Inventory Management Requires the Right People, Practices


our team works best when each individual’s skills have a chance to shine in service to the practice. While clinical skills may be easy

to see, different “soft skills” also are needed for successful practice operations. Many practices rely on one point person for inven- tory control, and the role tends to default to a dental assistant. However, inventory is not a task, but rather a system—one that needs the right point person for some processes and the whole team for others. As with most processes, practice leadership must estab- lish, document and assign specific roles and responsibilities. Here are four inventory man- agement roles and guidance for filling them:

 Who places orders on a regular schedule? Consider having a single point person to avoid

gaps and duplications in ordering. Seek a team member who, regardless of their “main role,” exhibits strong time-management, organization and communication skills. That person must be able to dedicate time each week to place orders with a keen attention to detail. Have a team member who’s a natural problem-solver? That’s the one.

 Who compares prices to find the best value? Ideally, your point person also should

be the champion for saving on supplies and taking pride in finding good value. This doesn’t mean finding the cheapest options; instead, it’s finding the supplies you love or quality alternatives at the most competitive price. And, every team member’s input should be welcome when it comes to finding savings or identifying innovative products.

 Who tracks supply use and reordering? Assign accountability appropriate to your

team size and structure. You may need to have one role or several that divide and conquer. One way to do so is to assign roles and responsibilities by category, with three different trusted team members assessing dental supplies, dental equipment and office supplies. Another way is by department, with

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one person assessing the hygiene department supply levels and another assessing restorative levels. Your point person should then receive requests by a specific day each week, allowing time to aggregate, evaluate and ask questions before placing an order.

 Who stocks and organizes a central sup- ply area? When the bulk of your inventory is

in one stockroom, there are several benefits: • You have a better view of what’s on hand, and your team will be less likely to waste or hoard supplies.

• Your team has a designated place to make notes on supply needs.

• Inventory can be rotated appropriately— with older products in front to be used first to avoid waste due to expiration.

Designate who will stock the central supply as deliveries come in and to check expiration and who, if a separate role, will stock treat- ment areas with just what those need.

A workplace expectation is not likely to be adopted to your standards if it’s simply as- sumed to be known or is casually communi- cated. Thus, in addition to assigning account- able individuals to inventory roles, be sure that documented inventory expectations are included in your onboarding/training process- es. As you organize your inventory system, also consider the following efficiencies:

Track all aspects of inventory control in a single place. Whether in a desktop binder or on a shared computer drive, create separate logs for your small-equipment inventory, handpiece inventory and handpiece repairs, as well as a file for supply invoices.

Create a “master supply list” and review it at least once a year. This list can be help- ful in educating new staff on the practice’s preferred products and vendors. And it can be used as a guide when comparing prices or

and use it throughout the office.

Use the features of, the MDA supply affiliate, to streamline the purchasing process. The site was designed to leverage group purchasing power to save dental as- sociation members money on supplies, but it also has great features to save time, including: • Saved Lists allow shoppers to quickly order frequently used items, and multiple custom lists can be saved for specific purposes (disposables, pharma, seasonal supply needs, etc.)

• Compare similar products’ prices and features side by side to find new favor- ites and ways to save.

• Order History is easy to navigate and shows clear product details and pricing to make reordering or reconciling the budget easy.

Whatever your practice size and structure, establish a process that works for the culture of your team. Remember that clear expecta- tions and consistent protocols support your success. And, be sure to recognize each team member’s contributions and celebrate supply savings along the way. f

To learn more about managing your practice’s dental supplies and how TDSC can help streamline processes, visit

considering making changes. Be on the lookout for order- ing multiple brands of the same product. It’s generally more economically efficient to select a favorite

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