Did you know that dealing with supplies the old-fashioned way is costing your dental practice time and money?
Do you think your dental practice needs to splurge on everyday sundries or specialist materials to deliver optimal oral health? Or should you be a little more practical with your dental supplies budget?
According to Dental Economics, “the inventory management process is out-of-mind for many dental practitioners, with supply purchases often an unstructured and sometimes purely reactive process. As supply costs rise and profit margins thin, dental practices need to embrace the best practices of Lean inventory management to maintain and grow profitability.”
But what exactly is inventory management, and why inventory processes are a key area where many dental practices have room for improvement?
Put simply, inventory management is a systematic approach to ordering, receiving, and tracking the products you have in your stockroom. Not only does it impact your practice’s cash flow and profits, but it also affects the staff members’ efficiency and productivity.
That’s why your practice needs to have the right amount of stock, in the right place, at the right time.
You might be thinking, “I do not want items to fly off the shelves faster than I can re-stock and be short of a product in the middle of an emergency procedure. I prefer to hold extra stock rather than run out of a product when I need it most and make a patient wait or come back.”
There’s no doubt that your patient-centred approach is important. For dentistry done right, your patients need to experience the highest level of care.
But you do not need to commit to larger batch orders to deliver great oral health. For example, you don’t want to keep Composite Material past their expiration date because you ordered too much.
Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? Below you will find four easy steps to help you achieve a more judicious inventory balance.
Follow them to improve your practice’s bottom line, manage time more wisely, lower stress levels, keep staff happier and more motivated and ultimately, improve the patient experience by keeping your practice and its supplies better organised.
Table of contents:
1. Step 1: Identify Key Inventory Problems in Your Practice
Way too often, the phrase “inventory management” strikes terror into the hearts of dental staff members.
When dentists and dental nurses describe their lives, they often use the same two words: stress and overwhelm. If this sounds familiar to you, you are not alone. But did you know that poor inventory management is one of the biggest causes of stress and burnout in a dental practice?
You may think that a messy schedule and difficult patients are the most common stressors in your practice. But the reality is, time management is actually your biggest challenge.
Staff members are under constant stress to meet demanding appointment schedules - not to mention the time spent on annoying, repetitive, and monotonous administrative tasks (including inventory management).
That’s why finding enough hours in the day to achieve everything on your to-do list may seem a hopeless endeavour.
Keep a close eye on these dental inventory management problems that are negatively impacting your team’s time management, taking a heavy toll on your practice's cost-efficiency:
Inconsistent tracking causing a gap between the time you buy a product and the time the update is reflected in your system
Long, tedious, and time-consuming process that makes staff members spend up to 15 hours a week on stock management
Inadequate forecasting and limited visibility into stock levels - Both lead to overstocking (having too much of an unwanted product in your stockroom) and understocking (not having enough items in your stockroom to perform specific operations
Unorganised and messy stockroom where items are placed on shelves randomly, causing poor performance in the workflows
Relying on error-prone manual processes and physical counts instead of scanning barcodes to efficiently keep track of the inventory
2. Clean Out Your Stockroom & Keep It Organised
Have you identified the inventory problems affecting your practice's profitability and workflow and causing fatigue and a decrease in productivity?
Now it’s time to take a more in-depth look at your stockroom management issues.
In this post, we have already outlined the drawbacks of having an unorganised and messy stockroom. When you can’t dig through your stockroom to find one item and have no clue as to where to find the items you need, you’re in serious trouble.
Follow these three simple steps to organise your stockroom:
1. Remove clutter
Keeping unused or expired items in your stockroom is pointless, as it would reduce efficiency and affect the workflow.
Use this simple trick to remove clutter: find a medium to large size box and name it “spares box”, and use it to place all the items available in your stock that no one has used over the past 4-6 months.
Leave in the stockroom only the items that you are using on a regular basis.
2. Group stock
Each item available in your stock that you are using on a regular basis needs its own spot on the shelf. Group items on the shelves according to the procedure they are designed for.
We are also encouraging you to keep stock in its original box and avoid emptying it into smaller containers (otherwise, it becomes more difficult to track).
3. Place labels
Place labels on the shelves to easily track and identify the items available in your stock.
Make labels easy to read and make sure each item has a unique description.
For example, Invedent - Australia’s no. 1 dental stock management and ordering system - is providing dental practices with QR code labels to help them organise their stockrooms and easily scan stock items in and out.
3. Step 3: Reduce The Number of Suppliers You Order From
The next step you need to take is streamlining your supplier base to improve efficiency and reduce costs (the practice is known as supplier or vendor consolidation).
This practice has increased in popularity over the last decade and can successfully be implemented in the dental industry.
Consolidate your stock list and reduce the number of suppliers you order from to only a handful of trusted partners to improve stock management. Here is how supplier consolidation can benefit your practice:
Get higher-volume orders from the suppliers you decide to keep
Enjoy substantial discounts and lower shipping costs
Improved time-efficiency (managing too many suppliers is a drain on time and resources)
Build strong and long-lasting relationships with suppliers
Now, let's see the factors to consider when choosing a supplier for your practice:
Affordability and value for money
Average Delivery Time
However, for many dental practices, the number one consideration when choosing a supplier is affordability. But manually tracking the prices set by each supplier for each product is a no-go task.
If you need a helping hand to consolidate your stock list, improve your practice’s bottom line and increase profit margin, Invedent can lend you a helping hand. The system was specifically designed to help you shop around for the best prices on materials and estimate expenditure across various suppliers to improve your practice's profitability.
4. Step 4: Mitigate The Key-Person Dependency Risk
You are one step away from taking back control of your dental inventory! All that’s left is to mitigate the key-person dependency risk.
According to the old-school approach to inventory management, assigning one person to manage stock and ordering supplies is the most efficient way to improve inventory processes.
This key person will know your inventory inside and out and ensure that nothing is ordered twice.
Wrong! Take this approach, and you’ll be in deep water.
Asking one key person to take the reins and manage inventory might seem your best bet, but what if they have to take medical leave, absence from work or move on to another position? Would the other staff members be able to manage stock?
Key-person dependency carries more risks than it might seem, as it can cripple profits and productivity.
Suppose your practice is used to placing orders two, three, or even four times a week (which is a warning sign of poor inventory management), and your key employee is unable to come to work. In that case, you and your team will face many challenges until another team member learns the ropes of inventory management.
That’s why we are encouraging dental practices to ditch the age-old approach to inventory management and start using a stock management and ordering system that enables every team member to manage stock and track orders without the need to rely on a key employee.
Conclusion: By following these quick and easy four steps, your dental practice inventory management should be that bit easier.
Your practice will be equipped to handle the challenges that come with managing a large number of supplies while keeping productivity high and cash flow in check.
Bonus tip: Invedent can help you follow these four steps and take back control of your inventory in just a few days. Implementing Invedent is actually the SINGLE step you need to take to avoid a painful, time-consuming, costly manual inventory process. Start your 30-day FREE trial today and see how much automating and streamlining your stock processes will benefit your practice!