Benco Dental & GAINS: Planning for the Future
Paul Benhamou Supply Chain Director for Consumables at Benco Dental, the third-largest dental distribution company in the United States, discusses how GAINS were able to help them navigate the uncertain demand they were experiencing in the market by building better forecasts and improving supplier relationships.
Hi, my name is Paul Benhamou. I am the director of supply chain for Benco Dental. Benco is the third largest dental distribution company in the United States. The largest privately owned are two larger competitors are public companies. And our customers are anyone who’s in the dental practice. And really what we do for them is we sell them the products and services that they need to operate their business and they can buy any of those products from us. So largely in early covid there was a lot of just disruption to manufacturing and labor and so forth. In the recent months it’s really more so raw material shortages, things like plastics that go into a lot of different products that are used. And that’s really been our primary challenge that we’ve had in the recent months is supply availability. What does the demand look like in the future?
You know, just cuz everybody’s really hot for this stuff today, does that mean that that’s gonna continue and for how much longer is it gonna continue? The biggest thing that GAINS gave us the ability to do is to really hone in our forecasts on the constant changing. And we actually boiled down week to week even. Whereas in a normal environment, certainly you’d be changing your forecast monthly, but you’d allow the system to kind of play it out and do what it would normally do, which is very reliable. But because you can’t teach a computer system, hey, there’s a pandemic going on and you need to monitor the market, you know, every single day. We more or less did that manually. But what we were able then to do was to go back to GAINS and say, by product line, we want you to change, increase or decrease our native forecast by x percent.
GAINS has done a fantastic job of forecasting for us, and when you have a product category or product lines and as many offerings as we do, you really have to manage by exception. And so GAINS has done a really good job of helping us to identify what are the exceptions and focusing in our energy on those vendors and those products and seeing what can we do to either mitigate this issue or recommend an alternative product or, you know, whatever the circumstances are. Supply chain is very metric heavy. But the two things that really are the most meaningful for us in terms of the success of our business is to try to ensure that we’re striking the correct balance between our fill rate and our inventory turn. You want to have enough inventory on hand that you’re filling enough customer orders that you’re not disappointing too many people, but you want to balance that against, you’re not carrying so much inventory that now you’ve put out all this money in advance that you didn’t really need to spend.
GAINS is our primary reporting system for at least at a buyer level for inventory turns. So we do an aggregate inventory turn across the entire organization for different, you know, categories and subcategories, but when you really get down to the buyer level, we’re using GAINS to evaluate each individual purchaser and what are their inventory turns. GAINS has been really helpful with kind of ensuring that our turn, that it’s sort of doing that balancing act on its own. You know, it knows the rules of our business and it allows us the flexibility to apply those rules to our day-to-day purchases without having to think before we make any decision. I would say the primary tool that we’re using in GAINS is to provide forecast to our vendors. So over the last couple of years we’ve worked hard to automate that process where at the beginning of each month, our vendors automatically, the ones that we’ve signed up for it automatically get a forecast sent to them from the GAINS system that has all the information that they might need to look at their manufacturing planning or fulfillment planning, or maybe it’s even labor planning.
You know, of course we don’t, we make clear this is not a commitment and it, you know, the closer we are to today, the more accurate the data’s gonna be. That’s just the nature of a forecast. But that’s been a really helpful tool for us. Distribution is really relationship heavy. I think what myself and my direct manager have put into place over the last five or six years is that we weren’t doing before is really interacting with the supply chain teams at those vendors. We want to talk to the people who are really doing the work. We’ve had some really good success stories with some of those vendors where some of our, I could think of one in particular was one of our worst vendors who’s become one of our best from a supply chains standpoint. Because we’ve opened those lines of communication and we’ve had data to prove what we were saying rather than to just sound like we were complaining.
My previous role for really a Fortune 500 company that was using a much less mature process for inventory planning and forecasting, and it was very fragmented because everybody was kind of doing it their own way. You know, whereas when you use a tool like this, it can do a lot of that heavy lifting for you. It can bake the rules that you want and it can implement them with consistency from one user to the next. And so it really allows you to have a one approach to the way that you’re purchasing and inventory planning for the entire organization.