The Dental Procurement Lifecycle Explained

April 25, 2023

Although the exact procurement lifecycle for your dental organization may vary slightly depending on the size of your practice and the maturity of your processes, it's essential to understand each of the critical steps, what you could be missing, and how digitization can help.

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But firstly, what exactly is the "dental procurement lifecycle"?

The dental procurement lifecycle is the end-to-end process—each and every step—required in the purchasing of your dental supplies. An efficient standard process for buying the supplies required to service your patients is critical to the financial effectiveness of your dental organization. It ensures you choose the right supply partners, safeguard your business and optimize profits.

If you're looking to increase profits and scale, it may be a good time to reassess your current procurement procedures and start buying better.

The typical dental supply buying process involves:

  • Identification and specification of needs
  • Request for Quote (RFQ)
  • Vendor selection
  • Order request and approval
  • Order placement
  • Delivery of items, receipt, and inspection
  • Invoice approval and payment
  • Record maintenance

For many dental offices, the entirety of the lifecycle process continues to be managed manually, reliant on emails, phone calls, supplier portals, and yes, even fax machines. When leveraging technology, the process is streamlined, efficient, and effective, empowering you to make the most advantageous buying decisions for your practice.

Buying smart and implementing best practices throughout the procurement lifecycle enables you to:

  • Enjoy economies of scale
  • Benefit from a competitive supplier landscape
  • Safeguard your purchases from loss, damage, or expiration before use
  • Ease cashflow
  • Improve profits

And by leveraging automation to procure your dental supplies effectively, you ease the burden on employees so they can spend their time and efforts doing what they do best, taking care of patients.

Let's take a look at each of the steps and the power of a procurement platform to transform how you work.

Identification and Specification of Needs

The goal of procurement is to buy:

→The right product

→In the right quantity

→At the right time

→At the best possible price

The trick is, however, is to find the sweet spot. Buy too early or too much, and your cash flow takes a hit, and you risk the financial hits of wasted supplies due to loss, damage, or expiry. Buy too late or too little, and you risk stockouts, impeding service levels and production rates. Buy in a hurry and you risk errors, such as buying the wrong product, which can damage your quality of service, frustrate employees, or worse, put your practice at risk if products don't meet regulation standards.

Buying from the wrong supplier can also come with a host of risks, and if you pay too much, your profits suffer.

Manual processes rely mostly on guesswork or "gut feel" and are highly prone to human error and inconsistencies. Much like Goldilocks, employees learn what's "just right" through trial and error, purchasing reactively upon the sudden realization that you may soon run out and often get burnt in the process.

To avoid running out of supplies, rush orders are placed, resulting in extra costs associated with expedited shipments like faster deliveries. Opportunities to take advantage of quantity price breaks, amalgamate orders to reduce shipping costs, or even shop for more competitive pricing all go out the window, with your profits right behind them.

Digitalizing Procurement

With the right procurement platform, the identification of needs becomes quite simple.

A digital inventory system allows you to easily keep track of what you have in good supply and what you're running low on and will let you know when it's time to order. By using barcoding and RFID tagging technologies, your dental office staff can quickly and easily perform an inventory count so you can buy confidently, knowing your stock levels are accurate.

Once you've established some purchasing history within the platform, procurement analytics offer you usage reports so you can fine-tune appropriate minimum stock levels and base buying decisions off of data rather than guesswork. These same analytics give you all the data you need to move on to the next step, submitting Request for Quotes (RFQs) to vendors.

Request for Quote (RFQ)

Prior to selecting vendors to place orders with, you must first identify and pre-qualify a pool of suppliers to choose from. We understand you may have long-term relationships you value, but regardless of your procurement strategy, to ensure you receive the best possible price and service your organization deserve,s you'll want to periodically send out an RFQ to both current and potential new suppliers.

Connecting and establishing relationships with new suppliers through RFQs will put you in an advantageous position for negotiating with current vendors and creates a healthy competitive environment that puts you in the driver's seat when it comes to pricing. Having relationships and pricing established with more than one vendor also safeguards your business continuity as you can more quickly and safely react if your preferred supplier suddenly comes up with a supply issue.

Furthermore, you can ask vendors to lock in pricing for 3 to 6 months at a time, bringing stability to your supply costs along with cost savings.

To ensure you receive a good market-wide comparison of price and service, you'll want to put your supplies list out to bid directly with manufacturers as well as with every major dental supply distributor and smaller, more local distributors. Manually putting together and sending out an RFQ for your long list of dental supplies to that many suppliers can be extremely cumbersome and time-consuming, and that doesn't even include all the work of gathering and analyzing responses!

But don't worry—a digital procurement platform can help you every step of the way. A digital RFQ process can help you gather all pertinent information, including item descriptions, SKUs, manufacturer, item category, quantity, unit of measure, and of course, price per unit. Those selected to participate in the RFQ can easily enter their bid online through the procurement platform. Once all responses have been received all responses, Method's procurement platform can help you analyze prices with an apples-to-apples comparison.

Vendor Selection

Once you've compared pricing, you'll need to select your vendors.

However, RFQs aren't the only way to price shop. Method provides an Amazon-like shopping experience, where you can compare current pricing and availability from multiple authorized dealers, including web, negotiated, group, or DSO pricing.

The industry's most comprehensive cross-match of dental products, including private label items with a detailed product catalog of over 700,000+ dental supplies and with access to a 2,000+ dental-specific supplier database, guarantees you can find what you need at the best possible price.

But before simply jumping on the lowest price, it's prudent to stop and ask yourself some questions. How well do you know these suppliers? Are clinical evaluation trials required before purchasing? Do you hold trusted long-term relationships you would like to prioritize?

It may be worth revisiting the RFQ and offering your most preferred suppliers the opportunity to requote on the items where they were not competitive. Suppliers often just need a little nudge to sharpen their pencils and prefer to do so rather than lose out on business.

Now you should be ready to make your selections. Consider how many suppliers you want to work with, keeping in mind that every purchase order comes with its own costs. From issuing and placing orders to receiving shipments and paying invoices, each step of the procurement lifecycle takes time out of your employees' day and, therefore, comes at a cost.

As the procurement manager or dental practice owner, you'll want to give your employees some guidance or perhaps even set an official procurement policy for your staff to comply with. Whatever your strategy, digitizing the end-to-end procurement lifecycle with a procurement platform can help you implement it, including publishing, controlling, and analyzing formularies.

Order Request and Approval

An order approval process helps leaders maintain financial oversight, ensuring purchases align with your policies and your budget.

While a manual approval process may have you struggling to gather what you need to make an afformed decision, Method's digital approval process delivers all the information you need to your fingertips, so you can approve orders based on data— like how you currently stand against your budget—and allowing you to avoid costly mistakes before they impact your bottom line.

By viewing all relevant quotes and comments associated with the order as well as a full cost analysis, you can avoid expensive errors, declining certain items on a request while still approving others. A fully transparent and digital approval process allows you to better collaborate with team members, keeping everyone in the loop and ensuring nothing slips through the cracks, and no requests are lost or forgotten while reducing unnecessary, incorrect, or duplicate orders, resulting in saving you money.

Order Placement

A purchase order serves as a legally binding request for the supplier to provide goods or services at the specified price, quality, quantity, meeting, and other requirements stated and is the next step in the procurement lifecycle. As the purchase order is legally binding, it's critical they be accurate and kept on file—something an automated procurement process is designed to do.

Method's digital procurement platform allows you to quickly and easily create a purchase order from an order request, prior orders, inventory status, or catalogs and will electronically submit orders directly to the necessary vendors. Automating the process reduces the chance for errors and delays by avoiding the opportunity for human error.

Delivery of Items, Receipt, and Inspection

If you're running a manual procurement process, in order to know what has been delivered and what is still on its way, you'll need to track your status shipments through numerous supplier portals, phone calls, and emails. A procurement platform like Method's brings it all to you in a single location.

Prior to delivery, an online procurement platform like Method's can provide you with a summary chart, helping you monitor what has shipped and when you can expect delivery with online shipment tracking. As orders proceed along each step of the lifecycle, you can easily view receipt and invoice status for every order, all in one place, regardless of supplier.

When an order arrives, all shipment details must be validated for accuracy, confirming the right product (as per the purchase order and order confirmation) in the right quantity were delivered in good working order. If discrepancies or issues are found, it could cause problems and arguments with the supplier. To avoid invoicing issues, it's imperative they be noted and communicated to the supplier as soon as possible so you can hold suppliers accountable.

Comments can be added to each receipt, along with photos of the damage to support your claims. Having all proof and documentation in one place eases communication and can help ensure corrective actions such as the return of incorrect or damaged products are coordinated as required.

If the goods received match the delivery slip and align with what was ordered, supplies can be quickly scanned into the inventory management system and then placed in their correct location, remembering to use First-In-First-Out (FIFO) and placing the newest items farthest from reach. If quantities vary, the method allows you to record the actual quantity received for each item.

Invoice Approval and Payment

Whether purposely fraudulent or due to human error, invoice mistakes occur. To prevent improper payment, invoices must be compared to the physical receipt of supplies and prices compared to purchase orders. Having all your records in one place ensures you can easily validate what you need to before cutting that payment.

Record Maintenance

Record maintenance is critical in case of disputes, fraudulent behavior, or simply to verify data for your own internal purposes. A manual process reliant on a paper trail to be maintained by busy office staff is ineffective and time-consuming. With Method, you can easily view all documents related to a purchase, including order requests, purchase orders, receipt of goods, invoices, and payments, along with all comments, photos, and supporting documentation.

An end-to-end audit trail keeps everyone on the same page and ensures you maintain control of each step of the lifecycle for every order you place. Creating a streamlined, consistent, and scaleable ordering process that allows you to purchase your dental supplies with speed, control, and accuracy is vital to running an effective and efficient dental office and essential for profitable growth.

Designed and built to support the unique needs of a dental organization through streamlined, electronic tools, Method enhances existing relationships with dental supplier account managers and opens the door to new ones.

Regardless of where you're starting, if you're ready to take control of your procurement, Method offers flexible pricing so can revolutionize how you manage your spend and start improving your profits.

Start your transformation today.Get in touch with our team today or request a demo to see it for yourself.

Ready to build a better dental practice?

Method Procurement Technologies gives independent dental practices and DSOs the inventory management and procurement capabilities they need to succeed. With our full, end-to-end solution, ordering dental supplies is straightforward and hassle-free.

Learn how Method Procurement's spend management solutions can improve your bottom line. Get in touch with our team today or request a demo to see it for yourself.