There’s nothing worse than reaching for another notepad only to find out that the office has run out! The key to making sure that you have sufficient office supplies is simple: start and keep an inventory. There are many different ways to take an inventory, from the old fashioned count-and-write-it-down method to creating an organised and automated spreadsheet so you can check supplies before leaving your desk. But which way is the best way and how do you take your first steps into controlling office supplies using inventories?
1. Take an accurate inventory
Taking an accurate inventory is the first step to effectively managing your office supplies. Make sure that you count everything (either by allocating one or several people to the job, depending on how big your office is!) and make a note of how much of every item there is. It can be easier to group supplies together in categories and divide up the initial work of counting every pen out. Writing down numbers in a chart is the classic way of taking an office supply inventory, but if you have a habit of misplacing pieces of paper, it might be better to do it on a computerised spreadsheet, so numbers can be easily edited and more accessible to everyone in the office. After you’ve done this initial inventory, make and print copies for everyone to file away so there are no mistakes about how much inventory you actually have.
2. Organising is key
Managing office supplies can be made more easy by grouping similar items together in your supply cupboard. For example: keeping staples and paperclips in one section of your supply cupboard under the title “filing and organising” will make them easy to find for other people in your office and make it clear to see exactly how much of each item there is left in your inventory. Minimising searching time allows less people to be in the cupboard at once, which makes it easier to keep the supply room tidy and well organised – as well as making it simple to put supplies back when they have been used. Organising your supplies also allows you to see which items are not being used and helps people not to over-order certain supplies in the future. Pro tip: keeping the most frequently used items at eye level will make them quick and easy to find and if you have a big supply room, making a list with the shelf number of items on in the doorway can help people to look for the supplies they need quickly and efficiently.
3. Limit access
Even though open supply rooms are a great idea, they can make it difficult to keep a track of how many supplies are actually being used. Introducing a more restricted access to supplies by assigning a gatekeeper can be a great idea, but if you have lots of inventory to keep track of, it can be better to select a group of employees to hold the keys to the supply castle. Either by choosing a department or a representative for each part of your office to take supplies and take control over updating and maintaining a supply room log, you will find it much more simple to keep track of your office supply inventory.
4. Strategise when to reorder supplies
Having an organised inventory is key to knowing when to reorder office supplies and how much of each item you need at any given time. Without controlling your office supplies, making sure you order enough or can keep track of how long new supplies take to arrive (plus shipping time) is a daunting task. There are added benefits to strategising when to reorder supplies, sometimes it can be more cost-effective to buy supplies in a bulk order and if you plan well, you can make sure that reordering happens less and less. If it’s your first time reordering your office supplies, it’s best to wait until they run out so you can have a good sense of the time it takes to use up your supply of supplies and see which items run out first (so you can tell which are used the most). It can also be helpful to automate the reordering process, so that when the supplies in your spreadsheet get low, an order is automatically done to replace any items that might be running out soon.
5. Keep an accurate (and written) inventory log
An inventory log is undoubtedly the best way of keeping track of your office supplies. You don’t necessarily need to handwrite your inventory log, you can make an accessible spreadsheet for the person (or people) in charge of managing your office supplies and the rest of the office too! Allowing people to track their own office supplies makes the process easier, but it’s important to make sure that everyone is on board with self-management and that they don’t forget to enter in the details of the items they’ve used. With regular updates, this should streamline the control of your office supplies and help to make it more clear when you have enough inventory and when you need to reorder. Another top tip for managing your office supplies effectively and efficiently is to download a free office supply inventory tracking template so that you don’t need to think up column headers and can make the process simple!
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