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. Not only does such a system promote cost and resource efficiencies, but it 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.
Supplies should be ordered when threshold is reached for any given implant product. Determining a unique ordering threshold of each implant related product depends on maximum receiving lead time. Implant products are typically received less than 3 days from the order date but can sometimes take up to one week due to shipping delays. It is suggested to set the inventory threshold to 1.5X the maximum lead time.
Determining a proper quantity of each implant related product depends on average weekly usage rate. Reviewing records for the past 3 months should provide a reasonable average weekly supply level; however, this calculation should be reviewed and adjusted over time to account for changes in practice consumption. It is suggested to set the inventory ordering quantity to reflect 3X the estimated weekly usage.
Sample Bone Inventory Calculation
6 month assessment calculation: 8 vials of 0.5cc mFDBA bone used per week
Threshold should initially be set to 12 vials (1 week lead-time = 1.5 X 8)
Re-order should initially be set to 24 vials 0.5cc mFDBA (weekly usage X 3)
As supply is used and the threshold level is reach, ordering is triggered. In the example above, when bone is used and the inventory reaches 12 vials of 0.5cc mFDBA bone, an order should be triggered to purchase 24 vials. Ordering will not be triggered until threshold is reached for this product again. Threshold and re-order amounts should be set and evaluated for every implant related product used in the surgical practice.
Implementing a controlled system that evaluates lead times, ordering thresholds, and order quantities continuously over time will result in inventory control. Practices will see a net reduction in overhead, improved cash flow, and less headaches for team members. Inventory control allows practices to monitor real-time inventory with objectivity and empowers them with ordering supply in a healthy manner. In addition, inventory control guides dental team members and allows them to be more efficient with their time.
Inventory Management Implementation
Inventory ordering and control can be performed manually. It is simple to put in place a process using paper and notebooks, simple Excel spreadsheets, or box tagging systems. 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 Kubo Inventory (www.kuboapps.com/inventory) have unique features tailored to the dental implant office like 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.
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