Yes, we are procurement software, and yes, we just said this

Whether you are an emerging organization of three to five offices or a larger dental enterprise, truly accurate inventory management always seems just out of reach or, even worse, is ignored altogether.

What do we mean by inventory management? In this article, inventory management means that at any moment you know what products are on the shelf in a given office.

Unfortunately, the current perception is that you need inventory management software and that this software will magically solve all your supply problems.

However, the fundamental flaw of purchasing, managing, and tracking inventory isn’t the decreasing accuracy of glove count or the spreadsheets you diligently try to fill out; it’s the process itself. Regardless of your purchasing practices or software solutions, the reality is a physical person must manually enter supply data for multiple offices into a system leaving the essential process of managing inventory open to inaccuracy and inefficiencies. And yes, scanning is still considered manual.

The harsh reality: 

Even with today’s inventory management solutions, to achieve the best and most effective outcome, you still need manual compliance at the office to solve this problem. Nevermind the scalability challenges if you have multiple locations; when it comes to driving operational excellence is adding another task to your overworked staff checklist the best idea when you want them focused on providing the best patient care and service possible?

So, what can we do about it?

Identify the root problem you want to solve and start at the beginning.

Ask yourself, “What problem am I trying to solve? Is it always knowing what’s on my shelf, or is it to ensure I am not buying more than what I need to serve my patients in this period of time?”

We know inventory management is the answer to these questions, but the process itself may not be practical. So, why not empower your staff and solve the actual problem by prioritizing purchasing compliance, using data and budgets to ensure you are not overspending, automating decision-making and approvals, and leveraging receive and reconciliation functionality in support of keeping accurate records.

Prioritize Purchasing Compliance

Compliance can be captured in one word: predictable behavior. But, before you can truly drive company-wide compliance, you have to answer a few questions:

  • How do we order supplies?
  • What do we buy?
  • Where do we buy it?
  • And what does that current process look like?

To get started, create one environment where all office purchasing and vendors/suppliers can live. By creating a single controlled environment, then mandating that all purchasing takes place there, dental offices can not only control costs but increase formulary acceptance by simply encouraging the right behavior in the right place. More importantly, that behavior is producing data, and now that data is captured in one system. With all of your data in one place, you can begin to build a single source of truth for what is actually coming into the organization, the true savings of each supplier, and the KPIs that make each office run more efficiently.

Use Data to Drive Purchasing Behavior

Now that all of your purchasing data is in one place, it’s time to turn that data into valuable information to drive better decision making. For example, as your purchasing compliance increases, your data becomes more accurate, enabling you to review historical trends and plan the supplies you need based on last month’s revenue and this month’s scheduled appointments. Think of it this way: If your offices can forecast the number of patients for the next three months, why would you buy supplies to serve double or triple of what is forecasted? It’s unnecessary to buy supplies for 100 patients when you know your office will only have 25. By eliminating autopilot purchasing behavior and uncovering relevant inventory data, controlling cash flow and operational costs can become less daunting and more manageable.

Automate Decisions & Workflows

Automating is one the easiest and most efficient ways you can improve your office’s operational reality and overall mood. Whether your office orders inventory every two weeks or every two days, office managers should have the freedom to purchase what they need when they need it without interruption. Implement a system that gives the appropriate employees remote control and visibility into the organization’s purchasing behavior and product catalog while fostering a hands-off approach to individual office inventory needs.

Set this plan in motion by finding a solution that:

  • Allows your organization to set minimum and maximum budgets
  • Showcases certain products from select suppliers
  • Creates rules and workflows for who orders what
  • Automates purchasing approvals
  • Alerts the right person when the rules or processes are broken

Drive Accurate Receive & Reconciliation Data

It’s hard to keep track of received orders with just a few offices, but as you scale, it becomes impossible to do it for an entire enterprise with hundreds of locations. More frequently than not, a dental assistant is on the phone or writing an email to a distributor explaining that an order was not completely fulfilled, only to have the burden being placed back on them. In the era of knowing where every online purchase is at any time, there is no reason why dental offices should not have the same experience. Don’t let headquarters pay an invoice for supplies that have failed to arrive. Try a technology that gives you full traceability of every order placed by every office in your organization. For example, CureMint’s receive and reconciliation features allow you to see what has arrived, where and at what prices, so you can accurately keep track of your supplies at the agreed-upon price.

Today, dental offices are running primarily on fixed costs, making ways to save money few and far between with cash flow left in the balance. And right now, with saving money at the center of everyone’s minds, initiatives like improved inventory management supporting that goal are paramount.

As offices begin to reopen, there is an opportunity to update some programs that take up valuable employee time and unknowingly cost thousands. Start looking at how your offices purchase supplies and invest in ways to support positive, sustainable change across the organization.f