A-dec – celebrating 35 years in UK dentistry
After A-dec celebrated 35 years in UK dentistry, we speak to Matt Turner about how A-dec has lasted so long and plans for the future.
Can you please introduce yourself and give us your history with A-dec?
I’m Matt Turner, the general manager here at A-dec UK.
I’ve been with A-dec for just about seven years now. Before that I worked for some other dental companies and have been in the industry for about 28 years now.
A-dec has now been going for more than 35 years. How did it all begin?
A-dec, as you may be aware, is the Austin Dental Equipment Company. It has been trading now across the US for 60 years now.
There was an opportunity to grow our business internationally. So the Austin family set up a number of entities around the world, one of them being in UK, the other in Australia. So A-dec UK have been trading now for 35 years, based in the Midlands.
But before that A-dec was selling into the UK and Irish markets through some of our dealers, particularly in Ireland. It was McCormack at the time who were the importer/distributor before A-dec had an entity in the UK.
What reception did A-dec receive when it first came to the UK?
I think I think the brand is always been very well recognised for quality. So I think it would have been met with the same standards.
A-dec has always had this reputation for going above and beyond. That was the same when we first started in in the UK and Irish markets. So, I think the brand would have been very well received back then.
Thirty-five years is a is a long time. How have things changed for A-dec over the last 35 years?
A commitment to continuous improvement is really at the forefront of everything we do.
We’ve seen some major strides in those areas about how we improve our business and our relationships with our dealers and with our customers.
But also, some of the industry products that we’ve launched over that time.
I think back to maybe over the last 15/20 years when A-dec launched the A-dec 500 chair, which is the biggest selling dental chair in in the world. Recently we’ve had a sort of a new iteration of that. So it’s almost like that product has come full circle.
There’s the work that we’ve done within the dental schools as well. We work a lot with the dental schools, not only supplying products to them but also as part of the curriculum. We’ll help students really correct their own posture positions correct. But also positioning the patient correctly and trying to help them have a long and happy working career in dentistry.
You don’t just supply chairs. What have been the big innovations that A-dec has launched over the last 35 years?
I think within dental schools particularly, is the transition of the student from the simulator, which of course we manufacture and then onto a dental chair and treating patients.
I think from those areas, it’s making sure that it’s as seamless as possible. And the user interface on those training simulators is the same as what’s on the dental chairs. That really helps students transition from one to the other.
The last thing we want and something we work hard on, is really making sure that the student is comfortable and not having to worry about what this button does. What does that button do?
I think one of the areas where we’ve really focused is making our product a lot more intuitive and easy to use.
We aim to give dentists confidence that when they buy into the idea of the brand that they’re going to be looked after from a quality point of view, but also from an experience point of view. Making sure that we’re putting the customer first and making sure that they have a quality experience.
What does A-dec stand for today?
Our vision is to be the preferred choice. So the preferred choice from our dealers, from making sure that the product is easy to install, easy to maintain and look after. Easy to get spare parts and the preferred choice from that perspective.
But then from the customers point of view, having products that are intuitive, good quality. They’re high specification and a brand they can trust in.
So when a customer thinks about or a dealer thinks about dental chairs, they think A-dec.
The other area is about delivering a superior customer experience.
We invest heavily in that experience. We have three showrooms in the UK, in Bracknell, covering that sort of southern area, in the Midlands, which is where our head office is and then of course in Warrington.
That investment is really to help customers make positive choices about the equipment they may have for the next 15/20 years.
With A-dec, you can come in and you can test the product and push the buttons. Really make sure that it’s the right equipment for the practice, for their patients and that they’re making those right decisions.
It is an integral part of the treatment room. It’s what the customer sees, what the patient sees when they walk in.
It’s an area that we can get wrong as well, making sure that the treatment room is efficient and ergonomic.
We can help with that kind of stuff to make sure that the customer is making those decisions based on what’s right for them.
The other thing we do is we challenge a lot of the traditional thought processes and maybe come up with some different ideas.
Sometimes the customer will go in that direction and other times not. But it will get people really thinking about what they are doing and what’s the best for them.
We also think about some of the soft areas as well, not just the that the chair in the centre of the room.
What does that patient journey look like? What’s the look and feel of the practice? Can we give some helpful advice and tips on that as well?
The last year and a half has been challenging for for every business from all backgrounds. How did A-dec deal with the COVID outbreak?
For us it was challenging.
We actually didn’t close throughout COVID. We were open right the way through on skeleton staff. But we wanted to make sure that if there was a customer who was out there working and they needed spare parts, we were able to support them.
So we had several of the managers in the business picking spare parts and getting them sent as well as answering some technical questions.
Often, we might get dealer partners calling us and wanting some particular advice. So we wanted to make sure we were on hand to be able to give that.
I suppose more bigger picture for us was: what do we need to focus on?
For us it’s about our people. Our attitude is that if we look after our team, then they will look after our people, our customers.
So we had a real focus and do have a real focus on making sure that our team feel safe, feel confident.
We were giving weekly team updates where people at the business were able to dial in, just make sure they could check in with how things were going. Give them a short update on how the business is doing.
There was a lot of uncertainty about at that time. So weekly updates felt enough.
The other focus area for us was just being helpful. I think there was a lot of customers who had questions around, how do they shut down their dental chair and leave it for two months.
We wanted to make sure that we were on hand and giving lots of information around that. We published a few papers that we shared on social media. And then in turn, as those customers came back to work, how to restart it.
We were all feeling that is was very uncertain times and maybe vulnerable. We were trying to be as helpful as we can.
The other area of focus for us was just making sure that we were still delivering quality.
In these uncertain times, things can get missed very easily. But for us it was just making sure that we’ve got to have a system and processes in place. To make sure that whatever we’re doing is to high quality.
I think those three focus areas really helped us get through COVID in a fairly positive way.
All of our team came back pretty early on last year.
We saw phenomenal growth rates in the second half of last year and this year too. So, I think what we did seem to work well for us.
Since you’ve come back, you’ve seen phenomenal growth rates. Why do you think there has been such a growth?
There’s no doubt that the market is buoyant at the moment. I think there are patients out there with some pent-up demand and increased disposable income.
From our point of view though, there is still a lot of competitors and choice for customers within the UK market. We just really focused on what we want to do best, delivering a superior customer experience and focusing on quality.
That’s why customers choose A-dec over some of the other brands.
It’s also about making sure we’ve got capabilities in place to deal with this increased demand and it is something that we think a lot about.
What does the future hold for A-dec?
Another 35 years? It’s a focus on continuous growth, new products coming down the pipeline at some stage over the over the next few years.
The market is changing slightly and focusing more on integration and making sure that whatever the clinician wants to use is available in their delivery system.
I think just keep doing what we’re doing. Focus on quality, focus on delivering our superior customer experience and focus on our people.
A-dec is a brand that’s been growing from strength to strength for a number of years now. I don’t see that stopping in the near future.
Can you mention any of the new innovations?
I don’t think I can, at least, I don’t want to talk about anything new right now.
But there’s always new projects in the pipeline.
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