Bringing Data Analytics Project on Dental Practice to the Classroom

Lisa Walters*; Reneta P. Barneva

SUNY Fredonia

In this work we will explain how a group of students in the class used data analytics within the framework of Six Sigma Quality, known as DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control) to diagnose and improve the inventory management process at a local dental practice. The dental practice in question historically experienced positive profit margins. However, after the recession of 2008 and with a slow economic recovery in the area, the practice began to operate at a loss. The dentists of the practice looked to minimize expenses; they suspected inventory costs were too great. As a result, the practice agreed to serve as course client for Operations Management capstone project in an effort to validate inventory management as an area of improvement and to further have the students identify a means to minimize inventory costs. The students were divided into six separate groups, each focusing on a particular dental procedure. As a whole, the students defined the problem using data mining, and further identified the scope of the problem using critical-to-quality trees, Supply-Input-Process-Output-Customer (SIPOC) diagramming, and prioritizing the focus on the problem using a prioritization matrix. They further refined the business case and set specific goals for the improvement, in terms of revenue spent with regard to inventory and enumeration of expired materials. In the measure phase, the students as a whole observed the process and gathered count data to characterize the current state of the inventory system. Based on that information, together the students analyzed the root causes of the inventory issues, determining the most likely cause of inventory management issues resulted from a lack of inventory quantification. The technique used to facilitate this analysis was the fish-bone technique coupled with the "5-why's" technique. For improvement, the students in groups developed a bill of materials for each procedure, created forecasts in terms of each procedure, and projected monthly usage. Re-order points were determined. A verification of the new re-order points was compared to prior spending from the last year. The data supported a substantial financial return to the practice. To control the process, the students recommended standardized procedures and training, as well as on-going monitoring of the inventory system, including control charts to monitor inventory as a function of revenue and dollar value of expired materials. As a result, the dental practice realized significant savings and the students gained invaluable experience.