How to Manage Inventory of Office Supplies

by Cindy Phillips; Updated September 26, 2017
Male office worker looking at exercise book by storage shelves

Anyone who works in or manages an office understands the importance of maintaining an inventory of office supplies. Nothing brings work progress to a standstill faster than running out of basics like pens, toner cartridges, paper and envelopes. Once you have the supplies on hand, it's important to track spending and usage by following some simple rules of basic inventory management.

Gatekeeper

One of the first rules of good inventory management is to ensure it has a manager. Appoint a gatekeeper. Successful maintenance of inventory means knowing what is on hand and how long it has been there, recording the value of the inventory and monitoring where it goes when it leaves the supply area. Office supplies include many small items that can easily disappear. Inventory should be kept in a secured area with access limited to a few key employees. Keep a log of items dispensed and items replaced.

FIFO

FIFO is an acronym for first in, first out. It is an accounting term for reporting the value of inventory and ensures that items purchased first are used first so the value remains accurate. This is also a smart way to prevent inventory from becoming old, stale or obsolete. Items purchased first should be used first. When replacement inventory is purchased, shelve it behind the older inventory and instruct employees to take supplies from the front. Items with ink can dry out, paper can yellow and equipment parts can become obsolete. Use the FIFO method to reduce waste and keep your inventory fresh.

Leverage Buying

Maintaining an inventory of office supplies affords a business the opportunity to purchase larger quantities, which translates into discount savings. These savings accumulate quickly when buying the most popular items in bulk. If the purchase of all your office supply needs are awarded to a single vendor, use that buying power to negotiate savings on smaller purchases as well. Take full advantage of rewards programs offered by suppliers. The office supply business is competitive, so use a bid process to determine which company has the best program for your needs.

Organization

The key to successful inventory management is in the organization of the supplies. For a system to be efficient, employees need to be able to access what they need, when they need it. Supplies should be shelved with the most used items at eye level and in easy reach. Stock lesser used items on higher shelves but be sure they are not forgotten. Post an inventory list of what is stocked and where it can be found. Keep the area clean and orderly. Replace items with enough lead time to keep from running out, especially critical items. Purge obsolete items on a regular basis.

About the Author

Cindy Phillips began writing feature articles in 2007 with her work appearing in several regional newspapers. With more than 30 years experience in the corporate arena, her business expertise includes all aspects of marketing and management. Phillips earned a Bachelor of Arts in English education from SUNY New Paltz.

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