The ordering and receiving of dental supplies in a dental practice needs to be a systematised process.

If the process of ordering and receiving of supplies is un-organised then what happens is this:

• Incorrect quantities are ordered and received

• Pricing paid for products received may not be the best price for the practice.

Here’s what usually happens in a dental practice:

1. Someone from the clinical area determines that a certain supply is running low and requests an order of that supply be placed.

At best, often a guess is made for a quantity required, without any certainty as to whether that quantity being ordered will last two weeks, four weeks, six weeks, or six months.

The same thing happens again next time when that product runs low or runs out.

2. The person who noted and reported the need to order more of that product is not necessarily the person in the practice who places the order for the product.

Often, neither of the people involved here actually have a handle on whether a tube of composite resin lasts in that practice for one week, two weeks or two months, so again, an “educated” estimate is made as to how much composite needs to be ordered at this time.

And the same thing happens when the composite next starts to run low.

3. Providing there is not an urgent need for one supply that has run critically low, at some point in time an order is placed for several or many dental supplies.

This order is usually placed by the person in the practice who has the most time available to place the order.

The order may be placed on a day in the practice when there are fewer interruptions for the employee.

This may allow the employee to spend time researching prices.

Or the person placing the order may have regular suppliers who she places orders with, no matter what they charge for certain supplies.

4. The next thing that happens is the order of supplies arrives by courier at the dental practice.

Often it is then given to dental clinical team members to unpack and to store away.

Sometimes this process of unpacking and storage is done with little cross reference as to whether we have fully replenished any exhausted supplies, or whether we have overstocked other supplies.

Sometimes the order does not contain all items ordered, due to the supplier being low or out of stock.

Sometimes in the dental office there is no communication between the person who placed the order and the person receiving and unpacking the order as to whether the goods arriving are in the quantities ordered and are being billed at the prices that were applicable at the time of placing the order.

5. The invoice is passed in for settlement and payment.

The checked off invoice is then returned to a place in the practice where it is needed to be given in order for that invoice to be paid.

Sometimes the person who placed the order never sees the invoice that comes with the arriving order, as this invoice may be given to the accountant or book keeper or dentist owner for settlement of the invoice.

Sometimes the person settling or paying the invoice has had no communication with the person who placed the order about prices “quoted” at the time of order placement, and whether these match the price on the invoice and whether these prices are fair and competitive.

Sometimes the price on the invoice does not include GST which is then added, while the original price quoted at the time of ordering was a price inclusive of GST.

[If this ever happens it is purely an accident. It is never done on purpose].

6. And the cycle continues.

In some dental practices, the price paid for goods and supplies this month is not recorded to be compared to the price being paid for the same goods next month or the month after.

Sometimes some items are ordered from supplier A in month April because they are on a low price sale price that month. But when those same supplies are needed in May and June, the sale has ended and the goods are priced at a considerably higher ticket than the “perceived” sale price paid earlier.

[This never happens either]

Here’s what should happen in an organised dental office.

1. The dental practice personnel should know and understand accurately how long certain supplies last for.

How many fillings can be done from a tube of composite resin?

How many boxes of gloves get used by each practitioner and each dental assistant per week that they work?

How many boxes of masks get used per week?

How many impressions are we getting from each tube of heavy body or light body impression material?

An accurate image of the amounts of dental supplies needed needs to be created.

2. Once we know how long each supply lasts for we can then work out how many of those supplies we need for each practitioner based upon the number of days per month they intend to be working at our dental practice.

For example, less supplies will be needed in the months of December and January and April because less clinical days will be worked during those months because of extra public Holiday days and extra school vacation days.

This detailed analysis will also allow the practice to avoid stockpiling of time sensitive supplies because the practice will be able to forecast more accurate amounts of needed supplies.

3. The person placing the orders should have an intimate knowledge of prices and processes to ensure that the practice never pays too much for its supplies.

The person placing the orders also needs to cross reference the invoices of arriving goods with the orders placed to confirm the invoice price is identical to the price quoted at the time of order placement.

4. Someone in the office also needs to keep track of prices being paid from month to month for stock being ordered, to reduce fluctuations in price.

The prices being paid not only need to be cross-referenced back to previous prices paid, but also need to be checked against market prices being adveritised by competitive suppliers.

Special note should be made to look out for opportunities for purchasing at sale prices.

Items that are non-perishable can be purchased in larger quantities should space be available for storage.

Also supplies that are highly consumable can be purchased in larger quantities [provided storage space is sufficient] with the knowledge that the regular consumption of these supplies will ensure they are used before expiry.

Ultimately, the purchasing of supplies is a fine art that when mastered by the dental practice can result in significant savings through efficiencies of process.

It’s not about being mean.

It’s about being systematic and sensible.

*****

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