When you don’t know what you have, it’s hard to see what you need.
If you’re in the dental industry, chances are, your inventory management could use a little improvement. All too often, due to the overwhelming requirements of running a dental practice, the managing of supplies is a reactive, fire-quenching task. But as the costs of dental supplies rise and dental offices struggle to remain profitable, standard inventory management practices can help secure the cost savings you need.
As we’ve said before, there are big costs to poor procurement, and good procurement starts with solid inventory management. Because when you don’t know what you have, it’s impossible to make smart, informed decisions on what it is you need.
What Exactly is Dental “Inventory Management?”
Inventory management is where you track movement in and out of your stockroom with the goal of knowing how much you have on hand, when more will be delivered, and most importantly when you need to order.
Good inventory management is the framework you need to get it “just right.” Keeping enough inventory on hand for production requirements while avoiding the hefty costs and repercussions of carrying too much stock, such as impeded cash flow and assuming financial losses from expired inventory. It is the framework that allows for streamlining and improving the procurement processes that lower your cost of supplies and improve your profits—making them every bit worth doing.
Whether you opt to record your inventory counts and movements with a barcode scanner to increase efficiency and accuracy or start with a manual process, the critical part is that you start.
The Best Inventory Management Practices For Your Dental Office
At Method, we believe in practical, employee-focused real-world solutions. To ensure long-term adoption, it’s imperative you “keep it real” when selecting projects and establishing processes. Small but consistent steps forward will get you further, faster.
Not finding the supplies you need when you need them can be frustrating. And counting inventory when your stock is in chaos is equally so. Establishing a streamlined process for stocktaking (the counting of your inventory) will help limit errors and ensure the reliability of numbers while reducing the time spent and lessening frustrations.
Although our hope is the below will help you streamline the process and thereby make it more manageable, we understand that regularly counting inventory may not be a realistic starting point for some dental practices. If this is the case, we suggest scanning your dental supplies as they are pulled from stock and then performing inventory counts when you are able or when large inventory discrepancies are found.
Organize Your Stockroom
Before performing your counts, clean, and organize your stockroom.
- Pay attention to the quantity per box as it may vary by supplier.
- Partial or open boxes should be opened and counted one by one.
- Keep your most commonly used items in the easiest-to-reach areas.
- Do not keep “just in case” inventory outside of your designated stock area.
- If you carry products that have a shelf life, using the first-in, first-out (FIFO) method will help you mitigate the risks of product expiring, leading to a financial write-off. This simply means you organize your inventory in a manner that places the oldest stock at the front and the newest at the back (much like the cans in a grocery store.)
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Standardize, Communicate, and Govern
Once you’ve designed a process, standardize it by documenting it and train delegated employees. Be detailed enough in your guidance and provide step by step information.
Now, here’s where we may lose you if we haven’t already. Set a stocktake schedule and adhere to it.
Make sure your employees are aligned on the above. They should know by who, when, and how your counts will be performed. Remember, new processes take some time to take root and may be designed imperfectly. Follow up, ensure the counts are completed as planned. Retrain or make adjustments to the process if issues are found.
Reiterate until success is achieved.
Leverage Automation with A Cloud Based Procurement Management System
We admit we may be biased, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Leveraging automation with a cloud-based Procurement Management System (complete with inventory management, barcode scanning capabilities, and client support to help you implement streamlined best practices) is one of the best profit improving decisions you can make for the health of your dental practice.