The Value of Reports
Managing the metrics is key to business profitability and growth
By Susan van Kinsbergen, CDT
Reports regarding the US economy are used every day by owners of large companies to make important business decisions. Whether it’s the Consumer Spending Report, Weekly Jobless Claims Report, Pending Home Sales Report, or the Gross Domestic Product Report, those responsible for financial decisions have come to depend upon this information to analyze the market and make strategic business decisions. While most dental laboratory owners and managers won’t need to use such high-level and broad-spectrum data to help them plan their next move, they should rely on internal business reports as an invaluable tool to manage and grow their businesses.
Bruce Colgin, CEO of Dental Arts Laboratories, Inc, says: “Reports are an important aspect of the modern business environment. They create an unbiased perspective of a given situation that managers can utilize to gain a better understanding of the business climate as a whole, or use to investigate a specific circumstance. The application of data can show the strength and opportunities within the business by numerically depicting some of the organization’s vitals, including costs, profits, turnover, and so forth. Similarly, proper use of analytics can shed new light on a specific situation by uncovering unknown correlations. Altogether, implementing the use of data and reporting creates a more informed and aware manager, which enables improved strategic business decisions.”
Many business reports communicate information via a spreadsheet. Information is collected, communicated, and analyzed to allow for proactive decisions to be made to the business’ best advantage. The purpose for reporting in the laboratory can be varied, but the most common reasons are for production tracking, problem solving, and keeping an eye on finances.
It’s very important for managers to know what’s going on in the laboratory at all times. Part of that responsibility is knowing how many cases are currently in process. A WIP (Work in Process) report not only will show how many cases are in the laboratory, but also, if the report is generated through a dental laboratory management software program, it should be able to tell managers where those cases are in the production process and whether or not they are on schedule. This is an extremely important tool for catching those straggler cases that may have fallen through the cracks. Once managers have some experience using a WIP report, they should be able to reliably predict daily and monthly billing as well.
Returned cases are a very costly problem for dental laboratories. They eat up valuable capacity in the production workflow and cost the laboratory not only labor dollars and materials but, quite often, lost accounts. Tracking returned cases is worth the effort and commitment it takes to do it thoroughly.
Any returned case means an unhappy customer, so every case that is returned to the laboratory, whether it is a true remake or an adjustment, should be evaluated. Because it’s essential to find out exactly what went wrong with the case, an in-depth investigation of the case is key. For example, if the dentist claims the reason for returning the case is that the crown fractured upon insertion, the question that must be asked is, “Why?” Was the impression distorted from the start, or did the laboratory mishandle the model work? Deciding whether the responsibility lies with the dentist or the laboratory is critical in knowing how to fix the problem. If the cause is an internal problem, then training or retraining may solve the problem. If the cause is external, then offering support to the dental practice is usually welcomed and also a relief to the dentist that the issue will be resolved.
The following protocol will allow the laboratory to take control of the number of returned cases:
• APerform an in-depth investigation to discover the real reason for the remake and document it.
• Assign Reason (did not fit, shade did not match request, Rx not followed, etc).
• Assign Responsibility (within our control [WOC], or beyond our control [BOC]).
• Remake Report for monthly analysis (spreadsheet)
• Returned cases should be sorted by WOC and BOC and grouped by Reason on the first report in order to track trends.
• Returned cases can be sorted by WOC and BOC and grouped by client on a second report in order to address remakes by account.
• Reasons should be graphed each month for easy analysis.
These few examples are just the tip of the iceberg when considering how important and useful reports can be for the laboratory owner and manager. It’s possible to discover inefficiencies in production processes, develop financial targets, and track performance using reports. Increasing customer retention is also possible by creating a report that tracks accounts that are down from the previous month, and then acting on the information. Communicating to employees using reports and graphs to illustrate how the company is doing is an effective way to prepare the team for workforce reductions or to increase productivity. Reports are an invaluable tool for any laboratory and should be used every day.
About the Author
Susan van Kinsbergen, CDT, is Vice President of Quality and Production Systems for Dental Arts Laboratory, Inc in Peoria, Illinois.