Growth Report 2017: Classic Optical Sets Sights on 1M Eyeglasses

Editor’s Note: The following story is from Growth Report 2017, published by The Business Journal.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Classic Optical Laboratories Inc. is setting its sights on improving manufacturing capacity by more than 25% in 2017, its principals say. That means the company is on track to manufacture more than one million pairs of eyeglasses this year.

“In 2016, we manufactured 950,000 pairs of glasses and will surpass the one million mark this year,” says Dawn Friedkin, president. “We started 2016 with 190 employees and ended the year with more than 215. We expect to be fully staffed with 230 by the first quarter and 250 by the end of 2017.”

Classic Optical added a third shift in December, and by Jan. 1 had ramped up production by 13%, Friedkin says.

“We anticipate our manufacturing growth over the next few years will be about expanding our human capital rather than adding equipment,” she says.  “We have the systems in place to manufacture 6,000 pairs of eyeglasses per day.”

Currently, Classic Optical produces 4,500 pairs a day.

Classical Optical also witnessed growth through state Medicaid programs, Friedkin says. “At the end of 2016, we won two new states through competitive bids – Minnesota and Montana,” she says.

Still, 2016 had its share of challenges for the company and industry, Friedkin says. One of those was a benefit change at one of the company’s longtime customers, which led to a significant drop in revenue for Classic Optical. The company rebounded by signing two major contracts to fill the void.

Meanwhile, consolidation continues among optical laboratories across the country, while interest in acquisitions from venture capital firms is on the rise, Friedkin says.

She says one of the greatest lessons learned over the past decade is to believe in your business and product, even through the worst of times.

“Ten years ago, we lost one of our main customers in a governmental bid process and faced shrinking 25% overnight,” she recalls. To cut costs, salaried employees worked longer hours, and hourly employees hours were reduced.

“We worked together to diversify our products, including our information technology solutions, which allowed us to expand our customer base and stay ahead of the competition,” she says.

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