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What should SMBs look out for in order to keep abreast of the latest trends in office consumables, and how to avoid getting caught up in the counterfeit supply trade.

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By  Administrator Published  April 8, 2008

What should SMBs look out for in order to keep abreast of the latest trends in office consumables, and how to avoid getting caught up in the counterfeit supply trade.

Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) use thousands of Dirhams worth of office supplies daily. These office supplies, also categorised as consumables, range from low cost but high volume items such as paper clips, staples, and paper, to high-cost equipment like computer disks, photocopier toner and printer ink cartridges.

With the market booming, SMBs are on a purchase rampage. From printers, faxes and other devices to enhance communication and productivity, very little thought is given to office supplies - an important and recurring purchase. When a typical SMB adds-up the average spend on office supplies, the costs can be substantial.

KPMG estimates that as much as 10% of all high tech products sold globally are counterfeit.

In 1999 the office consumables industry was estimated to be worth US$225bn. In the span of 10 years the industry grew to US$39bn in the USA alone. This money was spent on inkjet cartridges, laser toners, paper, ribbons, printer, copier, fax supplies and other similar consumables.

The major cost center for SMBs is the Printer and Print consumables purchases, which need to be made on a monthly basis. SMBs have a regular printing need from printing in colour, to the volume of printing, to the number of PCs attached to every printer.

SMBs also need to ask the question of whether they will be doing in-house printing of their marketing collateral.

Buying office consumables

The most common problem faced by SMBs when planning and purchasing office consumables is finding the balance between the desire for the top-end merchandise and the financial constraints of ensuring the price is the most competitive.

Usually buying consumables is a thankless task as it is not the most exciting job, yet it carries with it immense responsibilities. A purchase manager can save the company thousands, if not millions of Dirhams, or waste the same amount by making purchases that are superfluous to requirements.

The rule of thumb when purchasing consumables on a tight budget is to set ground rules, which will eventually become purchase procedure and policy. The overall game plan deals with costing, relevance, suppliers, stockpiling and monitoring.

Costing

It is common knowledge that regardless of who has the most important title in an organisation the real decision maker in any company is the person who signs the cheques or controls the finances. Before making any decisions it is critical to procure a monthly and yearly budget for office consumables.

Although not written in stone, due to the fluid nature of the changing office environment, the initial budget acts as a guideline for all purchase decisions.

Relevance

The best way to decide what office supplies are needed is to make an inventory list to categorise the relevance of the existing consumables. It is also advisable to assess the quantity of the consumables being used on a monthly, weekly and daily basis.

The clear benefit of this exercise is the ability to make informed purchase decisions.

Suppliers

Once there is a definite list of all the required consumables the next step of finding the best supplier becomes more focused and intelligent. Always try to create a long-term relationship with suppliers because the more business you transact with a supplier the more likely they are to give you preferential rates.

The rule of thumb here is to always have more than one supplier, as this allows you to get the best deal and also have a backup in case of emergencies.

Stockpiling

This is the trickiest aspect of the purchase process, as too much inventory can cause unnecessary accumulation of consumables, with a high probability of overspend on superfluous goods. While some necessities might be unavailable when they are needed. The best way to buy the right amount is to monitor usage habits and the efficient use of data when purchasing and stocking.

Monitoring

This step serves two purposes - it helps the accumulation of intelligent data for future purchases and the important function of eliminating abuse and theft of office consumables.

SMBs should avoid making a purchase decision based primarily on ticket price. Home office users/SMBs do not control the cost per page factor, and usually end up spending more money then they should.

They need to identify their printing needs in order to buy the model that best fits, consider upgrading to multi-function printers and if they print enough, also consider laser over inkjet printers to optimise the overall cost.

Customers also need to look at the long-term cost of using re-filled or counterfeit cartridges, which compromises the quality and the reliability of the device.

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