Dr. Brian Young discusses the importance of keeping track of inventory efficiently
Virtually every surgical practice, whether large or small, faces the same familiar inventory challenge: how to maintain an optimal balance of dental implants, bone grafts, membranes, and abutments. Ensuring adequate levels of these implant-related supplies is a headache without the proper system in place. Unlike general dental supply, implant-related supply carries a high relative cost, making inventory management of these items critical to your functioning practice.
One approach to avoiding shortages is an overstock system. If there is abundance of implant-related supplies, the practice can accommodate any patient at any time. However, the overstock method creates a cash-flow burden and is still only a temporary solution. As overstock supply is used, the same typical inventory management issues creep into the office. For example, you may have an inventory of 45 implants on hand, but you still may not have the exact size that you need for a patient right now.
Understock can be even more deleterious to the surgical practice. Ordering at the last minute or just-in-time, leads to excessive shipping fees, increased per-unit pricing, and unpredictable delivery schedules due to inadequate supplier stock or weather-related factors. As a result, understock can potentially lead to lost production and higher overhead in the practice.
Most dental practice inventory management systems endeavor to reduce overstock and control ordering by estimating the office’s needs for a period of time. But implementing a system like this can be a challenge. Understanding what to order, in what quantities, and at what time, and then monitoring daily use, can all amount to a labor-intensive process that requires burdensome micromanagement.
The goal of an optimized implant-related inventory management system should be to establish an efficient, repeatable process that ensures the proper supply level of products in the practice at all times. Such a system not only promotes cost and resource efficiencies, but also offers an avenue to peace of mind for all team members.
Managing supply levels requires a simple and established process that allows each member of the dental team to effectively participate. The system should ensure timely ordering of product and real-time tracking of receiving and use. Furthermore, inventory management should be responsive and reflect changes in practice trends over time.
While manual inventory management is certainly better than nothing, tracking received supplies, consumed supplies, reserved supplies for future cases, and remembering order thresholds and order amounts can be a daunting task for a team member. Manual implant inventory management systems can be costly to the practice as they are time-consuming to manage on a daily basis and fraught with potential mistakes. Ultimately, manual inventory management systems are typically short-lived in the surgical practice as most practitioners find these processes unreliable.
Inventory ordering and control can also be managed by software. Inventory software has several advantages over manual systems and is ultimately less time-consuming and more reliable. In addition, software has features that manual systems cannot provide — real-time inventory, usage reports over time, and automated ordering reminders. General inventory software like Fishbowl® Inventory (www.fishbowlinventory.com) can be adapted for dental use. However, specific programs like Implant Manager (www.implantmanager.com) have unique features tailored to the dental implant office such as native barcode scanning, reporting features specific to the surgical practice, automated ordering reminders, and patient lot number tracking. Inventory software creates a more efficient workflow as it typically takes less time to manage than manual systems. In addition, accuracy is improved, making software systems more reliable over time.
Strong systems in your dental implant practice will improve consistency. Organizing and managing the implant-related supply manually or with software takes a commitment. However, once in place, your implant practice will be able to sustain controlled growth by allowing your team to be both productive and profitable.