JIT vs. Bulk - Which Way Should You Buy?

 I don't belong to any warehouse clubs because I refuse to pay someone for the privilege of shopping in their store.  You will make your money off of me when I buy your products at the register - I am not going to pay you just for the ability to walk through your door.  I have so many loyalty/member card key fobs on my auto key ring that I think the key ring weighs more than my dog!  But they're all free cards - if someone tries to sell me a  card, I always decline.  <deep breath> But I digress.  Let me climb off my soapbox now and get to the real point of today's topic.

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Warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam's Club are popular with businesses, just as they are with consumers, because they are seen as a way to save money by purchasing in bulk.  If your company has the storage space, buying in bulk is definitely beneficial.  The per piece price goes down with a higher piece purchase.  For instance, a single pop-up box of facial tissue may cost you $3.32 if it's a name brand, while a 36-count carton of the same may cost you $100 ($2.77 ea).  That's a significant savings. 

That being said, many businesses don't have huge offices with tons of storage space. You may only have a small closet.  Or maybe your cleaning supplies all have to fit under the sink in the breakroom.   So you buy JIT (just in time).  You use a supplier that offers next day delivery, or maybe 2-day delivery and you order right before you run out.  The pro to this scenario is that someone else is warehousing the things that you need until you need them and you can use the available spaces in your office for something more productive.  The obvious con is when your supplier doesn't have what you need in stock and your order goes into backorder status.  The one thing that you absolutely had to have is inevitably the one thing that doesn't arrive and you look in dread at the columns on the packing slip that say "Qty Shipped - 0" and "Backordered - 2."  

Not everything that is sold in multi-packs takes up a lot of space.  Even if you have a small cabinet, you can still take advantage of bulk pricing on some items.  For instance, you can buy a 3-box package of binder clips or 10-box pack of paper clips and toss them in a filing cabinet drawer. Likewise, a brick of AA batteries doesn't eat up much room in a drawer.

If you need ring binders, but don't have the room to store a whole carton, consider one of the new Plus Packs offered by Mead and Wilson Jones.  They include 4 ring binders and 1 set of 5-tab index dividers.  These sets will allow you to keep a few extras on hand without sacrificing a lot of space.

You can also take advantage of bulk pricing by purchasing cabinet packs of sticky notes or tape.  Cabinet packs are normally 18-24 count boxes and are fairly slim - again, a space saver as well as a money saver.

Pens and markers also come in small bulk packs.  Bic Round Stic pens come in a box of 60 and Flair Felt Tip Markers come in a slim cylinder that holds 48.  These are just a few ideas.

Now, at the risk of sounding repetitive, I'm going to mention something that I've brought up a couple of times before and that is the concept of splitting your orders between vendors.  Please do remember that the cost of the product isn't the only cost of the product.  Your time is worth something and the time you spend issuing orders to multiple vendors, going to pick them up, or checking them in when they're delivered all adds to the cost of goods.  And don't forget about that membership fee......

So is it better to buy in bulk or JIT?  Each way has its benefits and negatives and the bottom line is do what's best for you, but look for a supply company that can handle all of your needs.  That will cut down on your costs regardless of which way you're buying.  OEX can help.  If you buy in bulk, we can handle those purchases.  The most common items that businesses buy at warehouse clubs are cleaning supplies, restroom supplies, and snacks.  We have all of those items - and more.  We have single skus and carton skus.  We have toilet tissue, facial tissue, cleaning wipes, cups, cutlery, snacks - you get the idea. The best part?  We are very competitive on all of these items!  We will also match pricing and the biggest benefit...you don't pay a membership fee!  We are confident that once you try us, you won't go back to the warehouse clubs.