Whether you are a single-chair or a large multi-location dental practice, an accurate and effective stock management system always seems out of reach. Why so?
Most practices, regardless of their size, ignore stock management altogether because they’re simply too busy. Stress, mental strain, and heavy workload are often part of everyday life in a dental practice.
Whether you’re a practice owner, practice manager, dentist, or dental nurse, stock management seems the least of your worries when you’re suffocating under the crush of burgeoning patient rolls. You’re so crazy busy that you can’t step back and understand what’s driving the busyness and how busyness can quickly become burnout.
That’s okay. It is not your fault. Like many other dental practices, you have probably taken a patient-centred approach that stops you from examining the details of what’s causing stress in your practice.
Here’s the naked truth about the busyness trap that many practices fall into: 80% of your work overload is caused by an inefficient, out-to-date manual stock management and not by patients who booked up weeks or even months in advance.
For many practices, manual stock management is etched into work habits that have become so much a part of their daily routine that they are not even considering alternatives to improve their stock processes (such as a dental stock management and ordering system). Manual processes have long been the norm, so you may not even notice how unproductive they are.
That’s why it’s time to ditch the age-old stock Excel spreadsheets and manual processes that are harming your dental practice. Think twice before keeping your manual inventory control system, as it is truly a huge pain for dental staff members.
This post sheds light on the drawbacks of manual stock management for dental practices, so let’s get into it!
Table of contents:
1. 5 Drawbacks of Manual Stock Systems for Dental Practices
If your practice is too busy and maxed out, establishing order from chaos requires you to look at your stockroom and stock processes and determine their level of effectiveness.
The issues caused by manual stock processes need to be analysed, so you can take steps to consider if a dental inventory management application is more feasible for your dental practice.
Now, let’s take a closer look at the problems with manual inventory management processes and the reasons why they are more cumbersome than automated stock management systems.
1.1. Poor Time Management & Staff Burnout
Manual inventory processes are redundant and time-consuming. Staff members must take the time to manually count the items in the inventory and update inventory counts. Moreover, an even bigger problem is that team members need to spend time re-doing it on a weekly basis.
We have seen many dental practices ordering three or four times a week and losing valuable time they could have spent on more meaningful and relevant operations.
Truth is, for most dental staff members, a redundant and time-consuming stock process is menial and pointless work, and pointless work is killing productivity. With so many tedious stock operations to perform, employee burnout will spread like wildfire.
So the question is, why waste time on routine stock counts and tracking and make team members feel frustrated and unmotivated when these tedious operations can be completed solely by an automated stock system? Gone are the days when manual counts were the only way to track inventory!
1.2. Inconsistent Tracking & Inaccurate Data
The Excel spreadsheets used to manage inventory will never be up-to-date. There will always be a gap between the time you buy a product and the time the update is actually reflected in your system.
Also, manual systems do not enable you to track backorders and determine what items shorted on your order are maintained as backordered items.
Moreover, manual processes are error-prone. It takes one wrong keystroke to wreak havoc. One slight mishap and the number “0” can become the letter “O”, or the lowercase “l” can become the uppercase “I” - not to mention miscounts and miscalculations.
When you manage inventory manually, errors are as inevitable as death and taxes. On the other hand, a stock management and ordering system provides you with real-time access to data and eliminates fatal data entry errors once and for all.
1.3. Reliance on a Linchpin Employee
For most dental practices, manual inventory does not follow an all-hands-on-deck approach and a teamwork model.
Most of the time, dental practices have a linchpin employee in charge of ordering supplies and keeping the inventory under control. That’s okay; we know how busy staff members are and how important it is to focus on other tasks related to patient care.
But ideally, staff members should all be able to perform stock operations. If you’re a team member, you want to have all the pieces in place when you start a busy day full of appointments.
Now, imagine the point person for ordering in your practice quits or is unable to attend work. Are you able to place an order? Do you know your practice’s preferred suppliers? Can you quickly identify the items you need in the stockroom?
Beware of key person dependency as you could be setting your practice up for a real problem without even realising it. If you implement an automated stock management system, every staff member in your practice will learn how to manage stock without the hassle of long, time-consuming training.
1.4. Limited Inventory Visibility
Limited visibility into stock levels leads to understocking and overstocking. Both of them are relatively common problems for dental practices performing inventory operations manually.
Understocking occurs when the items you have in your stockroom are not enough to perform specific operations (which can be even more deleterious when you run a surgical practice).
Understocking can cause many problems to your practice, including patient frustration and the cost of expensive restocks and missing out on discounts.
On the other hand, overstocking is when you have too much of an unwanted product in your stockroom. Though this does not directly affect your patients, it affects your practice’s bottom line. Excess and dead stock is tied up money or money lost after throwing away out-of-date stock.
That’s why we can’t stress enough the importance of automating and streamlining your dental stock process. A stock management system offers you full visibility into the stock levels, which helps you avoid understocking and overstocking, which improves patient satisfaction rates and your practice’s bottom line.
1.5. Unorganised and Messy Stockroom
With manual processes, your stockroom can quickly get messy and become disorganised. Imagine all team members have access to the stockroom and take what is needed when it is needed while forgetting to record supplies used. Or, imagine stock comes in, and items are placed on shelves randomly, without even labelling them.
As impossible as it may sound, but many dental practices have unorganised stockrooms that cause poor workflow. We have seen practices that couldn’t dig through their stockrooms to find one item. We have also seen team members going into the stockroom and glancing around, hoping that the item they sought was right up front, without a clue as to where to find it.
If you feel like you embark on a hidden object quest every time you enter your stockroom, there’s definitely something wrong with your manual stock process.
With a stock management system, you can declutter your stockroom without feeling overwhelmed. Once you implement the system, you will know exactly what you need to order, when you need to order, who you need to order from, and where to place items in your stockroom (a good system comes with QR labels for storage).
Conclusion: Manual inventory processes are simply unreliable - especially for busy dental practices that need to operate smoothly and efficiently.
Are your systems effective enough to catch if a supplier invoices you twice for the same delivery? Do they allow you to track your stock levels and orders? Do your stock processes enable you to order fortnightly or once a month (instead of three or four times a week) and place an order in less than one hour? Is your stockroom neat and tidy?
At least one “no” answer to the questions above means that your manual stock processes are harming your dental practice, leading to costly mistakes, poor time management, and a more stressful work environment.
If you’re ready to shake things up and start delivering higher earnings for your practice while ensuring inventory is optimised, and everything is available when you need it, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We can provide you with a 30-day free trial use of Invedent, Australia’s premier dental stock management system that broke new ground and helped plenty of dental practices improve their stock processes. We’d love to hear from you and answer any questions you may have!