How to Use Tip-Out Bins to Organize Dental Inventory

March 8, 2022

From bins and racks to boxes and cabinets, there are many ways to organize supplies in a dental practice. Tip-out bins fill an essential niche, allowing you to store various small- and medium-sized supplies in an easy-to-access, visible location. They're a valuable tool in the hunt for neat and organized dental office storage, allowing you to avoid the costly effects of inventory problems, like lost products and wasted time spent searching for supplies.Let's take a closer look at this useful storage option and how to set it up in your dental practice effectively.

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Why Use Tip-Out Bins for Dental Office Storage?

Tip-out bins are an excellent choice for dental supplies, which are often small and need to be contained, not left loose on a shelf. They also have expiration dates, which raises the stakes for staying organized.Commercial tip-out bins are usually made of tough, easy-to-clean plastic bins inside a sturdy frame that attaches to the wall. Rather than sitting on a track like pull-out bins, these simply lean at an angle until the opening is accessible. Employees can access them one-handed and see through the clear sides for inventory visibility — no more wondering if the raspberry fluoride was in the second bin or the third. Plus, they stack up, allowing you to maximize precious floor space.Using these bins as part of a well-organized storage system can help you reap a variety of benefits, including:

  • Just-right inventory: Having too much or too little supply can cause problems. Too little, and you can't do the job right, potentially risking patient safety or satisfaction. Too much, and you may have more product than you know what to do with, leading to loss or expiration before you can use it. An organized, transparent inventory system lets you see what you have on-hand and optimize inventory levels.
  • Efficiency: Fumbling through shelves and boxes to find what you need isn't efficient. Tip-out bins mean that staff members can go straight to what they need. By helping you keep track of your inventory, they also speed up the process of reordering and counting.
  • A smoother workday: Having supplies easily accessible saves your team time and reduces frustration for an easier, more efficient workday. Staff members know everything's in its place and enjoy a process that allows them to spend less time looking for products and more time attending to their patients.
  • Cost savings: If you're hesitant to invest in a new organization system, remember that they can help you save costs in a few different ways. You may save on labor by reducing the time it takes to find supplies and on the cost of supplies themselves since you can ensure fewer items expire or get lost. For many, reducing stress during the workday is more than worth the cost of organizational tools.
  • Fewer errors: Inventory errors might mean lost money and damage to your reputation. If products go missing or expire, you lose out on their cost. If you need to reschedule an appointment, your patients could be inconvenienced or even need to postpone crucial medical care. Improving your supply organization can affect many aspects of your practice.

So, how do you set up your tip-out bins to get these advantages?

Setting Up Tip-Out Bins in a Dental Office

Here's a step-by-step guide to buying and installing tip-out bins for a dental office.

1. Commit to Reorganization

Installing any new organizational system requires commitment. Don't try to switch over a long period. Instead, set aside some time and grab a few helpers to set up your new organization scheme. This could be an excellent time to set everything up if you're closed over the weekend.Be ruthless with your cleaning needs. If you have products you aren't using — throw them away. If you have too hard to find products, now is the best time to invest in the organizational materials you need to make them accessible and deliver value to the business.

2. Calculate Your Needs

Since you're here, you probably already have a decent idea of what you need, but it's time to hammer out the details. A good rule of thumb is to get one section of bins for every treatment room and separate them by the kind of product stored. You may have one section for hygiene, one for ortho and one for other specialties in the office.Other elements to consider when mapping out your dental storage requirements include:

  • Bin size and number of bins: These aspects will vary by your stock, but it's a good idea to jot down all of the different items you want to place in the bins. See how many items you have and what size bin they'll need. Of course, some items will fit in smaller or thinner bins than others. To get everything you need the first time, consider making a list of the items going in the bins. Jot down which size bins you'll need and how many bins you need in total.
  • Dimensions: You'll also need to identify how much room you have for the bins. Different manufacturers use different sizes for their bin systems. Measure the space you want to put them in and ensure the product will fit. Also, note any notable structural elements like a pillar or oddly-shaped wall.
  • Stud locations: We'll talk more about these later, but consider the location of studs in your building. These bins will need to be securely attached to the wall, and screwing them into studs will be the most secure. Anchors are another option, but try to find a placement with studs for the best results.
  • Modular products: Most commercial tip-out bin systems are modular, so you can add on and swap out bins as needed. If your practice grows or you move things around, a modular system also allows you to adapt the storage system. Be sure the product you choose has this feature.
  • Color coding: If you're separating bins by purpose or specialty, you may want to look for different-colored options so that you can color code the bins.
  • Labels: Similarly, labels are a must. Many items look similar, and labels can offer confirmation about which product you're grabbing. When restocking, labels also tell you which item goes where. You could buy a label maker for a professional look, or you can grab some label stickers. If you use a barcode labeling system, you can also place barcodes on the sides of these bins for easier scanning, auditing and locating.

You'll also want to talk to your staff to see what they want from this storage system outside of these technical demands. Ask them what problems they run into and what they'd like to see in the new system. These team members will be using the bins the most and probably have a good idea of what they need to work more efficiently.

3. Install the Bins

After ordering and receiving your bins, you're ready to set them up. The process is usually pretty straightforward, but you'll likely need someone who's handy with tools. Grab someone who knows what they're doing or hire a professional. Remember, these bins can be pretty heavy, so you need to ensure that they won't fall over or damage your walls.The best way to do this is to find studs. Use a studfinder to locate these boards in the walls and use long screws to reach them. If you don't have studs in the walls, use screw anchors. When you place an anchor into the hole before the screw, the anchor expands into the drywall, providing more grip. Check the instructions on your tip-out bins for more information on secure installation and whether anchors are sufficient.If you're installing your bins in new construction, discuss the plan with your contractor. They may be able to install them for you or ensure that wood is in place behind the drywall for more security.

4. Place Your Items

Now comes the fun part — with your bins in place, start moving your items in. Here's where your staff's input especially comes in handy. They can tell you how the items are used and help you select the best placements.Consider organizing your items by which ones are used most often. These are best placed toward the middle of the section, where staff doesn't need to bend down or strain to reach products. Place items that frequently go together in the same area. For instance, if you send each patient home with a toothbrush, mini toothpaste and floss, place these in bins right next to each other for easy access.This is also the time when you'll want to label your bins. Whether you're using stickers, a label maker or barcodes, you'll want to make sure it's easy to identify which items go where. You can even use these as part of a coding system. Use blue labels for ortho tools and green ones for general dentistry, or add a fun sticker to pediatric supplies to separate them from the rest of the items.Your creativity and knowledge of the office will be your best resource for organizing your bins. And remember, this system can be tweaked as you go along. Don't be afraid to reevaluate later on if you think items should be added or moved.

5. Determine Baseline Stock Levels

Putting your products in the right place is just the start of neat dental supply room organization. Use this opportunity to start fresh and establish an up-to-date stock list and inventory management system. By determining appropriate stock levels, you have better oversight of your inventory and know when to reorder. You get to avoid running out of items and ensure you're always prepared.With a comprehensive dental inventory system like Method, you can optimize your stock levels by tracking typical use and automatically reordering items when your inventory drops below your defined threshold. We'll talk more about the capabilities of inventory software later, but know that it can be an excellent tool for identifying stock requirements and adding visibility. Reorganization is a great opportunity to add an inventory management platform.

6. Create a Schedule

Organizing your tip-out bins for a dental office isn't a one-time event. You'll need to stay on top of the items by scheduling regular cleaning, restocking and counting. If you don't already have a specific point of contact, appoint someone to oversee inventory demands. This person takes responsibility for the job and should understand your system.This person will help carry out regularly scheduled needs, including:

  • Counting: Every so often, you'll want to count your physical inventory to make sure everything matches up. A missed box during delivery or a lost package can throw your whole system out of whack and leave you scrambling for a product when it isn't in the building. Consider counting individual products annually.
  • Restocking: Ideally, you can store products directly in the bins and eliminate additional boxes from your storeroom altogether. For many items, though, this isn't possible. You might keep a larger box of supplies in the stock room and refill the bins as needed, so staff members have easy access. Restock your bins according to your practice's typical usage and the size of your bins. This might look like daily or weekly refills.
  • Reordering: Similarly, you'll need to reorder your supplies before you run out. Reordering can vary widely based on your preferences and how much space you have. Many practices choose to make larger orders to save money and reduce orders, but this usually requires having enough space in the office to store excess products until they're needed. You can create a regular schedule to reorder products or use an automatic system to watch inventory levels for you and send alerts or place orders.
  • Evaluating usage: Every so often, review how your inventory is moving. Collecting these insights can help you make better decisions about stock requirements and order frequency. You may find that you've been ordering items that you rarely use or that you run out of certain products in December when more patients are trying to use their dental benefits before the new year starts. Keep an eye on these levels and trends throughout the year — again, inventory management software can help immensely with tracking.
  • Cleaning: While your bins probably won't require much cleaning, they'll still collect dust. Have your staff or cleaning personnel include the structure in their regular tasks. You'll also want to clean the insides of the bins during a deep-clean at least once a year and make sure gunk isn't building up in the corners.

You may choose to restock bins weekly, evaluate inventory movement quarterly, and clean and perform physical inventory yearly. Setting up automatic reordering can eliminate another step, leaving you with a more hands-off inventory system. You can significantly simplify your stock assessments with inventory insights, too, leaving those out of the schedule altogether.

Dental Office Storage Tips

Dental offices have various concerns for effectively managing inventory. You need to keep things profitable, ensure visibility and maintain cleanliness. Here are a few tips to help you meet those needs while you're organizing dental office supplies:

  • Consider the types of items you're working with: Some items need a little more attention than others, like those with short shelf lives or high costs. Identify these products and consider checking in on them more often.
  • Refer to a stock list: You can help yourself and your team by creating a master list of inventory information. Record all of the items you use, including how many supplies you usually use a month, where they're stored and any additional considerations such as shelf life or special storage needs. A master list with this information can help you keep track of office needs and provide information when multiple staff members are involved in ordering.
  • Use FIFO: First-in, first-out (FIFO) is a strategy used in grocery stores and the foodservice industry to use older items before they reach expiration. To use this method, simply place new items at the back of a row or bottom of a stack after they arrive. Older items get rotated to the front and are grabbed first, so they're more likely to be used before they get old. Use FIFO whenever you're restocking products to keep everything fresh and minimize expiration concerns.
  • Predict demand spikes: If you know that your practice gets busier at certain times of the year, plan ahead and order more products going into that busy season.
  • Analyze your budget: Budgets are complicated, and if your inventory isn't well-controlled, it can quickly add unexpected costs. Inventory management software is your best bet for reviewing the costs of your supplies and optimizing usage. You can watch for inconsistencies, poor usage, higher costs over time and more to find insights and save on dental supplies.

How Dental Office Inventory Management Software Can Help

Reorganizing your dental office is the perfect time to implement inventory management software. While tip-out bins can help you physically organize your supplies, software can help you take control of more complex inventory demands and optimize your entire process. Manual inventory management is time-consuming and prone to errors. The right software solution speeds up the process, reduces mistakes and helps you collect valuable insights.Method Procurement is a platform chock full of features to help you optimize your inventory and save time and money. Some of the things you get with Method include:

  • Simplified and streamlined ordering: Reorder from saved supply lists, automatically submit orders after approval and receive alerts when stock levels are low and it's time to reorder.
  • A robust industry catalog: Our database of over 500,000 unique dental, medical and office products makes it easy to find quality supplies and place orders from within the platform.
  • Extensive visibility: Check on stock levels across locations and access real-time information about open orders so you know exactly where your products are.
  • Analysis and reporting tools: Explore the ups and downs of your inventory over time and create reports on discrepancies, commonly used items, low-stock items and more.
  • Detailed shipment control: Accept and reject products, add notes to your order, see who accepted shipments and match invoices to confirm full delivery before paying suppliers.
  • Review audits and history logs: See who did what with full audit logs and role-based access to certain actions.

With Method, you can use your tip-out bins as part of a more capable inventory system to improve the efficiency and profitability of your office.

Contact Us Today to Learn More

Using tip-out bins is a must-have for dental offices, helping you keep items front-and-center, where staff members can find what they need and reduce the prevalence of lost or expired products. To boost the effectiveness of your organizational strategy, consider adding Method to it. This inventory management platform was built specifically for dental practices. It can reign in your dental office storage solution to help you save time, money and frustration.To learn more about Method, explore its features online or reach out to us to request a demo!

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