5 Drawbacks of Manual Stock Management for Dental Practices

Luca Tizzano
March 12, 2024

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!

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.