Tracking office equipment and inventory is a crucial part of office management. On the equipment front, you need to know what equipment you have, where it is, when it has been serviced, and any related costs. Your accountant may also need this information to calculate depreciation. For supplies and products, keeping track will ensure that you order more before you run out. Inventory tracking, when done right, is one of those behind-the-scenes tasks that impacts many areas of business operations from sales to employee productivity and satisfaction.

When it goes smoothly, you don’t notice it…but when you can’t find much-needed equipment or run out of inventory at the worst possible time, it can be a nightmare. Implementing inventory control and equipment tracking procedures can help to keep your business running smoothly.

Inventory management methods

Depending on the size of the business, there are several methods to track inventory and asset maintenance and management. Some smaller businesses use the pen and paper inventory control method, and it works perfectly for them. These same smaller businesses are usually comfortable tracking their office equipment service and maintenance records manually as well. 

Some businesses keep track of their inventory using Excel spreadsheets. Equipment inventory list, for example, is an Excel template for recording the physical and financial status of equipment. This template allows the user to track repairs and warranties, as well as anticipate maintenance expenses based on the costs and schedule of preventative maintenance performed on the equipment to date.

When a business “outgrows” manual tracking methods like pen and paper or spreadsheets, they typically upgrade to an inventory management system. Inventory management software with integration capabilities can decrease overhead and up-front expenditures. Not sure what this means in practice? Keep reading, we’ll explain.

Making it simple with barcodes

The ability to integrate barcode and scan systems is one of the most significant advantages of inventory monitoring software. The capacity to simply scan an item, or a series of things, into an inventory management system saves on staff time—which equates to labor costs. Furthermore, asset management software often labels and tracks assets using a barcode and scan system, thus the technology may be interchangeable depending on the software systems in use.

Asset management software perks

Regardless of the application software used, most digital asset management systems will allow you to examine the equipment from the date of purchase or lease until the day the report is run. This generally includes all equipment history (purchase date, assignments/use, etc.), warranties (both current and expired), user manuals, as well as images of the equipment. 

Another advantage of asset management software is the ability to remotely manage assets. For example, you do not need to obtain a physical reading from the copier when the meter reading is provided to you through software, along with a list of preventative maintenance components that were purchased for the machine maintenance. The capacity to provide real-time data and automate maintenance planning is an efficient and usually cost-effective way to maintain equipment. Removing the margin for human error also leaves a business better prepared in the event of an audit.

How warranties and repairs help forecast costs

Although it is hard to predict all maintenance and repair expenditures, tracking repairs throughout a piece of equipment’s warranty duration provides an in-depth projection of maintenance to be expected, and the related costs. It is an excellent tool for forecasting equipment service and repair budgets since it tracks replacement components and service costs as well as their frequency. Warranty repairs should always be fully recorded and stored with the equipment records, whether done in an asset management system (which may integrate with your bookkeeping system) or tracked in an Excel equipment inventory list.

Inventory control basics

Inventory and supply management may be and frequently is a full-time job. The basic principle of regulating supply and inventories is to restrict access to commodities. A dedicated parts clerk or supply clerk is generally required. By limiting access to goods and resources, the possibility of shrinkage (the loss of spare parts and items) is considerably reduced.

Establish a documented procedure to educate personnel about the actions necessary to access inventory or supplies. Also, be sure to mandate the use of a paper log to keep a hard copy of the signature for goods or products received, which can serve as an audit trail if inventory discrepancies should occur within the inventory management system.  

Inventory and supplies should have a predetermined reorder point in the procurement system so that when an item is nearly depleted, it may be reordered and stocked without running out in the meantime. Remember to utilize the FIFO method. First in, first out, so the oldest dated product is used or distributed before the fresh product. This method helps prevent costs associated with spoilage and works well in many industries, not just perishable inventory stocks. 

The takeaway

No matter the size of the company, there are asset management systems and inventory control systems that will assist in tracking office equipment and inventory. By utilizing good equipment maintenance practices and aggressively tracking inventory, a company can remain audit ready, increase efficiencies, and reduce shrinkage almost immediately.

Bryan Christiansen Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO of Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy-to-use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organize, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.
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