Carina Sauceda on Inventory Organizational Techniques at St. Clair & Massey Orthodontics

January 20, 2023

St. Clair & Massey Orthodontic Partnership is a well-established orthodontic practice that has been serving the community for many years. Recently, the practice has focused on improving its dental inventory organization and implementing ZenSupplies with impressive results. This case study explores the strategies and practices that have been used by this dental practice, and the impact they have had on the overall operation and success of the office. To learn all the details of the dental inventory management process, we have interviewed Carina Sauceda, an experienced dental assistant at St. Clair & Massey Orthodontic Partnership who has a wealth of knowledge of the latest techniques and technologies in the industry.

Whether you have an organized inventory management system in place or are  just starting out, Carina's insights are sure to provide valuable information and inspiration!

Carina says:

"Ortho is very Unique when it comes to inventory. We have so many products! The way I organized inventory before using Zen was through a spreadsheet I created in Excel. I had two different spreadsheets. The difference between the two was that one was organized by vendors I had to personally contact by phone, and the other was organized by products I received from one representative, mainly all of our disposables. The spreadsheets contained the item number, the item description, the supplier, and the quantity to order of every item needed for the clinic and our lab. The challenges I faced were that I didn't have a laptop that I could carry around between offices to use digitally. I had to print two sets of the two spreadsheets, which were about seven to nine pages long.
What frustrated me the most before starting Zen Supplies was the high volume of representatives calling about sales and having to do price comparisons myself. However, the amount of time spent taking inventory hasn't changed much with or without Zen; it still takes me about two hours per office to do a full inventory check. The order process was faster with Zen, because most products are ordered through it. Some items, like our bands, are easier to order through the website. Placing orders takes about 30 minutes.
The challenges I faced while implementing Zen included getting everyone on the same page and understanding my thinking process. I had to move things around and find homes for items that were in multiple locations. Our assistants had a mindset of filling every empty corner with as many items as possible. With the support of the lead assistant, I was able to move items around with different limitations per office due to the amount of storage. This helped me with inventory because I was going to three different areas to count how many of an item we had and then figure out how many to order. I also had to think about how much of an item had to be in the sterilization room for immediate back-up and move as much as possible into the main storage area. For example, how many Caviwipes do you need to keep in the sterilization room to avoid going into the storage for a week with six chairs? We were keeping 15-20 Caviwipes in the sterilization room per office at a time, which was the "fill up every corner as much as possible" concept.
With this being said, in our main storage, we would have maybe 5-10 Caviwipes and I would order more because I didn't think we had enough. We realized we only needed 6 Caviwipes for 6 chairs in the sterilization room per week! Having a small amount in the sterilization and everything else in the main storage area cut down the amount I needed to order because we had more than enough and started seeing a decrease in budget because I realized I was ordering way too much.With all this being said, my best advice would be to limit homes for an item to 2 locations. Firstly, things that need to be restocked chairside in the sterilization room can be designated as a quick, one-week stock area. Only items that are restocked weekly should be kept in this area. Secondly, while room limitations may be an issue, proper organization can make it possible to have a main storage area. To make this more efficient, items should be restocked chairside daily and sterilization room items should be restocked weekly with just enough items to get through the week. This will limit the number of times assistants need to enter the main storage area. However, it's important to note that there is no surefire way to completely eliminate stress during onboarding as it is a new and unfamiliar process. But the outcome of a well-organized and efficient inventory system is worth the stress. I was stressed when I started, but I already had all the items and item numbers on a spreadsheet. So, if you don't have that yet, that is where your main stress will be. Some items may be missed and you won't know until you run out, and then realize they were never entered into Zen. But, the Zen team is super helpful and will assist in getting things organized.
As for now, my inventory process is as follows: I like working closely with 1-2 people, as too many hands in the pot can get messy. I order once a month and select one date that works for me, ordering on that date every month. I have one assistant who restocks the chairside units and sterilization room in both offices with enough items for a week, a day or two before I do my full inventory. This way, I know she has pulled everything needed from the main storage areas and I'll have an accurate inventory check. If someone is not doing this before going to do the full inventory check, then you are most likely going to have to place orders more often and at random. I do everything with an iPad and carry it between offices. I check everything in and put it away when it arrives and ask for the estimated time of arrival for items that haven't arrived, to see if I need an alternative solution. I do a full inventory check and place orders once a month. I do this to spend less time ordering and inventorying, and I am available to do more things. This also goes for assistants, they are restocking less as well.

To wrap it up, a few tips for other ortho offices:

- Find a supportive partner/s.

- Ask the doctors why you have two of the same concept products and, if they say there is no reason, order just one.

- Organize things in a way that even a new person can find the product, not just you.


- Explain why you are moving things, as most people don't like change.

- Keep products in their original packaging, as this helps visually see how much you have and how much you need to order. Some products can be condensed into a small container, and you may be tempted to over-order this product.

- Try new products by ordering a small amount (1 or 2) and trying them out. Sometimes, they work better and are more convenient than what you have been using before."

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