Dental-Labor Volkmer has been a successful family-run business for over 50 years in Germany.
Active in three locations with more than 120 employees, it has steadily grown and maintained the charm of a family-owned company with personal contact with their clients, delivering a high standard of service and assistance.
With 19 500 labs and 65 000 orthodontists, Germany has one of the highest densities of laboratories per 1000 inhabitants, and demand is continuing to rise, especially as the population gets older. “If you want to equip your business for the future, you have to be innovative when it comes to technology. Therefore, it was great to partner with Oqton in 2021 when we took a big step into Laser Melting”, says Christian Knoop, Head of Innovation at Volkmer.
Already in 2007, Volkmer decided to prepare for the future, so the company started investing in milling technology to broaden its portfolio. To continually innovate and push the limits, Volkmer created the position of Head of Innovation, held by Christian Knoop. Christian keeps an eye out for new technical developments and how to overcome business challenges such as the shortage of skilled workers.
Integrate workflows and processes
In close collaboration with Ralph Riquier (r2dental), CAD/CAM consultant and expert in process and software solutions, Dental-Labor Volkmer searched for a platform that supported the technical aspects of laser melting and provided an integrated workflow. “The major challenge for labs diving deeper into digitalization isn’t necessarily the budget, but how to integrate the new systems across different processes and workflows,” says Ralph Riquier.
In a modern lab, laser melting, model casting, and plastics production are becoming more interconnected. “Labs these days have to create advanced workflows. The key is to deploy software that meets the individual requirements of the company because we need to prepare the data in our unique way, upload it to the platform, and set the production process,” explains Ralph.
Support every step of the way
Considering metal printing was a completely new technology for Volkmer, they needed time to shift and adjust, and the Oqton team was there to support them through every implementation stage. “We started with test parts for bridges and crowns, first small ones and ramping up to bigger ones. This was followed by test runs for RPD frames for the lower jaw, then the upper jaw, and so on. During this process, whenever we had questions or needed assistance, Oqton was there to support us,” recalls Ralph Riquier.
Working with the same test parts and just modifying the details helped Volkmer to cut through complexity while continuing to have control and an overview of what each step meant. “It also simplified our work when we had to create our manuals. The technical instructions deliver precise information about the angle RPDs need and where support structures must be placed,” added Christian Knoop. He continues, “I have seldom experienced such good and close collaboration. We always had a contact person, and we could rely on Oqton support whenever we needed it.”
This partnership approach also helps to enhance and develop the Oqton solution to support Volkmer and other customers. Ralph Riquier sees the advantage in sharing knowledge for agile development with regular updates provided by a cloud solution. “By constantly giving feedback, we all contribute to optimizing the software. If we find a solution, it will be updated and available for all other users and vice versa,” confirms Ralph.
At first, Volkmer was skeptical about whether a subscription cloud-based solution would be suitable for them. “In fact, it turned out to be a great advantage for us. You have the ability to test Oqton to check whether the software meets your needs. Oqton fulfilled all our requirements and more,” says Ralph Riquier.
There is also the possibility to integrate different printing processes or even the whole process management. “While the technician is working on the data, it can be shared with Oqton, and they can directly support us if there is a problem. With Oqton, you know that the software is state-of-the-art,” says Christian Knoop. The continuous development and updates from a cloud-based solution ensure that Volkmer can leverage the latest features and advances in processes and technology now as well as five years from now.
Freeing up time without sacrificing quality
This speaks volumes to every technical savvy person. But there is more to it, as Christian Knoop points out: “We don’t have any difficulty to receive orders. On the contrary, the industry is struggling with the fact that we don’t have enough skilled workers.” The Head of Innovation sees digitalization as key in taking countermeasures to safeguard the future of the business. “In our industry, digitalization is not the enemy of skilled work, but it’s a welcome aid. We have fewer people to do more work. Therefore, we need to relieve these experts from jobs that do not necessarily have to be done by them, giving them more time to focus on their area of expertise and craft.”
Oqton manages the complete production process while the fine tuning and finishing is done by specialists. “Our goal was to meet the same production standards we had perfected and maintained over the past 50 years. We never thought that we would reach that goal so quickly. The RPD frames truly feel handmade,” shares Christian.
Christian Knoop and Ralph Riquier learned an important lesson during the implementation of Oqton they want to share with other labs: take a parallel approach. “Instead of implementing a new software by jumping into the deep end, it’s better to invest time in creating a parallel workflow. This helps to create models and workflows adapted to your specifications.”
At the end of the day, the result is what matters. Christian Knoop appreciates craftsmanship – and at the same time, he is full of praise when it comes to the computer-based RPD frames: “The quality of Oqton is excellent. It meets the high standards we have at Volkmer.”
About Dental-Labor Volkmer
The Volkmer Dental Laboratory is a dental technical craft company that has been serving dental healthcare providers for over 50 years. They aim to be the best laboratory for dentists and experts in the dental market. They offer high-quality, innovative products at the best possible prices. Volkmer's employees think and act in a customer-oriented manner at all levels of the company. They value fair and cooperative dealings with all business partners.
Find out more at: volkmer-zahntechnik.de