruments arm that may be easily reconfigured to support left or right-handed dentistry, both positions providing easy operator and patient access to instruments. Allowing for two/four-handed treatment procedures, the Airel K2 is a compact treatment unit that belies its robust framework and seamless ergonomics, including a non-return articulated arm with long hoses to work in any position.
Both French units feature what appears to be original design elements: Triple articulated headrest that with a single button, locks in position to support the patient’s head at multiple angles, including a convenient side-facing position as well as the option of a ceiling mounted delivery system.
That some of these brands do not resonate at home is not a major concern, Richard says, as word gets around pretty quickly, and he believes Australian dentists are savvy enough to spot a good deal.
“It only takes customers who are adventurous enough to give “new” brands a try and that’s how we will continue to attract and grow a community of Australian followers,” he enthuses.
An example of an adventurous buyer without prior knowledge of the chairs is that of Carnegie Dental Group, a practice located on Princes Highway in Melbourne. After paying a visit to ICONA’s Clayton showroom, the dentists were surprised at the excellent build quality, bundled features and reasonable price point of the Fedesa Astral chair and purchased a unit on the spot. Following up on the client months afterwards, ICONA sales rep Jessica Shehata, was told the dentists have been so enthusiastic about the new chair, they were “fighting over” who gets to use the room.
Another buyer is Bill Oberdan from Max Oral Surgery, based in South Australia, who flew in to visit the Melbourne showroom. Within about 15 minutes of seeing how the Airel PE8 chairs worked, he was convinced enough to buy two units.
“These kinds of testimonials,” says Roy Conyers, ICONA’s General Manager, “are critical for us because it tells us that you can’t go past a good product. Once the word spreads, more buyers naturally follow. There’s no need for hard sell.”
Adding that the Fedesa Electra with its kneebreak design is a great option for surgeries and mobile dental vans, Roy says that, once again, two Electra units were recently purchased by a Queensland surgery purely through word of mouth recommendation.
ICONA’s reputation as a reliable Australian supplier was initially forged as Midmark’s sole regional agent, facilitating the American manufacturer’s market presence and technical support through its establishment of a nation-wide distribution network. ICONA has secured a partnership with Medical Equipment Services (MES) to supply its extensive tech support expertise in the Victoria region, in addition to about 15 key resellers scattered throughout the country.
Beginning as Midmark agent and now having entered the next phase with European representation, the one thing that sets ICONA apart, Richard asserts, is having an impactful corporate culture centred on building open and honest relationships.
This positive culture permeates every facet of ICONA’s business: Upstream to their overseas manufacturers; midstream between the company’s management and staff; and downstream through distributors to dentists and their patients.
The same way ICONA products are promoted through positive word of mouth, Roy says the grapevine is used to relay the dentist’s perspectives on ICONA’s customer service and after-sales support.
“We take a long-term view of all our relationships because they are geared towards establishing trust and stability,” Roy adds. “It’s important to us that our customers feel well supported throughout their equipment ownership – and hopefully think of us when the time comes for them to upgrade.”
“We’re in the equipment business where our customers only change or upgrade their products in 7, 15 or 20 years,” Richard interjects, “The open and transparent relationships that we have established with manufacturers, distributors and customers testify to our corporate DNA.”
“Everyone that we work with knows that ICONA is committed to support and assist them for the long haul.”