3 strategies to keep supply costs low

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Dr. Lindsay Compton, who owns and operates a private practice in Arvada, CO, shared three supply management strategies dentists can incorporate into their everyday operations during a TDSC.com webinar titled "A New Business Model to Help Dental Practices Run More Efficiently" that was held on September 20.

Compton's team consists of one dentist, one hygienist, one assistant, and one front office administrator. To keep her practice running smoothly, Compton implements supply management strategies to keep her overhead costs low. "Every dentist knows that if you keep your overhead costs low, then your profit margin improves," Compton said.

Compton thrives on established processes and procedures and emphasized the importance of building a supply management process into the workflow of a practice's everyday operations. After all, time is money.

"As a clinician, I want to spend as much time as possible providing patient care, which is why I lean on my team and run my practice operations efficiently," Compton said.

Below are the three strategies Compton uses in her practice to manage supply costs. These strategies, Compton noted, can be incorporated into any dental practice's daily operations.

1. Delegate the task of ordering supplies.

Compton doesn't spend time ordering supplies or checking orders. Rather, in her practice, she has her dental assistant invested in keeping supply costs down.

Compton's assistant is in charge of ordering supplies, and she only does this once per month. Compton has found that when team members can order supplies at will with no regard to conserving resources, it can be wasteful. She also found that with many supply companies, numerous small orders can cost significantly more with the price of shipping added to each order.

2. Institute a bonus system.

Compton's second suggestion is to put a bonus system in place that ties together key goals within the practice. "It makes the team aware of our production goals, our overhead costs, and the actual costs of individual supplies," said Compton.

Compton's assistant receives a bonus if she keeps the cost of monthly supplies at or below 4%. "Beyond the financial incentive, I found that this system is effective, because it's a reminder to my staff of how the practice is performing," Compton said.

3. Decide on your nonnegotiable supplies.

Compton's third strategy is to decide which supplies are nonnegotiable. She decides which brands and products are staples within her practice, meaning they cannot change, and which products she has flexibility with in selecting a brand.

When Compton finds a product she likes, she does not stray unless science proves her different. "In my practice, some of my nonnegotiable items are bonding agents, composites, cements, and some other basics," said Compton.

However, Compton's team switches brands often when purchasing disposable products depending on the pricing each month. This flexibility has allowed her team to save quite a bit of money.

"The ease of ordering supplies online with our processes and procedures while also being convenient is a real benefit," concluded Compton.

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