Exclusive Dental Economics® interview with Jeff Lavers of 3M ESPE
Dr. Blaes: Hello, Jeff. We met each other the last time you were with 3M Dental.
Dr. Blaes: Hello, Jeff. We met each other the last time you were with 3M Dental. As I recall, we developed a relationship when you were involved with marketing. It's great to see you back. It's been about a year since you took the helm as vice president and general manager at 3M ESPE. Can you reflect on your experiences during the last 12 months?
Jeff Lavers: Joe, it's great to get reacquainted with old friends in the dental industry. I already knew 3M ESPE had a bright future when I took this position, especially in the areas of materials science and digital workflow solutions. I'd previously been in the division and left for another 3M division four years ago. During my time in what was then 3M Dental, the division received the United States' highest business award: the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. The innovative spirit that was in place to win that award is just as strong today as it was then. What you forget about sometimes when you're away from a place is the passion that the people bring to work. From the moment I came on board a year ago, I could feel the energy in this place. Everyone brings their "A" game to find better, faster and easier solutions for the benefit of the dental professional.
Dr. Blaes: That "A" game is apparent in some of the exciting acquisitions that 3M ESPE has made, including OMNI Oral Pharmaceuticals and Brontes Technologies. How are the integrations going? How will those additions impact your plans?
Jeff Lavers: It is our aim to help dental professionals succeed in treatment at all stages of the oral health life cycle. With our acquisition of OMNI, we added a doorway into the first stage of this cycle - prevention. With our R&D engines revving up in this area, we are excited about the possibilities. The Lava™ Chairside Oral Scanner (COS) is the first development from our acquisition of Brontes Technologies. This gives us an exciting technology to add to our portfolio, meeting the needs of the second stage - restoration. The Lava™ COS will be launched in 2008 on a limited, regional basis. This new technology allows us to continue to be an industry leader in impression solutions. 3M ESPE has long been known as the leader in physical impression materials and delivery systems, with such standard-setting brands as Impregum™ , Imprint™ , and Pentamix™ . So the natural next step for us was to define the future of "digital" impressions, including the creation of a new digital workflow for dentists and dental labs. There is a tremendous amount of collaboration happening right now as we work with our Authorized Lava™ Milling Centers and dental professionals to define this new world of digital restorative dentistry.
Dr. Blaes: Of course, much of 3M ESPE's growth has been spurred not by acquisition, but by its R&D engine, which I've heard many people refer to as a "technology candy store." With introductions like Filtek™ Supreme Universal Restorative (first nanocomposite), RelyX™ Unicem™ Cement (first self-adhesive universal resin cement), Protemp™ Crown (first pre-formed, malleable temporary crown), and more, how does 3M ESPE continue to produce groundbreaking new products? How do you maintain your edge?
Jeff Lavers: It's not as difficult as it may seem when we build on a culture of passion within our dental business and a 100-plus year history of innovation in 3M overall. Everybody in this division is passionate about the dental business, and not one person will compromise on product quality or any aspect of our operation. I look people in the eye in the halls and see the drive to create the best possible solutions for our customers. Innovation isn't a one- or two-time occurrence in this company. It's a way of life. As a division of 3M, 3M ESPE leverages the company's 40-plus technology platforms to develop new products designed with "faster, easier and better" in mind. We work with dental professionals worldwide early in product development so that when something new is launched, we are confident all the right "homework" has been done before a new product is broadly introduced.
Dr. Blaes: How do you connect dental professionals and all this technology?
Jeff Lavers: Listening to our customers is the first step in connecting them with our materials and technology. By the time we launch a product, we have spoken with many dental professionals who have repeatedly tested the product. On top of that, with the professional's help, we determine what educational materials might be necessary to assist in its adoption. We realize it’s not just about great products; it's the whole solution that's important. We have a Web site for dental professionals to access educational tools at www.espertiseinteractivelearning.com. Also at the new interactive learning site, they can receive free continuing education at their desks as they listen and watch content featuring renowned doctors from across the globe. We understand the needs of our customers and we are determined to deliver solutions that meet or exceed those needs.
Dr. Blaes: Does being a “dental company” that is part of a much larger diversified technology company help or hurt you? How?
Jeff Lavers: This goes back to the "candy store" you mentioned earlier. That's all part of the broader 3M company. We have scientists who are dedicated at the corporate level to investigating new science and technology. Those scientists and technologies are connected to customer needs by R&D, technical, marketing and sales personnel within 3M's many divisions to determine what technologies may be applied to provide the greatest benefit to customers worldwide. Take zirconia for instance. Within our dental division, we have excellent five-year clinical study data on Lava™ Crowns and Bridges, which are made from zirconia; but as a company, 3M has been working with zirconia for more than 20 years. Nanotechnology is another positive example. Used in various parts of the company, this technology has allowed us to introduce Filtek™ Supreme Universal Restorative — a product with strength and esthetic properties that haven't been achievable with past technologies. So the shared experiences of the overall company translate into better solutions for our customers.
Dr. Blaes: I have been asked to evaluate products for 3M ESPE many times over the years. What is the company's philosophy on working with its customers, the dental professionals?
Jeff Lavers: Our philosophy is simple — we're committed to collaborating with professionals worldwide to "get it right." We'd love to be first to market with everything we launch, but we feel it's more important to make sure the product is ready before it goes out the door. Our approach puts a high value on input from dental professionals like you who work with patients day in and day out. It's these dental professionals who continuously help us determine what direction we need to be going in, what products would be the most accepted, and what the most urgent needs are for the industry. It's this approach that has allowed us to contribute so many truly new products — products that professionals know will work the first time they try them.
Dr. Blaes: 3M ESPE has been quite successful over the years. It's a competitive world out there. How do you plan to keep that success going?
Jeff Lavers: I bet that's a question that has kept a lot of dental professionals up at night, too! In today's fast-paced world of business, standing still is not an option. We're in constant motion at 3M ESPE — talking with our customers, researching new materials and technologies, launching new products today while thinking ahead to tomorrow. We try to provide new ways to do things that will help fundamental change for the better; the way dental professionals perform their daily tasks. It might be as simple as saving time and eliminating the mess with a new temporary crown, or as revolutionary as a new digital workflow for dentists and dental labs. At the end of the day, the people that make up 3M ESPE are still thinking of ways to help dental professionals function faster, better and easier than ever before. As long as we retain our close bond with customers, including the constant exchange of thoughts and ideas, I'm confident we have a formula that will continue to serve our customers well.
Dr. Blaes: Jeff, thanks for spending time with DE®. I’m sure our readers will enjoy this interview, and I look forward to continuing this dialogue.
Jeff Lavers: Thanks, Joe, for allowing me to share my views with the dental profession.
Jeff Lavers is the vice president and general manager of 3M ESPE Dental Products, where he oversees the worldwide business of 3M ESPE. During his 20-year tenure at 3M, Lavers has spent 15 years working in 3M's oral care businesses. Notably, Lavers served as the global director of marketing for 3M ESPE Dental Products during the acquisition of ESPE Dental AG. He has held two vice president and general manager positions for 3M business units within the 3M Industrial and Transportation business. Lavers serves as a board member of the Dental Trade Alliance and the National Foundation of Dentistry for the Handicapped.