Interview: Distribution companies play an important role for their customers in the dental market
As a senior consultant at Henry Schein and a board member of the German dental trade association Bundesverband Dentalhandel, Andreas Meldau had the exact expertise necessary for his election as ADDE vice president in Brussels last year. In this interview, he discusses the European dental trade and the ADDE’s priorities for improved information sharing and member development.
Mr Meldau, how did your previous experience prepare you for your role as ADDE vice president?
Both in current and past roles, my main tasks have always focused on customer needs and involved products and services. I have managed subsidiaries on all continents in the trade environment, as well as a manufacturer of consumables and small equipment where all dental distributors worldwide were company partners.
How have you seen the dental trade change over the years? How can dental dealers cope with these changes?
There are more and more multichannel businesses in the dental market, manufacturers who deliver their products directly to specific market segments. Also the process of digitalisation is accelerating. Dental dealers need to differentiate their offerings with incremental services and solutions. They also need to manage the relationship with the supplier partners in a more specific way, which comes down to common market initiatives rather than just being in a reseller position. Dental dealers have to ensure excellent education of employees and focus on technological expertise at all times.
What role does digitalisation in the practice play for dental dealers?
Dental dealers need to understand the digital workflow involving dental labs and practices and, of course, the patient. Ultimately, the products in question offer individual solutions to end users. Here, it is the role of the dental dealer to demonstrate the different possibilities and aspects of this cycle and show the customer how these best fit in with his or her existing set-up, while optimising the flow and providing more time for patient treatment.
What about the role of online selling platforms?
Online selling platforms are no longer a new phenomenon. They are growing sales channels, either stand-alone or as part of a multichannel or full-service approach. However, online dental business will not replace the expertise of those working for dental dealers. The situation may be similar to the online travel business, where travel agencies are seeing a revival nowadays regarding personal support and help.
Currently, what are the most crucial topics for the ADDE?
First of all, there is the European medical device regulation, which affects everyone in the dental industry, both manufacturers and dealers. A second priority is to provide improved market data for the ADDE members with an even more dynamic survey that better reflects current market trends. The market is changing rapidly on a number of levels: chain formation through investors buying up dental practices; demographically, as more and more young dental professionals decide to work in a group practice; and, of course, there is digitalisation. Thirdly, keeping our finger on the pulse of the European Union is essential. We are a relatively small industry—compared with the medical industry—but in the end, any new legislation has a critical impact. A final priority is maintaining a close relationship with our member countries and associations. They are the basis of the ADDE and we need to be able to cater for their needs.
How has Brexit influenced the ADDE members and the dental trade in general?
Firstly, the ADDE has changed its statutes and we equally embrace non-EU countries. Since the Brexit agreement still needs to be defined, the consequences for the dental trade are hard to foresee. It is certain, however, that registrations, customs and trade handling will be issues.
Lastly, in what direction do you see the ADDE likely to move as an association?
We will start an extended strategy process for the years to come. Our key points are regulations and technology, an information and communication platform for members, and interaction with all key institutions.