This is an updated version of an article we published in March of 2016 on how to effectively manage dental supply inventory. We added some extra information to give you the best tips for successful inventory management for your practice!
As a dental supply distributor, we know that the number of products a dental practice needs to run smoothly is staggering. From essential items like gloves and patient bibs to specialty items like crowns and surgical accessories, managing the supplies your practice uses takes some patience and intelligence. And with sometimes limited storage space, following a specific process can be a huge help.
Of course dental professionals like you are more than up to the task (along with providing excellent care to patients—multi tasking at its finest!). But we also thought you’d appreciate some tips and tricks to make inventory management a little easier. After all, nothing starts a day off worse than realizing you’re out of prophy paste when you have a schedule full of hygiene appointments.
Keep your practice productive and your inventory under control with these five inventory management tips.
- Have one person in charge of ordering supplies and thoroughly checking inventory
Multiple people in the office may chime in with product needs, but they should all be communicated to the same individual for ordering. This ensures nothing is ordered twice or someone doesn’t assume another team member is ordering supplies. Also, this person should be tasked with going through the supply closet and noting what is in your current inventory. A team member may be certain you’re out of alginate but may not know that the purchaser moved it from a shelf in the back of the closet to a bin right by the door. By having one person in charge of knowing the inventory inside and out they can provide accurate information for timely purchases. Plus, they can form a trusting relationship with your suppliers, which can help your practice get lower costs, learn about product promotions and information about new products.
- Have an established ordering process that’s easy to follow (and write it down or save an electronic copy)
This ensures that if your purchaser takes an extended vacation or leaves their position you will have a fairly seamless transition to your next purchaser. This manual should include directions on which vendors you purchase what supplies from, the budget the purchaser is expected to follow, specific dates if/when applicable for purchasing, locations of resources on products, contact information, payment schedules, special requests, etc. By having a tangible process instead of relying on the memory of one person your practice’s inventory management will continue to flow smoothly despite staff changes.
- Perform a routine inventory check
At least once a month your purchaser should take a detailed inventory of your supplies, including how much is left of each supply and how the quantity compares to the previous month. By doing this you not only make sure you have the products on hand when you need them but will also be able to establish a number of certain products you use per month to help form a predictive ordering cycle. For example, if after a few months of ordering you realize you always have a slight surplus of composite you can safely assume that you can lower your ordering quantity.
- Record a list of all products used and update it at the start of each year
This may seem tedious but having accurate records of products used, where they were purchased from, for how much, etc. over the course of the year will save time and confusion in the next year, particularly on products you order infrequently. Refer to this list when doing your inventory checks and making notes for future orders. Plus, you can compare your ordering habits for the new year to the previous to track any increases in quantity or cost and pin point those that seem unusual to investigate and ensure you’re not over-ordering or overpaying for supplies.
- Make certain to stay within your ordering budget
According to DrBicuspid.com dental supply budgets should be 5-7% of average monthly collections. Make sure to track this carefully, both by comparing month to month supply prices and by comparing to your previous year’s spending. Also, take into account any anticipated growth for your practice as that will typically lead to an increase in your supply costs. By watching for any inconsistencies (like large price increases) you can check into the situation immediately to determine the cause and how to remedy it to stay in budget. Plus, many dental manufacturers and distributors have sales on items so when you order be sure to check for any sales that are running. These are great for stocking up on items that you use frequently—order a surplus amount at a lower price, so you can enjoy the cost savings in multiple months.
With these five dental inventory management tips, your office should be prepared to handle the ups and downs that come with managing a large number of items. It’s all about organization and dedication to staying on top of it before it gets out of hand—something we know dental practices are more than capable of.
Bonus tip: Work with one of the many friendly, dedicated and dental savvy sales reps at Dental City! They’ve got tons of experience working with dental supplies and helping practices stay on top of their supply ordering so that they’ve got the products they need when they need them!