Kaizen (roughly translated to “continuous improvement.”) is a core principle of the Toyota Production System (TPS) focused on setting a gradual adoption of small but significant improvements.
Organizing your dental supplies is not a simple task. It requires careful consideration to optimize a workspace and find better ways of doing things. Although it may seem like now is not the time, as you have bigger fish to fry, in truth, big improvements come via small steps, and this fish may be bigger than it appears.
As the industry continues to struggle with a shortage of human capital, the need to learn to do more with less is amplified. Taking the time out to get organized may be a challenge, but it may also be imperative. Let’s take a look.
The Benefits of a Well-Organized Dental Office
Before delving into drawers and shuffling around the shelves, it’s essential to understand why you want to organize—or even reorganize—the space.
Organization is key to efficiency, allowing you to optimize productivity. By ensuring your staff doesn’t waste time looking for the supplies they need to perform their jobs, figuring out what you need to order when, or tracking down and expediting rush orders, they can better prioritize the needs of your dental patients or free up time for more critical, revenue-creating tasks like following up with patients. It also contributes to a calm work environment, helping your overloaded and stressed staff work more effectively, and happily.
To make this a good use of your time, it’s worth discussing the requirements of your staff to learn how to make the area work better for the entire team.
Get Rid of Things You Don’t Need
You’ve gathered all the insights you need from your daily dental operations and have listened to the requirements of your team. Now it’s time to sink your teeth into it…but where should you start?
This seemingly daunting task begins with a purge! Compartmentalize the office into categories and pick one as your starting place. As an example, this could be office supplies (pens, paper clips, and anything you would find on an office desk). Sort through all supplies in one category and separate them into three groups—trash, recycling, and a donation pile—using containers or boxes might make this easier.
Searching through dental office supplies can take some time, and you may find yourself questioning your choices, but stick with it. If you come across items that you’re unsure of, here is are some good questions to ask yourself:
- “Has it been used in the past 10-12 weeks?”
- “Is it likely to be useful in the next 10-12 weeks?”
If ‘yes,’ ask this:
- “Is there another item that would fulfill the same function?”
As you purge through the items, separate them into categories in your ‘keep’ pile so that you can easily visualize your storage needs. Adopting a mindful approach to organizing your dental office supplies is a more productive way of selecting the essentials.
Have a Place For Your Supplies and Put Each in Its Place
After the sorting process, you should have already separated the ‘must have’ items into groups of similar materials. Doing this will make the next step much easier as you think about storage.
Now that you’ve separated all office supplies, it’s time to put them away. Using containers, boxes, cupboards, and other storage solutions that are already available in the dental office, find a home for everything but take time to consider where each item should go. A few things to think about include:
- “Does it need to be easily accessible?”
- “Will it hinder access to a more frequently used item?”
- “Are there similar items that would be used alongside it?”
This mindfulness will help you put all of your dental office supplies in the most optimal places, thereby optimizing your employees’ time. It’s also worth discussing this with a member of the team, either during or after the process, to get a second opinion on where items should be placed—those who work with the supplies most often may point out an issue or a more suitable way to organize the space.
Label All Dental Office Supplies
It’s true. Something as simple as labeling can really speed up the way your team works. Try it, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can spot the gaps on shelves or find items that are stowed away neatly in containers (providing you followed the previous tips).
It’s not just about writing the names of equipment on pretty labels either. Labeling is an important method of separating sterile and used utensils in your dental operatory. Sterilization tape proves to be a great item for this as it changes color when exposed to certain chemical vapors (i.e., you know when a tool has been sterilized).
The last thing you want to do is fumble around for clean dental tools while you have a patient waiting in the chair. It may take some time to get used to labeling, but in the long term, it will prove to be a leaner method of operating and will provide you with more time to tend to the needs of your clients.
Keep Dental Operatory Turnover Supplies in One Place
The sterilization process mentioned is undoubtedly one of the most critical in a dental practice. Multiple clients will come through the door daily, and it’s important to make sure that you have your turnover items ready and waiting for them, for example, barriers, wipes, disinfectants, and other sterile items that are critical for infection control.
Turnover supplies are used multiple times a day, and the previous steps mentioned will help determine a suitable position and quantity for them. Maintaining a methodical process hinges on how well you manage the stock of those supplies and ensuring that the items are kept in the correct places.
Other turnover items that don’t fit into the ‘consumables’ category require a different process. Utensils should be sterilized along with motorized equipment. This is seemingly more urgent as these items are used multiple times per day and for various patients. Keep these tools in a separate place where they remain together as a kit. Each morning you can remove the whole kit from its designated place and be ready to start the day.
Pro Tip: Use a sterilization-safe marker to label these items, and be sure to add the sterilization date after every clean.
Create Dental Process Guides
There are two main reasons why you would create procedural guides for every process—the first is to create a reference. Both yourself and your dental operatory staff will follow many procedures, and if there are any discrepancies, having the process guides available will allow you to check and remediate any issues or inefficiencies you may have.
The second is training. Onboarding new members of the team can be strenuous at the best of times, and process guides help you to teach new staff how to carry out the procedures of your practice. It’s also worth noting that no process is the same, and there is further disparity from organization to organization. Personalize every procedure that your staff must follow and refer back to them to determine any further inefficiencies or, in worst cases, find a solution to a problem.
If you’re a fan of labeling, you’ll also like the idea of version control. If any changes are made to the way that you work—be it in relation to dental office operations or regulation changes—creating a new version of process guides, which are dated, will allow you to quickly find out where the changes were made.
Organize Your Dental Practice With Method
Built by people in the industry for people in the industry, Method’s Procurement solution was designed to meet your dental office needs.
From dental inventory management to procurement, Method’s platform is a perfect fit for dental operatories of all sizes. Built for ultimate flexibility so can implement processes that suit your practice and allow you to most effectively manage your day-to-day operations.
Get the most out of your organization’s efforts and let Method solutions help you carry out the menial tasks, so you can focus on your practice, team, and new and existing clients.
To find out more about Method Procurement Solutions or arrange a personalized demo, click here.
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