Inside Dental Technology
October 2012
Volume 3, Issue 9

How to Maximize Your Scrap

By Leslie A. R. Mularski

Maximizing return on dental scrap is an important component of any successful business model. Implementing best practices for scrap collection and adhering to some basic, yet critical, shipment preparation steps will increase the amount of dental scrap that is collected, which translates into an increased return on investment (ROI). Researching precious metal refineries to determine their level of expertise in the dental industry and their ability to provide optimal returns on dental scrap is also critical to increased ROI.

When collecting dental scrap, keep precious and nonprecious materials separate. Use separate work stations and dust collectors for precious and nonprecious alloys; a quality dust collection system will quickly pay for itself when used in this capacity. Vacuum daily, inspect collection equipment weekly, and store collected scrap securely under lock and key. Stored scrap is not insured, so insurance companies do not cover loss in the event of theft or fire.

Save everything that comes into contact with precious metal scrap, including paper towels, disposable floor mats, carpet, vacuum bags, filters, crucibles, torch tips, and pan liners. All of these items can and do contain valuable precious metal materials and should be included with each scrap shipment.

Conduct an audit of laboratory practices and identify areas in need of improvement. Map out a strategy and a realistic timeline to make any necessary changes to current practices, and follow up with quarterly reviews of processes and procedures to ensure that best practices are being sustained. Collect scrap often and ship scrap regularly to average out market fluctuations.

Keep high-grade material separate from low-grade material. Separate solids, grinds, and sweeps into separate heavy-duty resealable plastic bags. Each bag should be further secured with packaging tape to ensure the integrity of the seal. Vacuum bags and filters should also be placed into heavy-duty resealable plastic bags and secured with packaging tape. If a vacuum bag splits open during transit, there is no way to quantify the amount of valuable and irreplaceable precious metal material that has escaped during transit. Carpet should be cut into manageable segments and tightly rolled. Each roll should then be placed into a heavy-duty plastic bag and carefully sealed. A precious metal refinery with a strong background in the dental industry can further advise on optimizing the laboratory’s scrap collection procedures.

When all dental scrap materials have been properly bagged and sealed, place the bags into sturdy shipping containers, such as fiberboard drums. Before carefully sealing the shipping containers with lid locks or heavy-duty shipping tape, include a business card and detailed inventory list of the items in each container in the event that packages are separated during transit. This will ensure that the packages arriving at the refinery are clearly identifiable and can be easily traced back to the proper laboratory. The detailed inventory list should identify the materials that are included in each container, as well as approximate weights for each type of scrap, which will further enhance the traceability and accuracy of the scrap lot.

In addition to implementing scrap collection best practices and standardizing shipment procedures, research precious metal refineries to determine their level of expertise within the refining industry as well as the dental industry. Dental scrap is among the most difficult scrap to refine, and therefore a refinery’s ability to provide optimal returns on dental scrap is directly related to its knowledge of the dental industry.

After the scrap has been properly collected, carefully shipped, and the settlement received, calculate the precious metal content consumption to scrap ratio. This will provide a baseline for evaluating how well laboratory procedures are working. Implement changes as needed to further improve laboratory practices and loss prevention.

Taking steps to optimize the collection, shipment, and refining of valuable dental scrap is not a difficult process, but it is an important process that can greatly increase ROI.

Leslie A. R. Mularski is the communications director at Atlantic Precious Metal Refining in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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