Thursday, July 30, 2009

Presidential swap shop

A pet peeve of mine is how the inventory of office supplies continues to grow in an organization. I have seen this everywhere I have worked and in many places I have visited. I'm talking basic stuff -- paper clips, alligator clips, three-ring binders, pads of paper, pens, and pencils.

And, even though there is a ton of stuff in the building, office managers continue to order more of it.

In a previous place I worked, I put out an order saying that we would no longer permit purchases of paper clips. Guess what? We never ran out. They just kept getting recycled when documents would be sent from one office to the next.

We plan to have a general office supply swap for the hospital soon, but I thought I'd run an experiment in the meantime. It is based on my community experience running a soccer cleat exchange. I created the "Presidential swap shop" in the corridor near my office, which is within eyesight of a highly trafficked thoroughfare. The sign says, "Take what you need, leave what you don't." Already, within a couple of days, there has been a dramatic amount of trading activity.

Those neat red boxes are the containers in which pipette tips arrive at the labs. We use thousands per year. They are perfect storage boxes for all kinds of stuff here and at home. They are flying off the shelf of the swap shop.

You can't see the paper clips and alligator clips, but they are also moving well, as are the three-ring binders. Meanwhile books are coming and going like a lending library.

I hear reports that other swap shops are popping up around the hospital. Maybe it's a movement.


Anonymous said...


At my company, we do something like this every spring. It's called "Spring Cleanup". Like a spring cleaning kind of thing.

One of the large confrence rooms in each office is set up with tables like in your picture. It works very well.

Maybe we should take it the step further though, instead of just one day during the spring, we should have a permanent place for it year round.


e-Patient Dave said...

YEAH! I'll take it to my office too.

Then we can extend the same thinking to other nooks of healthcare.

Power to the people. Including every provider, every clerk, every cook, everyone.

Anonymous said...

The swap is an excellent idea.

What % of gross revenue is made up of office supplies minus paper?

I am sure people look at office supplies and think it is a minor cost, but I'll bet the gross figure would surpize people.

Anonymous said...

Even if you save a percent of a small number, it goes right to the bototm line, plus it is more environmentally sound to reuse.

Anonymous said...

We use yammer for this at my work, but a real physical place might be nice also. I used to work in the lab also, we go through so many of those boxes, and they are awesome, stackable, washable etc. :)

Martha said...

This was started at least 5 years ago at my previous place of employment and works very well, I understand. There's a list on the company's intranet website that lists everything available and, I believe, what people are looking for. It's a great idea all the way around.

Jerry said...

Anybody interested in some 8.5" floppy disks? Like new ;^)

REKording said...

Although private hoards have always been a problem with office supplies, it is only in recent times that these hoards have grown to be department-sized. I believe it is a direct result of the abandonment of efficient cost centers like central stock in the pursuit of making everyone a profit center, but actually ending in loss of control over minor costs and your brand.

Anonymous said...

At an average labor cost of $1 per minute (I's sure your labor cost is more like $5 per minute)what is the cost and value of all of the stuff that arrives at the tables?

It's coming up on a new school year so anything that may be useful in schools will soon disappear from the tables. Maybe the swap system will cut down on the requisitions of supplies by the departments.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great idea and I think it will work for us....but....what do you do with everything left over at the end? I'd like to do this to clear out our storerooms, but I envision ending up with more at the end than we started with. Or in your experience do most things find a home?