Consumables and office supplies represent part of the day-to-day running costs of practically every business. From stationery to print toner, paper supplies to tea and coffee, there is a long list of items that make a regular appearance in the outgoings column of your company balance sheet.
Taken individually, none of these might seem a major expense. But added together, they can make a surprisingly large hole in your margins. When the success of any business often depends on controlling expenditure as much as increasing profits, getting to grips with office supplies and reducing costs can play a significant role in improving your overall financial picture.
Here are five tips to get started with smarter consumables management.
Get the big picture
First of all, do you have a complete understanding of how your ordering and replenishment systems work? It is one thing adding up all the outgoings at the end of the month to come up with a total, but where does this figure come from? Is there a centralised strategy for ordering supplies, or do different teams take charge of their own needs in more of an ad hoc fashion? Do you use several different suppliers or just one, and which would deliver the best value? Are repeat generic orders leading to you stockpiling certain items as you order them over and over again when they are not needed? Carrying out a thorough analysis of your expenditure is the first step to seeing where savings could be made.
Adopt a lean approach
In manufacturing, lean production is an operational philosophy that prioritises an ‘as needed’ approach. The idea is that, if you have good enough intelligence across operations, you can do things like order new component parts only when supplies are running low, and therefore boost efficiency by avoiding the risk of duplication and stockpiling. The same principles can be applied in an office – if consumables are only ever ordered when they are actually needed, you can cut a significant amount of waste.
Take a break from brands
When it comes to things like printer paper, sticky notes, paper clips and lever arch files, do you really need branded products? They cost more and, in reality, are likely to offer very little difference quality wise from generic or suppliers’ own brand products. When you multiply the small differences in cost over orders of many thousands of items, you can achieve surprisingly big savings.
Introduce share save on stationery
One of the difficulties managing expenditure of consumables like stationery is that different teams and individuals get through supplies at different rates. You will often have situations where Team X says it has run out of pens and puts in an order for them, while Team Y still hasn’t got through the stock they received from the last order and have spare boxes lying unused. The challenge is how to share that sort of information across the business. Having a ‘share save’ initiative can help – set up a central repository where, if teams or individuals feel they have surplus stock they won’t use, they can leave it for others to check through before they put in an order.
Get to grip with print costs
Perhaps the most significant single contributor to consumables costs is printing. Using printing resources more efficiently across your business can have a significant impact on overall expenditure. Introducing management software to run all networked devices can centralise and rationalise stock ordering and also provide insight into where waste and duplication is occurring. Controls can be introduced to manage printer access and limit volumes.
At Weaver & Bomfords, we specialise in providing managed print services which take charge of all aspects print fleet operations, from reordering toner to handling repairs. We know from years of experience how much this can save clients, and we apply the same knowledge and insight to managing office supplies as well, from carrying out use analysis to handling reordering. Contact our team today to find out more.