What is an office supply tracking system, and why is it needed?


It's easy for anything to disappear if you aren't keeping a close eye on it. Most employees don't intentionally try to take items away from their jobs, but with small things like pens and sticky notes, it's just easy to lose track of them. And if your office supplies are disappearing quickly, you'll be spending a lot of time and money trying to replace them.

Every office, no matter how big or small, has a lot of moving parts to monitor at any given time. Implementing an office supply inventory management system is a great way to keep track of the office equipment and inventory supply without getting frustrated in the process. You might think it's not a big deal to track "supply inventory" or supplies that have been purchased but not yet consumed.

What to include in an inventory management system for your office

But the most common supplies in an office are items like: 

  • Pens
  • Staplers
  • Paper
  • Printer cartridges
  • Sticky notes
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Office furniture
  • and other office equipment

It's important to emphasize that the term "supplies" may encompass much more than pens, pencils, and the like. Supplies are a type of fixed asset -- they can be anything your company or organization relies on throughout the day to turn a profit. For example, a veterinary office maintains an inventory of medications. Staff continually have to track the quantities of those medicines in their inventory as well as the patient name and prescription information attached to each. Office furniture is another great example. Companies need a place to log such details as the date of acquisition of each piece of furniture, lease or purchase information, cost, materials information, warranty information, details on care and maintenance, and the location of each piece.

Companies need an office supply tracking system primarily because constantly replacing your office supplies can get expensive fast. On the surface, buying more pens or little things might not be a big deal. But, when these items aren't tracked, you could end up spending thousands of dollars replacing supplies you don't need. What's worse is that these items may not even be lost, just simply misplaced. Buying items you don't need, only to find you have plenty on hand later, translates to wasted money.

Challenges associated with office supply management

Tracking and managing office supplies isn't the most straightforward task, however – at least not without the benefit of technology. Too many organizations either have a manual office supply tracking system or don't have an office supply tracking system at all. Those companies that employ manual tracking procedures may assign an employee a key to the office supply room and set limits on how much employees may take. Still, without ongoing monitoring and maintenance, they will likely encounter unwelcome surprises.

Have you ever been working at the last minute to print out a report right before a meeting, only to find that you're out of printer paper? Without a system to track your supplies, you won't know when you're out of items like paper, staples, pens, and more until you need them.

Without visibility into what and how much they have and where it's located, office managers are forced to guess how many supplies to order. Meanwhile, they may have available supplies sitting in another department. And without a designated employee in charge of such decisions, companies may have duplicate orders.

Unfortunately, we can't discuss office supply tracking without addressing employee theft. It's a pervasive issue. The latest research indicates that 95 percent of all businesses have experienced employee theft.

Some 52 percent of employees admit to having stolen office supplies like pens and paper or have admitted to using the company printer for personal use. Further, 33 percent of all business bankruptcies may be traced directly to employee theft. It's probably not surprising that, according to US Chamber of Commerce employee theft statistics, employee theft is closely connected to the end of a business. Historically, employee theft rates have risen during periods of economic recession.

Knowing what you have and where it's located also matters from a disaster recovery standpoint. Approximately 30 percent of organizations don't know the fixed assets they own, where they're located, who's using them, or what kind of condition those assets are in at the moment.

How to keep track of an inventory of office supplies

Here are a few tips to consider if you're drawing up a set of office supply tracking practices and policies:

Consider your organization/classification system

Make it as easy as possible for employees to locate what they need by categorizing and labeling items in logical groups. This also makes auditing and restocking much easier to accomplish.

Designate a gatekeeper for your office supply inventory room

Your office supplies should be housed in a room or closet with limited access or may be locked and opened only with the permission of the employee to whom you've assigned that responsibility. Plenty of companies have taken this step but use the honor system with employees who take supplies.

They may have established a "one per customer per month" limit, for example, or perhaps employees are required to sign out on a log the supplies they take. In either scenario, it's easy for employees to forget to log out their items or to misrepresent what they took. Supplies will probably fall through the cracks and run out sooner than expected. This is where a formal tracking system should come into play.

Create written policies

You do need to formalize your expectations in writing so that employees may be referred back to them in the event of confusion or a violation of policies. You'll also want to take into consideration delivery times.

Set Alerts and notifications for inventory restock thresholds

You might consider setting up automated reordering for key supplies. Additionally, some office supply tracking systems allow you to set up custom reminders and alerts if you don't have the option or choose not to use automated reorders. Determining when to reorder items, of course, requires walking the line between ending up with too much inventory or running out when items are critically needed. Keep an eye on your most commonly used supplies and analyze how fast your supplies are being exhausted. Using proper office inventory software can help you build a history and create reports that help determine the best timing for reorders.

Where do office supplies go on a balance sheet? According to AccountingCoach.com, the cost of office supplies on hand at the end of an accounting period should be the balance in the current asset account, such as "Supplies" or "Supplies on Hand." The cost of the office supplies consumed during the accounting period in question should be logged in the income statement account "Supplies Expense." When the company purchases supplies, the amount should be debited to Supplies. At the end of the accounting period, the balance in the account Supplies will be adjusted to be the amount on hand, and the amount of the adjustment will be recorded in Supplies Expense. And, if the amount of supplies on hand is insignificant, a company may simply debit Supplies Expense when the supplies are purchased.

Asset Panda's Office Inventory Software

Asset Panda can help remove the errors and hassles associated with manual office supply tracking and put your entire inventory in the palm of your hand so you can manage your office supply inventory from anywhere. 

Our easy-to-use, intuitive app requires no additional hardware–including a built-in barcode scanner – and you can add as many users as you'd like. The app syncs with the cloud, so your information is always updated in real-time. With complete visibility into your inventory, you can make decisions about reordering based on facts, not guesswork. For higher-ticket items like office furniture and hardware, Asset Panda enables you to store details like warranty information and maintenance histories.

Asset Panda understands the importance of tracking the little things your company relies on throughout the day. It takes a lot of work to track all your moving parts. That's why we created our flexible, easy-to-use inventory tracking system to help you stay on top of your office inventory. Our program will change to meet your needs so you can manage everything you rely on to get your job done.

Want to see how Asset Panda can improve your office environment? Get a demo today! (No credit card required!)

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