Emory Wright, Senior Vice President Global Operations, joined
Align Technology in 2000 and has been at the forefront of our
Can you share some of the milestones we had over the last two years regarding manufacturing expansion?
addition to our facility continuing to expand to support greater
capacity and manufacturing close to 300,000 custom aligners each day, we
also opened a new order acquisition (OA) and two treatment planning
operations, one in China and one in Germany – all of which were big
milestones for us and “firsts” in over 15 years. Moving resources,
technology, and processes closer to our customers and improving their
experience is at the center of our expansion efforts.
Order Acquisition operation, located in Mexico, receives incoming
physical PVS or “putty” impressions that get scanned and form the basis
of our Invisalign digital treatment plans. In 2016, we opened a second
Order Acquisition operation in Amsterdam. Adding a central European
location is designed to provide a better customer experience,
eliminating the long transit time in shipping a physical PVS impression
from an EMEA-based Invisalign provider to Mexico and shortening the
cycle time for our customers.
An even bigger milestone was
accomplished this past June (2017), when we opened a Treatment Planning
and Training Center in Chengdu, China, the second location outside our
initial Costa Rica treatment planning operation. The new operation in
Chengdu provides treatment planning and digital case setups for
orthodontists and dentists in China who prescribe Invisalign clear
aligners, clinical and customer support, as well as training and
education. Later in September, we opened our third Treatment Planning
facility in Cologne, Germany to support our EMEA customers.
operational expansion initiative is enabling us to better support our
growing global customer base by providing a better customer experience,
more localized support and overall service. We are still working towards
completing the expansion and fully transitioning processes at the China
and Germany locations, but we have received positive feedback from our
customers to date. It is tremendous to see our global vision being
Is there a particular skill set or approach you see as critical to being successful in our aggressive global expansion?
my view, the most critical skill sets are knowledge and experience
within a region. It is critical for us to hire people that have a deep
understanding of their region. It is also critical that we pair new
leaders with internal people who have a deep understanding of our
technology, products, and process. During the expansion efforts, we
ensure our new leaders spend sufficient time learning our operations and
business, and we connect them with teams of experts to ensure we can be
successful in the technology transfer to a new team. Given that we will
naturally run into unplanned obstacles, these efforts require our new
and existing teams to be flexible and agile.
Can you share your vision on the transition to a global company?
the past, most of what we did from an operations perspective was viewed
through a North American lens, where we are headquartered and started
our business. Even though we support a growing global customer base,
much of our thinking has historically centered around a North American
perspective. Over the last few years, our efforts to get closer to our
customers and move our processes closer to our global customers has
broadened the team’s perspective. Moreover, it has enabled a significant
amount of learning and change which has led to an appreciation for the
differences in the regions, countries, and markets. This education has
enabled us to think differently about what we do and how we support the
different customer needs, and has driven significant change in how we
approach our different customers.
What change have you seen in the leadership team over these last years?
my ten years since joining the executive team, we have placed a much
greater emphasis on the global nature of our business. The executive
team routinely travels to different regions to talk to customers and
meet with local teams to see and learn what has worked, and what
challenges and opportunities for improvements are present. By visiting
the regions often, we know better how we can direct investments and
resources to better support and enable our global business. In addition,
we have a diverse team with different international perspectives. I
believe that the global mix of the executive team helps drive the
acceleration of change in our business.
Can you share lessons learned from these manufacturing expansion experiences?
retrospect, I would have hired the leaders in local sites much sooner.
When we started planning and executing our expansion efforts, we were
organizing our local leaders simultaneously which, in hindsight, may
have started us out at a slight disadvantage. It would have been great
to have them come in and be trained earlier and be more involved in the
initial planning stages.
Another lesson we learned was to have
more extensive contingency plans. Planning the transition of our
processes and workflows and that of our doctors from one place to
another and how to ramp up in one site and ramp down in another was a
known challenge. Yet, even with all the planning that took place, it was
difficult to fully anticipate all possible scenarios. We learned from
our first transition with the China based operation and made
improvements with our Germany operation. Overall, what is key to success
is improving with each step. Knowing there is always room for
improvement, especially with our customers.
I am glad to share
that we are seeing the benefits of our expansion efforts. We are seeing
faster lead times and better customer interactions with the local
operational teams. And we will continue to improve and better connect
with our customers to provide the highest level of service.
What would your recommendation be to other leaders?
open to opportunities that aren’t comfortable. Be willing to take
career risks that might be uncomfortable. Make it a priority to work
hard for the company.
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