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Automating the Dental Supply Chain to Reduce Waste

Dental Products ReportDental Products Report April 2022
Volume 56
Issue 4

A tech solution for ordering your practice’s supplies and automating your workflows can simplify your life.



I have been a technology consultant for over 20 years, diving deep into the ways technology can make the day-to-day life of a practice safer, more efficient, and more profitable. Technology is supposed to solve problems. How can technology automate your supply operations to accomplish these goals? Are we nearing the holy grail of eliminating manual and menial tasks, such as inventory and supplies ordering?

There is a reason why supply chain optimization isn’t front and center of everyone’s mind. For most practices, the supply spend stays under 10% of gross revenue, so it is less expensive than rent and payroll. A bigger question is: How hard do you have to work to get that percentage down to 5%? How much staff time you allocate to supplies vs procedures can seem daunting. If we are honest, we all know it is tedious work, and sometimes it does not seem worth the effort. But there are several significant reasons to pay attention to your supply chain and powerful ways that technology can help you reduce tedium and waste.

It is important to remember that the cost of your supplies is not just monetary. Simply doing basic inventory and reordering supplies takes many hours of staff time per week. A 2017 survey by Aldrich1 found that the average spend on supplies was 7.2% and the average spend on salary was 31.5%. Inventory and ordering cost each practice hundreds of hours per year, which seems like a huge amount of time and money down the drain. Thankfully, new subscriptions to a software as a service that is focused on supplies can radically reduce the time and dollars spent each month. The big dental service organizations and large practices spend significant money on software to optimize every aspect of their business. There are also several options for a smaller practice to help you grow, automate, and compete.

If we stop thinking about the tedium, we quickly realize supplies are an area of low-hanging fruit. Applying a little time and technology will reduce staff overhead and money spent. Paying attention to supplies gets you to a 5% spend, and looking the other way can cause spending to creep up to above double digits quickly.

Many technology solutions are lacking because they cannot get you a fast enough view of increases in pricing for individual items or your overall spend. The most intriguing technology solution I have seen is base86. Unlike the competitors to date, they throw the inventory-first model out the window.

By automating your supply orders, you can make sure you never run out and that you never order so much that you have storage shelves exploding with expiring products. Combining automation with the ability to compare, purchase, and track almost all your supplies in 1 place means cost savings and time savings. Having a tech solution for ordering supplies baked together with automated workflows to anticipate your future spend simplifies life.

The takeaway is that having a holistic approach that includes working with your office staff to implement automated hardware, information technology, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and practice management technologies will increase revenues, lower expenses, and, more importantly, reduce the workload of everyone in the office. This allows us all to shift the focus to the patient. By focusing on outcomes and letting automation reduce our management overhead and supply spend, we can increase well-being for patients, staff, and ourselves.

1. Burnett K. How to benchmark your dental practice. Aldrich. August 14, 2017.Accessed March 1, 2022. https://aldrichadvisors.com/dental/practice-benchmarks/
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