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Scandinavian Dentists Use RFID to Reorder Supplies

Plandent, a Finnish dental-supply company, is instituting a system that simplifies the way it receives and tracks orders from its customers, and also helps it reduce errors and out-of-stocks.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 21, 2009Plandent, a Finnish dental-supply company based in Helsinki, is using Vilant Systems' RFID-based PlanOrder system to receive and track orders from its customers. Five dental practices that Plandent serves in Finland and Sweden are already employing the system, with a total of 20 practices expected to be equipped by January 2010.

Plandent supplies European dental practitioners with everything from consumable materials to instruments and dental equipment. The consumable materials tend to be the hardest to trace, says Markus Kühn, Plandent's director, simply because there are so many of them, and because they need to be replenished frequently. The company delivers more than 30,000 different consumable items, and typical customers place orders two to four times per month.

Vilant's Ville Lukkari
Orders can be large, Kühn says, consisting of hundreds of items. This, he says, makes the process of tracking and placing inventory orders time-consuming and error-prone. "This is where we see a lot of time spent on routine work that can be used more productively," he says. For most dental practices, inventory systems are usually managed with pen and paper, while conducting physical counts of supply-filled boxes stored in a closet. Employees can order new supplies by telephone or over the Internet.

Such ordering practices, however, often lead to out-of-stocks when supplies are not ordered on time, Kühn says. They can also make it difficult for dental practices to track which products have already been ordered and received, unless they see the item sitting on a shelf.

With an automated system, Plandent's management believed, routine ordering (and associated administrative work) would be reduced, inventory accuracy would be improved and ordering would be faster. To achieve that goal, Kühn says, the company began investigating a bar-code-based ordering system in 2006, though the firm was unsatisfied with the solution since it requires line-of-sight scanning. In the fall of 2008, Plandent opted to take a look at RFID-based ordering systems.

"Vilant was selected due to their credible and good experience," Kühn states, as well as the company's willingness to alter the solution if necessary, based on its current needs. Initial discussions were held in December 2008, and within months, Plandent began implementing the system for gloves and other consumable products that are thrown away after usage.

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