How to Manage Office Supplies and Maintain an Inventory

Part of maintaining an efficient office is ensuring that everyone has access to the tools they need. While it can be difficult to decide which tools an office can most benefit from, one resource that the entire office uses is office supplies. But when everyone needs access to the same supply room, how do you prevent it from being abused?

Managing Office Supplies

Office supplies are easy to use and easier to run out of. Paper, pens, inks, toners, staples, tape, paper clips, and more are all important, but can become a hassle if they aren’t monitored. Also, your employees may take too many office supplies at once, which can lead to over-ordering and overspending.

Workplace flexibility can increase these issues. How should you regulate supply use when some employees work remotely for some or all of the week?

Looking for better ways to manage your office supplies? See our strategies below:

Limit access to supplies

Start by improving the organization system you already have. How do you currently keep track of supplies? Open supply rooms, while great in theory, are often poor in practice because they don’t limit which or how many supplies employees can take.

There are three ways to limit access. First, you can appoint someone to be the gatekeeper. This person is in charge of the supply room; if employees need office supplies, then they must go through the gatekeeper to get them. This is the most effective method for maintaining inventory, but it may be inefficient for offices that don’t have someone who can absorb a gatekeeper’s responsibilities.

Second, you can limit access to a select group of employees. By installing a keypad or putting a lock on the supply room door, you can still control the flow of office supplies. The group of employees you select should be the only individuals who know the keypad code or who have a copy of the supply room key. They can then distribute office supplies to employees as is necessary.

Finally, you can create a log for employees to use and keep it in an open supply room. Employees should write down which supplies they take, how many they take, and when they take them every time they leave the supply room. While this may be the easiest of the three options, it is also the least effective because it relies on the honor system. Employees may forget to fill it out, which can cause confusion and bring the office back to square one. Choose the option that is best for your office based on how often you use office supplies and whether or not your office is already experiencing a misuse of supplies.

Download the Checklist for New Offices

Fill your space the right way with this supply list.

Organize what you already have

Once you have decided how to limit access to office supplies, it’s time to organize your supply room. Make it easy for employees to find the supplies they need by grouping similar items together (for example, put paper clips and thumbtacks on the same shelf). Place the most frequently used items on shelves at eye level and place less popular items higher up. If something isn’t being used, toss it and make a note not to order more in the future.

Keep the supply room as neat as possible. Encourage employees to put extra supplies back where they found them. If you have a larger supply room, you may want to post a list that explains where different supplies can be found. Organizing your supply room this way will also make maintaining an inventory much easier.

Use it up first, then buy more

Prevent over-ordering by encouraging employees to use up what the office already has before they break into new supplies. After a certain amount of time, paper will turn yellow, inks and toners will dry out, and pens will stop working, so use up what’s already available first. This also prevents the office from wasting money by throwing out supplies that were never opened but grew too old to use. You’ll reduce waste and the office’s carbon footprint — and you may even help out the planet a little, too.

Strategize when to reorder supplies

Many office supply companies offer a discount when companies order in bulk. To get the most out of your company’s dollars, you want to order the most supplies your office will need right when you run out of them. The ultimate goal is to avoid an excessive order (see tip above), but to place one that is large enough to merit a bulk discount.

Keep track of which supplies your office uses the most and how long it takes to receive a shipment of those supplies. You should combine these numbers to find a time when the office will be low on supplies but not so low that it will run out before the next shipment arrives. It’s a careful science, but one that will pay off in the long run.

Consider setting up an automated reorder process with some or all of your supply companies. This way, you will always receive a shipment in time and you won’t forget to place an order in the future.

Keep an inventory log

Keeping an inventory log is the best way to ensure that you always know how many supplies the office has. If you are unsure where to start, try downloading a free office supply inventory template from one of the many available online. This one is great to start with, and you can adjust it to fit your office’s needs.

But an inventory log only works if it is regularly updated. Be sure to periodically perform inventory checks so you can revise your log and remain aware of which supplies may be running low. A good rule of thumb is to always have enough office supplies on hand to keep your workplace running for one week.

These tips can help you get the most out of your supply room and prevent dreaded office supply shortages. Manage your office supplies now to prevent headaches later

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