By Danny Chan
There comes a time in the life of every company the need to reinvigorate and refocus its business for the future. This applies to even the most successful companies from Netflix to Amazon to Apple, all of which have famously undergone major transformations to keep up with technology, customer trends and market changes.
In the dental orbit, change is afoot for one of our industry’s most celebrated companies: Australia’s very own SDI is in the midst of a big transition. If you have been paying attention, you would already have noticed significant changes made to its product images, brochure design and packaging – right down to logo design. They stem from a total rebranding exercise that extends from SDI’s corporate look and feel through to all of the company’s major product lines and marketing collateral.
More than a cosmetic makeover, Adrian Atyimas, SDI’s Sales Manager for Australia and New Zealand, says the company is implementing ongoing and broad changes across the business spectrum:
“SDI is committed to continuous improvement and optimising outcomes and has identified several opportunities across the business to achieve these goals; from changing reporting structures and streamlining production processes to creating new roles and functional teams, recruiting new talent and harnessing and upskilling the talent that lies within.”
“As a global business we are implementing technology to standardise information sharing and processes to enable us to simplify communication and logistics within and external to our business. We are bolstering the foundations of our business in order that we achieve our short, medium- and long-term vision: Pioneering and driving the science of dentistry.”
It is not an exaggeration to claim SDI as one of the most beloved homegrown companies in the region; its evergreen product lines always find a ready and appreciative audience in Australian dentists. To the Aussie dental community, SDI will always be the company that gave us such familiar brands like Pola and Riva. Even as these products continue to thrive at home, we forget that they are also well received overseas. Until, of course, we are reminded that 90% of SDI’s indigenous production is exported and sold into 110 countries.
The Pola professional teeth whitening range, for example, continues to lead both here in Australia and across several global markets, most notably the UK. Adrian adds that Pola’s Australian marketing gained considerable traction from cross-platform exposure this year:
“Our partnership with the Miss Universe Australia pageant has enabled us to market the Pola brand through social media channels to combat ineffective, poor quality and misleading OTC products, whilst educating the importance of visiting the dentist for a professional whitening result,” Adrian says.
Meanwhile, the Riva range of GIC’s continues to grow with Riva Light Cure, which he adds, is “a real standout in innovation providing clinical, economic and processing benefits underpinned by several unique features.”
Referring to their composite range as “the sleeping giant of (SDI’s product) categories”, Adrian highlights two aesthetic lines: Aura, the simplified high-end range; and Luna, the company’s universal vita shaded range.
“Both these lines have a growing clinical following both across Australia and New Zealand and across other key global markets.”
Of course, the biggest question regarding SDI’s ongoing reforms is whether they will impact Australian dentists and if customers can expect new offerings?
Adrian began his response by emphasising the company’s proud Australian roots – backed by their insistence to locate an R&D base in Melbourne.
“We have a world class, highly trained and educated team of scientists that are continuously working on our pipeline of new products.”
Beyond R&D, Adrian believes that being a local manufacturer actually delivers “tangible benefits” to Australian customers:
“We can provide products with the longest possible shelf life and minimise backorders. Without expensive import costs, we are able to pass on the savings directly to our customers to provide exceptional value across our range of manufactured products.”
The local advantage also applies in the arena of continuing education, where SDI harnesses its global network of clinical educators to host regional education and product training courses, featuring the likes of Professor Laurence Walsh, Dr Marcelo Alves, Dr Andrew Brostek, Professor Edward Lynch and most recently Dr Linda Greenwall.
“Our aim is to provide education and training supported by the latest clinical science whilst providing new techniques and clinical protocols to overcome clinical challenges and improve and optimise clinical outcomes.”
As for new product rollouts, he effuses: “We are currently launching our latest flowable composite Aura Easyflow to complement our Aura restorative composite range. The range offers easy shade matching, strong mechanical properties and high visibility on radiographs.”
“We are also launching Zipbond, our new Universal Adhesive, that offers protection against clinical variability by providing consistent bond strengths across all dentine and enamel bonding techniques.”
Not forgetting the company’s better-known product lines, other upcoming releases include categories like Glass Ionomer Cements (Riva), teeth whitening (Pola) and small equipment.
“However, these new innovations remain ‘top secret’ at the moment. Suffice to say, we will have some exciting new products to announce over the coming years.”
Circling back to SDI’s proud “Australian Made” stance in light of its ongoing transition, we ask whether it’s strategically viable to continue making products locally. Despite wide-ranging challenges facing Australian manufacturing, the answer remains emphatically positive:
“We absolutely pride ourselves in being Australian Made and to clarify, we manufacture our products on-site in Bayswater Victoria from the raw ingredients right through to product dosing and packaging,” Adrian attests.
“We remain viable for several reasons: We are a learning organisation that embraces continuous improvement; we continue to innovate our product offering; and we are able to produce high quality products that are able to and continue to be globally competitive. As a further insight we actually manufacture for overseas companies under their own brands.”
When I interviewed SDI’s CEO Samantha Cheetham in 2016 – two years after she assumed the mantle from her dad and SDI Founder, Jeffery Cheetham – she briefly mentioned that her team would be preparing SDI for “the next level of growth” but couldn’t reveal too much at the time.
Fast forward to present: With SDI’s transition in full swing, Adrian sheds light on the broad impetus:
“In such a global marketplace with disruptive technologies and changing business models, companies need to be always looking ahead to the next change in order to remain relevant to all stakeholders,” he explains.
“Any company that wants to remain relevant in the current global business environment must review its strategic direction on a regular basis.”
These future-oriented improvements, the ANZ Sales Manager insists, will by no means alienate SDI’s entrenched customer base:
“Whilst we have changed our Vision and Mission statements, we have not moved away from the founding principles that have guided our great company to where we are as a global manufacturer of high quality dental products.”
“If anything, we have simply better articulated our vision: Pioneering the science of dentistry and our mission; to innovate dentistry for better health.”