Inventory Management

A Guide to Office Inventory Management

May 13, 2024 • 6 min read

Regardless of what industry your business is in, chances are you rely on a host of administrative inventory and office supplies to keep everyday operations running smoothly.

In this article, we will focus on how to manage inventory of office supplies. We will discuss why office inventory management is so crucial and also provide a free office supply list template to help you kickstart your office inventory management strategy.


What is office inventory management?

Office inventory management refers to the inventory management strategy for office and administrative supplies such as paper, ink, postage stamps, files and folders, and any other supplies and materials required to keep your business's administrative arm running effectively. The larger your “office,” the more likely your business will carry a significant amount of office inventory.

There are a variety of reasons why office inventory management is so important. For one, regardless of what industry your business is in, it almost certainly relies on some administrative assistance to run smoothly, and to swiftly meet customer demand. Whether that means printing packing slips for outgoing orders or sending appointment reminder postcards to dental patients, there are infinite ways that everyday business practices require office supplies.

Another reason why solid office inventory management is crucial is that when office inventory becomes disorganized, organizations are forced to purchase these items locally at retail prices. 

For example, supplies like printer paper and ink can cost at least twice as much when purchased at an office supply shop versus through a wholesaler. If your business runs out of these supplies, it likely won’t be able to wait until the wholesaler can deliver the next order, forcing your organization to spend way too much on inventory it should have never run out of in the first place.

Related: What is Reorder Point?

Office employees managing office inventory on a tablet

How to manage inventory of office supplies

Regarding office inventory management, there is no getting around the first step: organizing those filing cabinets and storage closets. After that, a business should determine how it will track office supplies and create a plan around that strategy. Here is a step-by-step guide to managing office inventory:

1. Physically organized office supplies

Regardless of the size of your organization’s administrative office, there is no sense in implementing an office inventory management strategy without first organizing that inventory physically. Whether your operation has just a few filing cabinets, an entire stockroom, or a variety of mailrooms and storage facilities where office supplies are stocked, the best office inventory management strategies begin with a thorough clean-out and reorganization of these supplies and materials.

Sometimes, to facilitate a more organized strategy, businesses should consider investing in smarter physical storage equipment such as new shelving, racks, and bins. 

2. Determine how to track office supplies

There are three different ways to track office inventory: using a manual system, spreadsheet, or inventory management software. If your business tracks only a dozen or so other items, simply recording these supplies and materials on a sheet of paper or a shared document and updating it about once a week may suffice.

However, when an organization stocks enough office-related inventory or wants to add its office inventory to an existing inventory management tracking system, stakeholders will typically opt for either an inventory spreadsheet or inventory software (also referred to as an inventory app).

There are a variety of reasons why most businesses, upon determining a manual inventory system is not sophisticated enough, select software over a spreadsheet. For one, the best inventory management software has streamlined and automated the various inventory processes so that it’s faster, easier, and more intuitive to track inventory using the app than with the spreadsheet.

Additionally, spreadsheets are prone to human error due to jumbled numbers and mixed-up cells, especially when items have similar names or are difficult to distinguish without a picture. This is partly because it is challenging to display visuals on a spreadsheet. (Software can display many high-resolution images.)

Inventory software can also be particularly helpful if a single employee is managing office inventory across multiple locations.

3. Decide between a physical and perpetual inventory system

For most inventory management strategies, it’s widely agreed that a perpetual inventory system is better. That’s because, in perpetual inventory, items are checked in or out as soon as they are moved, consumed, or discarded. That said, if an organization has limited office inventory, it may determine that it is unnecessary to keep track of inventory perpetually.

In this case, an organization may manually count and then update inventory records regularly, such as weekly or monthly.

While inventory management software makes it incredibly fast and easy to practice perpetual inventory, organizations can also manually update inventory lists within inventory software at whatever interval they’d like. Although inventory records will only be accurate once numbers have been updated, organizations will still reap many benefits of inventory software, including access to inventory records and data that can inform future purchases.

4. Create a reordering plan

Whether your organization chooses to track office supplies perpetually or physically, one of the most important steps of a solid office supply inventory management strategy is determining when and how office supplies will be reordered. After all, an organization that runs out of office supplies unexpectedly is likely to overspend on those items from a retail store.

Create a standard operating procedure (SOP) for all your organization’s inventory needs, regardless of your industry. Then, within that SOP, outline additional best practices for keeping stock of and reordering office supplies. This includes detailing which vendors stock what items, how long it takes for these vendors to deliver those supplies, and when these orders should be placed each week or month.

5. Perform an annual audit

While the monetary value of your organization’s office supply inventory might be limited, it is still recommended that you perform an annual inventory audit to ensure that all best practices are being followed and that all inventory accounted for on your inventory list actually exists in real life and is in good, usable condition.

During this time, if you discover that the condition or organization of any such inventory has dwindled, remedy the situation and update your standard operating procedure accordingly.


Free office supply list template

If you’re looking to improve your office inventory tracking but are not yet ready to implement inventory software, this free office supply list template is a perfect place to start. Feel free to customize it to reflect your front office’s unique inventory. If you decide to start using inventory software, it’s easy to bulk upload this spreadsheet into Sortly for an even easier and more flexible inventory experience.

Free Download: Office Supply List Template

Download our free office supply list template today! The template is pre-populated with common office supplies but is totally customizable–feel free to add your items along with custom details, rows, and columns specific to your office's inventory.

About Sortly

Sortly is an inventory management solution that helps you track, manage, and organize your inventory—from any device, in any location. We’re an easy-to-use inventory software that’s perfect for large or small businesses. Sortly builds inventory tracking seamlessly into your workday so you can save time and money, satisfy your customers, and help your business succeed.

With Sortly, you can track inventory, supplies, parts, tools, assets like equipment and machinery, and anything else that matters to your business. It comes equipped with smart features like barcoding & QR coding, low stock alerts, customizable folders, data-rich reporting, and much more. Best of all, you can update inventory right from your smartphone, whether you’re  on the job, in the warehouse, or on the go.

Whether you’re just getting started with inventory management or you’re an expert looking for a more efficient solution, we can transform how your company manages inventory—so you can focus on building your business. That’s why over 10,000 businesses globally trust us as their inventory management solution.

Start your two-week free trial of Sortly today.