How to Manage Office Inventory


Office inventory is one of those subjects that may not be top of mind for companies until management notices how it affects their bottom line. The term “office inventory” refers to the supplies an organization needs to run its operations. Office inventory can include everything from pens, pencils, file folders, notepads, and printer paper to cleaning supplies, breakroom snacks, and even cables and power cords for your IT needs.

It may surprise you that proper office inventory management can significantly and negatively influence a company’s profits.

Maintaining and managing inventory

Take, for example, the snacks in a corporate breakroom. To show your employees how much you value them, you might give your office manager carte blanche to pick up their favorite snacks at the nearest big-box retail store where you hold membership. Over time, those snack attacks may become more frequent and reach the point where you’re blowing through hundreds of dollars a month. 

Here’s another example: One of your departments has requested additional keyboards and power cords, so you place an order for them. However, little did you know that you have brand-new keyboards and power cords sitting idle in another department that could have been used to fill this request. Or maybe some of the new keyboards and power cords you ordered a few months ago have gone missing, forcing you to place another order.

These examples point to mismanagement of office supply inventory, and they reflect a more significant problem of a lack of a good inventory tracking system. When these incidents begin to become more frequent, the monetary waste adds up. Companies have less money on hand to allocate for other priorities. Chronic waste, if left unchecked, can lead to the demise of a company. Without accountability, supplies may simply fly out the door or otherwise fall through the cracks.

Establish accountability for office supplies

Sadly, companies can’t discount possible employee theft of supplies, either. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners reported that theft of “non-cash” property increased from 10.6 percent of corporate theft losses in 2002 to 21 percent in 2018. In a March 2019 piece for The Atlantic (“Workplace Theft Is on the Rise”), which cited the above statistic, writer Rene Chun theorized that “the changing nature of the workplace may also bear some blame” for the rise in employee theft.

Even in early 2019, full-time employees spent an average of 3.3 hours per day working from home, which he attributes to the uptick in missing items. Employees may have been rationalizing their theft as appropriate because they were taking work home. Now, as some employees either return to the office or transition into hybrid working arrangements post-pandemic, it’s not unreasonable to expect theft to become even more commonplace.

Organize and centralize inventory data

The financial aspect is just one part of the picture; the impact of poor office inventory management on your employees’ time and productivity cannot be overemphasized. The average employee spends 90 minutes daily looking for things - on the phone, combing through file drawers, or roaming through electronic files. An office inventory management system gives them a single, centralized location for looking up what they have and the location so they can make informed decisions based on real-time conditions.

For any company that doesn’t have an office inventory management system and policies, a manual spreadsheet certainly is a move in the right direction. Still, it’s a flawed and limited one. Excel spreadsheets inevitably won’t be kept up to date and are subject to human error, and some employees may not have access to them.

Consider a digital solution

You may use an office inventory platform to track and manage more than just your essential supplies. You can also use it to manage your fixed assets - for example, office furniture and equipmentIT assets, company vehicles, etc. Your equipment likely will require preventive maintenance to keep it in proper working order and avoid expensive repairs. Asset Panda’s powerful inventory tracking tool helps companies stay on top of preventive maintenance by enabling them to set up custom reminders and create work orders. They can also use the tool to remind them of important software updates.

Your office inventory management platform should be part of a broader system of established policies for your organization. Maintaining written policies for office inventory management, including employee expectations, is essential. Those policies can outline, for example, who has access to your office inventory and the appropriate levels at which you must reorder items. This inventory list template provides a starting point for compiling your inventory data. You can upload documents like this into Asset Panda, as well.

The best online tool for office inventory management

Asset Panda is a robust office inventory management system that provides unlimited user access so companies can add as many stakeholders as they’d like, close the communication loop, eliminate guesswork, and increase accountability.

Office managers have 24/7 visibility into real-time inventory levels and can determine where waste occurs. They can also set up custom reminders, based on thresholds, that alert them when stock is low, or items need to be replenished or repaired.

If you’re ready to get a handle on your office inventory, curb waste, and save time and productivity, try Asset Panda free for 14 days (no card required) to learn more about our mobile app and capabilities.

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