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 to learn that these kinds of items can have a significant and negative influence on a company’s profits.
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 at which 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.
All of these examples point to mismanagement of office supply inventory, and they reflect a greater 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.
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 back in early 2019, full-time employees were spending 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 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 a day 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 where it’s located, 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 in place, a manual spreadsheet certainly is a move in the right direction, but 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
An office inventory platform may be used to track and manage more than just your key supplies. You can also use it to manage your fixed assets - for example, office furniture and equipment, IT assets, company vehicles and more. Your equipment likely will require preventive maintenance to keep it in proper working order and avoid expensive repairs. Asset Panda’s powerful 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 important. Those policies can outline, for example, who is given access to your office inventory, the appropriate levels at which items will be reordered. 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 formal 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 may be occurring. 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, go to assetpanda.com to learn more about our mobile app and capabilities.