Analysis and Commentary

Collaborate to prosper

Analysis and Commentary

Infection control and dental manufacturer Dentalife has tripled in size over three years and is using collaboration as the catalyst to scaleup even further. Here Brett Henderson profiles the company, and how collaboration in business works.

Dentalife is a 25-year-old family business under second generation management that manufactures infection control products and dental materials in Australia and Thailand for the dental and healthcare industry.

All R&D and new product development is undertaken at their headquarters in Croydon, Victoria.

The Managing Director of Dentalife Tom Stray said that their products must jump two major hurdles prior to making any sales to hospitals.

Firstly, products and manufacturing facilities need to meet very high standards set by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Secondly the hospitals supplied have particularly stringent cleaning protocols to defeat microbial infection.

“Our products must meet those strict requirements to protect patients, staff and the broader community.

“It isn’t an easy industry to compete in.

“You must win business against very dominant global competitors who operate on a much larger scale..”

Collaborating across its supply chain has become a company advantage as an Australian manufacturer

“Providing greater surety of supply and reducing sovereign risk to our key customers while protecting the health of our community.”

In 2020 during the depths of the pandemic, Dentalife won a major contract with Woolworths.

They now supply all 2,259 locations nationally with anti-bacterial wipes for trolleys available in hygiene stations at the front of all Woolworths stores.

Dentalife worked closely with both Federal and Victorian government departments to support its growth using available grants and advice. They continue to closely work with the Australian Medtech Manufacturing Centre (AMMC).

And it embraced collaboration with AusIndustry, the Australian Institute of Packaging and the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) to work towards meeting the 2025 National Packaging Targets.

“Australian businesses can find value in having a focus on both profit and purpose. For us this has become a real selling point both internally and externally.

“As a result, we have a highly engaged and collaborative workforce who can see the positive impact they are having daily.”

Dentalife also created a Sustainability Committee with representatives from all departments looking at ways to improve their environmental practices to support their circular economy initiatives.

This process was gamified with daily meetings, quarterly targets of 25 new ideas for improvement and rewards for reaching goals to be shared together as a team.

Two of the outcomes from their team’s effort includes reducing the need for 2,500 hairnets and overshoes per year by using reusable washable products. And reducing the need for single use plastic packaging on 100,000 individual products.

Dentalife has worked with collaboration specialists, turning challenges that they cannot solve alone into opportunities through the practice of working with others.

For leadership teams like Dentalife, realising you cannot do it alone is the first step. With a talented and engaged workforce collaborating across their value chain, the future of Dentalife is bright.

Stray said: “Our goal is to replace imported products through collaboration, we have that market clearly in our sights.

“Each time I walk into my local Woolworths store, I’m proud that our team created Australian made trolley wipes for our community. I would strongly encourage other manufacturers to explore collaboration as a strategic way of doing business.”

Brett Henderson has extensive experience creating new opportunities through collaboration. He has worked with AXA Asia Pacific and PricewaterhouseCoopers, and had roles with Austrade and AusIndustry, and the Ai Group. Brett is Chief Collaboration Officer at Brett Henderson Co.

Picture: (L-R – Tom Stray, Managing Director, Dentalife, Josephine Kelly, Marketing Manager, Dentalife, Brett Henderson, and Lachlan Johns, Business Development Manager, Dentalife.)

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