By Danny Chan
The Dental Solution Australia recently moved to its new address on 233 Collins Street. With a prime location in the heart of CBD, the Melbourne-based lab now claims one of Australia’s most prestigious addresses on the dental laboratory map. The 600-sqm laboratory located on the third level of Darling Towers is also one of the country’s biggest.
To celebrate the new premises’ opening, owners John Scollo and Greg Karabasis threw a swanky launch party for business associates and loyal customers.
“This is our way of thanking all our clients who have supported us all these years, without which none of this would be possible,” says John.
Greg adds: “We invited entire dental teams, including auxiliary staff and practice managers, as we believe that all of them contributed, in no small way, to our success.”
It was also a proud occasion for Daniel Cho. The US-trained technician founded The Dental Solution Korea, a high-end laboratory based in Seoul that became the technological base for a global partnership that currently spans 7 countries including USA, Japan, Canada, UAE, New Zealand and Australia. The lab employs 165 technicians, backed by an arsenal of technology that rivals that of any large-scale laboratory in the world.
“It has been a pleasure working with both John and Greg. They are very driven individuals who share my vision of providing the world’s highest quality and best aesthetic results in dental restorations,” says Daniel.
Through online research, John and Greg found out about TDS Korea about four years ago. Their initial piecemeal collaboration has since blossomed into a full-fledged partnership.
Greg explains: “We work together like a well-oiled machinery. Like any major company, we focus on key areas of specialisation; TDS Australia looks after the marketing and customer service aspects while TDS Korea specialises in back-end technology and manufacturing.”
Evidenced by rapid expansions, the formula has worked tremendously for both entities.
Daniel beams: “This new (Collins Street) address represents the culmination of a successful partnership between TDS Australia and TDS Korea. It is most timely as TDS Korea is currently also expanding its premises and scope of operations in Seoul. It is wonderful that both labs are growing together.”
“It’s about predictability”
According to John, the reason TDS Australia is able to offer high-end products at competitive rates is due to its high-volume, low margins business model.
“In Korea, they have the capacity – in terms of technology and skilled workforce – to deliver the kind of volume that is impossible with labs in Australia.
“Although it is true that many Australian labs can do amazing work, but due to a serious lack in skilled technicians, it is inevitable that whenever they start biting off more than they can chew, the quality drops. That is a situation that TDS Australia avoids at all costs.”
Backed by a highly skilled and trained team of technicians in Seoul, John and Greg are able to promise a 10-day turnaround period to their clients.
Greg adds: “End of day, it’s about predictability. Clients can feel comfortable about giving us a case, knowing that they are going to get the best results and quality materials in a fast, efficient manner.”
From pickup and dispatch to invoicing and collection, TDS Australia employs an airtight system that guarantees every single case is properly tracked. Human errors are minimized through repeated QC checks both in Korea and Australia. Greg admits that the Australian QC terminal exists as a value-add service, but rarely picks up on any discrepancy that hasn’t already been eradicated at the Korean end. In the unlikely event that any final adjustments need to be made, TDS Australia employs 15 qualified technicians who take care of any last minute tweaks.
Despite extensive requirements in air travel and counter checks, John and Greg hold fast to their commitment of speedy delivery times.
Says John: “We take our 10-day turnaround period seriously. I know of some labs that are so overwhelmed with work that they have to ring up clients to say that they cannot finish on time. The most embarrassing thing that can happen to a dentist is to have a late delivery and a patient waiting in the chair. That’s the easiest way to lose a client, and we absolutely do not do that.”
In the area of marketing, TDS Australia leans heavily on media advertising and the efforts of two sales teams, each led by experienced sales managers. As for building clientele relationships, they also organise corporate functions to reward and entertain clients.
John elaborates: “We offer this as a special service to our clients, for example, we may organise a box event for a group of say 20 dentists. It’s about giving back, but in a way that it’s not always about business.
“We enjoy attending functions like that ourselves and we thought it a good idea to offer it to our clients, for a chance to let down their hair and relax with their peers.”
Where giving back is concerned, the partners understand that there is no substitute for offering quality products at affordable rates.
John explains: “The way we operate, producing up to 150 units a day, we can afford to operate at smaller margins due to the sheer volume of our output. In this way, we get to pass the savings over to the client.”
“When determining the pricing of our services, we hope to achieve a win-win situation for us and the client. In order to capture the entire market, we want to offer a quality crown at a price that the client will feel comfortable with.”
For this reason, the lab offers three levels of pricing: Standard, premium and premium plus. The packages differ based on the qualification of the technician working on the particular case. Standard package refers to work undertaken by a graduate technician fresh out of college; a premium crown is produced by technicians with 4-5 years experience, which accounts for 90 per cent of technicians hired by the Seoul lab; and Premium Plus products fall under the exclusive domain of Master Technicians with more than 20 years experience.
Daniel quips: “A client told me that the biggest problem with our pricing is that the standard product we offer is already much better than the so-called premium products offered by other labs. So this client told me that he does not need to upgrade from the standard package that he is currently already enjoying from us.”
With help from TDS Korea, John and Greg have gone from their previous daily output of 18 crowns to a current output of 150 crowns per day. With the expanded premises, they are now looking at producing some 300 units daily.
John explains: “Our projection is based on the size of the market, growth opportunity and our strengths in specialisation.
“Crown and bridges are our primary business, although we also provide chrome and acrylic work through a separate partnership through our Hong Kong based laboratory. Our lab in Korea does nothing else but implants, crowns & bridge, as well as veneers to ensure the best results and highest benefits from specialization.”
Ambitious target aside, the duo have yet to get over the initial excitement of moving into the Collins Street premises. For them, the new address means more than just a bigger office space or state-of-the-art working environment.
John admits: “For the past 20 years, both Greg and I have been dreaming about owning one of the biggest labs in Melbourne. Collins Street definitely holds a special meaning for me.
“In Australia, this location represents the pinnacle of dental technology. I believe that we have both achieved our dream.”