Our focus this month is on Texas-based lens manufacturer Metro Optics. I recently had the pleasure to speak with Metro’s President, Steve Webb.
Mr. Webb, please tell us about your company in terms of its history and direction.
Metro Optics is a longstanding, family-owned business that was founded by my father, Jim Webb, in April 1973. Because it was in the Dallas Metroplex, he called it Metro Optics. At one point, there were locations in Dallas, Austin, and Houston, TX; Tulsa, OK; and Little Rock, AR serving customers in the southwestern United States. Over the years, with better delivery systems and better lathing systems, we consolidated to one location in Austin, where we do all of our manufacturing for customers nationwide.
Metro started manufacturing soft lenses in the Austin location in 1980. With the manual lathing systems at that time, we were manufacturing up to 900 soft lenses per day. Today, computer-controlled equipment allows us to manufacture about 2,500 soft lenses a day along with a large number of GP lenses.
We hold ISO 9001 and ISO 13485 for medical device manufacturing certifications. Over the years, we’ve developed quite a few innovative contact lens designs and fitting systems for them. We hold 10 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 510(k) clearances for various soft lenses, plastics, and designs as well as for some GP designs. For example, our ComfortKone lens is one of only two GP designs on the market to have FDA clearance for keratoconus application.
Our business is built on quality and customer service—that was my dad’s mantra when he started his business. We get to know our customers. We want our customer service to have a personal touch and to be as friendly as possible. When our customers call, they talk to a person every time. They will never get an answering system. And if they need a consultant, they get one immediately during all business hours.
Tell us about any new products or new developments in which Metro is involved.
Today’s market seems to revolve around promoting scleral lenses, and we have a few designs on the market. Our primary scleral design is currently the InSight, which we developed in collaboration with Illinois College of Optometry Professors Dr. Neil Hodur and Dr. Jennifer Harthan. It’s thinner than most of the scleral lenses on the market, and it also incorporates a multifocal component. It’s a great tool, but the majority of our business still revolves around traditional corneal GP and custom soft lenses.
We’re starting to work in the myopia control arena now. Although we can’t promote the lenses for myopia control, in the coming months, we should have an orthokeratology (ortho-k) design for myopia control or ortho-k, and we’re also working on a soft lens that incorporates peripheral blur. We already have multifocal designs that are customizable, which gives us the ability to bring the plus power up in those peripheral zones.
Tell us your vision for the contact lens field in the short term (less than 5 years) and in the long term (20 years from now).
In the short term, I see sclerals continuing to grow to a certain extent. Our business is about 10% scleral; it’s showing growth, but it’s still a small portion of our overall GP business. I think that it will stay that way because the care involved with scleral lenses is significant. Soft lenses and corneal GPs are much more convenient. Hopefully, we’ll see some focus back on corneal lenses and on the presbyopia market, because that’s one of the largest potential patient bases today.
Long term, we’ll eventually see lenses that have technology embedded within them. With the advanced machinery and materials that we have today, the sky’s the limit as far as lens design and application. CLS