Secrets of Success: Zhermack Inc.

Jan. 1, 2007
Editor’s Note: One of the latest international dental manufacturers to enter the U.

Editor’s Note: One of the latest international dental manufacturers to enter the U.S. dental market is Zhermack Inc., a leading producer of dental impression materials and high-tech dental laboratory equipment that is headquartered near Venice, Italy. Proofs recently had the opportunity to speak to Barbara Maragni, general manager of Eatontown, New Jersey-based Zhermack USA to discuss how the company intends on replicating its international success in the United States.

Proofs: Zhermack is not exactly a household name in America, but if one were to do a little research they would discover that your company is an international, multi-continent leader in dental materials and equipment.

Maragni: That’s right. Zhermack was founded more than 25 years ago and currently distributes its products to more than 100 countries worldwide. In fact, in many of these countries, especially Europe, we are either the market leader or in the top three.

Proofs: How has Zhermack achieved this level of international market leadership?

Maragni: Our company slogan is “Beyond Innovation.” This is much more than an advertising phrase, it is a core belief that is taken very seriously throughout our organization. It’s what drives Zhermack forward. For example, 20 percent of Zhermack’s sales revenue is reinvested into research and development. This investment funds our continuing efforts to develop better dental and lab materials, adopt more efficient manufacturing processes and design more advanced and innovative operatory and laboratory equipment. It should be noted that product innovation alone would be meaningless if we did not put equal emphasis on customer service and support. Therefore, we apply our “Beyond Innovation” philosophy to both products and customer service alike.

Proofs: You’ve been in the United States for about five years, but it appears you’ve kept a low profile. Was this intentional?

Maragni: Some of it was, but some of it wasn’t. For example, we originally located our U.S. headquarters in Reno, Nevada. This proved to be less than optimal for coast-to-coast distribution and far too many time zones removed from communicating with our corporate headquarters in Italy. We believe in identifying and correcting problems quickly, so we changed course fairly swiftly and relocated to a 5,000-square-foot facility in Eatontown, New Jersey.

Proofs: Why New Jersey?

Maragni: First of all, we are now within a great distribution hub of interstate highways, railroads and airports that ensures improved logistics, including superior inventory control and product rotation. Being on the East Coast also enables us to have teleconference calls with our European offices at reasonable times. We are now completely in tune with both our U.S. market and our headquarters. In addition, New Jersey is the home of a large, skilled workforce that will enable us to hire the right people as we continue to expand. We also spent several years perfecting our sales and distribution infrastructure, including building our dealer network across the country. Another thing we learned is that it’s easier for our call center to serve the rest of the country from the East Coast than from the West Coast. For example, we have no problem finding people who will work a later shift so we can accommodate our West Coast customers, but it isn’t as easy to hire and retain a call center shift that starts at 6 a.m. Pacific time to serve the East Coast. We are now ready to move forward and expand within the U.S. dental market.

Proofs: It seems you have all the pieces in place. How will you make the Zhermack name as well known in the U.S. as it is in the rest of the world?

Maragni: 2007 will be a high-profile year for Zhermack USA. We will be attending all the major dental meetings, advertising heavily in the leading dental publications and launching a full-scale public relations campaign.

Proofs: Product innovation, strong customer support plus a strategically located distribution facility. These are all important contributors to Zhermack’s success. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Maragni: Although it is important for a company to be profitable, it’s equally important that it set and maintain ethical standards. Being a good corporate citizen is extremely important and it goes a long way in helping to promote and sustain global growth. For example, in addition to being ISO 9001 certified for its manufacturing quality system, Zhermack has also earned ISO 14001 certification for its environmental management system. This applies not only to our environmentally friendly manufacturing processes, but also in the use of safe materials in our products and packaging. This is important not only to Zhermack, it is becoming increasingly important as dentists and lab owners are being held more responsible for materials disposal by their local governments. We want to be part of the solution by providing the highest-quality, best-supported environmentally friendly dental materials and equipment in the U.S. dental market. This is how we define success.