When your supply closet is organized and stocked, no one notices. But when supplies go awry, it can bring your business to a halt.
Try these strategies for organizing your supply closet, culled from a Staples poll of administrative professionals who excel at this task.
1. Label shelves and bins.
When it comes to labeling where things go, there are many approaches and systems you can try. What matters is that it makes sense to you and your colleagues who use the space.
Rachel N., of Saint Anne Communities, calls the label maker one of her favorite office tools.
“Each grouping of items is labeled for ease in finding supplies and to quickly figure out which supplies are running low,” she says. “Also, if we ever run out of an item entirely, its space is reserved for restocking instead of being overtaken by another item.”
Julee M., of CCG, labels according to job description and needs. “A supervisor will have different items than a field technician. Labeling a shelf and stocking this way ensures that each department has what they need to succeed.”
2. Use color-coding to categorize.
Colors add another layer to labeling. Mattea M. from MPL Inc. labels drawers and files so items are easy to find. Then, she says, “I use color-coding on the bin labels to help determine the type of supply, such as red for cleaning, blue for paper and yellow for breakroom supplies.”
You can also employ colored sticky notes to flag items that are low and need reordering or to identify levels of permission for removing the item.
3. Keep tracking documents.
Once you have a place for everything, create a map of where everything should go.
“I have a guide posted on the door of the supply closet for where to look and where to put things back. Not everyone notices it, but it keeps me organized,” says Alice V. of Powerhouse Dynamics.
A spreadsheet for keeping track of inventory is another valuable tool, says Tammy M. of Patient Services Inc. “It helps me chart when items need to be ordered and allows me to bulk order when necessary. I also use the spreadsheet for coding purposes, such as which supplies to code toward HR, IT, Operations, etc.”
4. Ask for signatures.
For valuable or limited-use items, you can post a sign-out sheet that employees will have to mark with their name and the date. This can help avoid those “Where did that go?” moments; someone is accountable.
It’s also an option to have people note every time they take anything out, which can help track inventory. Stacy M. of La Porte County Public Library uses a sign-out sheet that asks if you took the last or the second-to-last of something.
5. Monitor the space on a schedule.
You’ll want to check in on the supply closet regularly to see what needs to be ordered. For some people, this is a weekly task; for others, it can be less frequent.
“I try to check the closet at least once a week to straighten everything up. It’s like living with a teenager; their room — or the supply closet — will look like a tornado hit if you don’t monitor it,” Tammy M. says. Plus, she adds, checking weekly means she’s on top of which supplies need to be ordered, ensuring they’re always in stock.
6. Restrict access, if possible.
Some organizations decide that not everyone needs access to all the supplies all the time, which can make it much easier to keep items organized and in stock. Limiting access isn’t feasible for every business, but it works for Laura K. of Bibbero Systems, who says that only two or three people have access to the supply closet, which is kept locked most of the time.
She explains: “Employees request supplies as needed, and there’s less chance of things being moved or not returned or restocked. It’s easier to keep track of what needs reordering.”
7. Make it a team effort.
If your supply closet is open to all, consider enlisting your coworkers in helping you keep it organized. A first step is making sure you’re communicating about supply needs.
“I communicate monthly with the staff, asking them for their needs and then comparing it to what’s in supply,” says Doug H. of OneTrust Home Loans.
Mark W. of Southeastern Bank takes the principle of teamwork to a new level.
“I assign each employee a month to be responsible for organizing and restocking the supply closet to help give them ownership for keeping it that way.”