Simple inventory management tips that will make your life easier

Even the most dedicated organizers can become overwhelmed deep in the trenches of your dental supply cabinet. The number of products needed for day to day dental work, plus any products required for less frequent but essential procedures, can easily climb into the hundreds. And even the smallest lapse in the organization can leave a supply closet in disarray.

Fortunately, there are many ways to tackle this project without pulling your hair out or simply accepting your supply closet will always be one of those projects to “worry about tomorrow.” These tips we share below are an excellent place to start better managing your inventory and making your life easier.

First things first, the most important piece to having well-organized inventory is to appoint one person as the manager of all supplies used in your office. That means you have one team member who places orders, places newly ordered products in your supply closet, keeps track of who is using what tracks product quantities, etc. When multiple people attempt to handle these tasks it’s very easy to assume that someone else remembered to take inventory last week or checked to make sure there was enough composite for all the restorations scheduled in the coming month. But with one inventory point person, there will be no confusion or responsibility offloading taking place at your office.

Another great way to assure your office stays on top of product inventory is to have a spreadsheet that lists every item in your inventory, the quantity of the item on hand, the item’s expiration date, and the last time you ordered the item. This way you have an immediately accessible catalog of all your products in one place that can be easily updated whenever needed. This can be especially beneficial when it comes to tracking how much of a product is used and when it needs to be reordered. To make this work have a simple sign off sheet in your supply closet where team members can record the products they’ve used each day and how many of those products they’ve used. At the end of each day, the person in charge of maintaining the inventory can make changes to their master product spreadsheet.

Additionally, setting aside a specific time each week to thoroughly review your inventory and make a list of items you need to reorder will significantly decrease the chance of running out of an item or having to pay extra for expedited shipping when you’re close to running out of an essential item. By making this part of a weekly “to do” list, you’ll get in the habit of proactively maintaining your inventory versus reacting to a request from a team member or getting to it when you have a spare moment. Not to mention, a weekly check allows you to quickly identify if something was missed the prior week and correct it before a more long term issue arises.

When it comes to what’s inside your supply closet, it’s best to have some documented places for each item, whether that means organizing products by procedure, category, frequency of use, etc. For example, having all your high-use items (gloves, masks, prophy paste, patient napkins, etc.) together in a central location that’s easy for everyone to access will make keeping track of these items much easier than having your team stash a few of whatever they need in separate exam rooms. And placing expiration date sensitive items in bins clearly labeled with the expiration date will help ensure you use them up before they expire—just make sure to update the expiration date as older items are used up! Whichever way you decided to organize your inventory, make sure it’s properly communicated with the entire staff. This way you can be sure there’s an understanding of what goes where and people won’t simply be placing things wherever is most convenient for them. The last piece of the puzzle is to “enforce” the organizational strategy you’re using, make liberal use of labels for easy identification for choosing and putting away products. For example, you may have a shelf that holds all your various types of composites or a bin where you store your various burs and diamonds.

At the end of the day, maintaining a well-organized inventory isn’t rocket science. Thank about what will work best for your office and your team. Consider getting everyone’s perspective and buy in ahead of time, so the plan will launch successfully. Remember, though, you do need to be willing to put in a consistent effort towards maintaining a system that works for your office. If you do that—and follow the above tips—you should be sitting pretty with a supply closet that doesn’t make you want to slam the door and run away. Good luck!