Managing the flow and cost of office supplies

It’s easy to lose control of where the pens, paper, and other office supplies disappear to on a yearly basis, but when you track it on a weekly basis; it’s much easier to keep control of the usage. It may seem like a lot of trouble, but a tighter control saves money.

How do you go about getting control?

People who have studied the situation recommend you do the following:

  • Limit access as to who gets to the supplies and keep a paper trail of what they take!

    Have someone in charge of the store room.This can be a tricky business depending on your office culture since some employees may find this approach stingy and think it embarrassing to “beg” for a pen or pencil.But, the system proves effective.You may have to figure out a way to avoid the impression of employees having to “beg, ” but, perhaps it’s just a matter of picking the right person to be in charge of the store room.

  • Take inventory regularly and study it to know how and when to reorder!

    Taking inventory is the key to knowing where you stand with supplies and it helps you recognize how and when to reorder in order to avoid deficiencies. Of course, in a very small business, this is pretty simple, but the larger the business and the supply distribution points, the more complex the situation. Here is an approach to inventory taking:

  • Make an inventory log sheet on a spreadsheet or a word-processing table.

  • Go to the supply closet(s) and organize supplies in groups of like items.

    Separating supplies into similar groups such as pens and pencils, file folders, and staples or rubber bands makes it easier to take inventory. It will also make it easier to find what you want when you hunt for something and easier to track and determine when and what to order.

  • Take a count and enter the information for each category into your inventory log.

  • Study your inventory to regularly check and track the usage of each item.

     Tracking allows you to have greater control over your supplies by keeping a regular record of what you buy and when it is used.

  • Decide how much to order and when.

    Regular tracking on your log also lets you know when to order more of each item and even develop a plan based on the predictable usage of each. You can also know when to slow down on ordering certain supplies. When you have a formula for what you need and when, you can develop an automated reorder process which allows you to use the same order over and over again at predictable intervals. This will save you save time and allow you to avoid running out of things that could be predicted to be needed based on the log. Knowing your reorder points for each item saves you running out before an upcoming delivery.


  • Go back to the log and record what your purchases of supplies are and when.

     Continue your tracking process by noting any changes in the usage of supplies and make adjustments according to your inventory.


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