5 Best Practices for Inventory, Budgeting, and Replacing Equipment

Last month Bill Donovan and Marygrace Blubaugh of Cannon School (NC) joined Sarah Hanawald for a discussion of “How to Automate Your Inventory, Budgeting, and Replacement Cycle.” (Members can view the recorded webinar here.) To supplement their webinar, Marygrace has provided several best practices for creating an Inventory Database, which she shares with ATLIS readers. -- SD

[10-minute read]

Marygrace BlubaughGuest Blogger: Marygrace Blubaugh
Cannon School (NC)

Two years ago at Cannon School, we began a journey of consolidating our inventory of technology equipment from a great many spreadsheets into a single database solution. We had spreadsheets detailing personal equipment (both staff/faculty and student), classroom equipment, and infrastructure equipment. Our IT Department worked to put these spreadsheets together, as we noticed more and more equipment that was unaccounted for.

We realized there was not an effective way to track the equipment once it was placed on the list. Surely, we thought, there must already be tool somewhere for tracking school technology inventories, and we only needed to do the research to find it. We were wrong.  Because we couldn’t find an existing solution that fit our needs, our IT Director, Bill Donovan, created one using Filemaker.

Tracking your technology inventory in this way can make your budgeting process work more smoothly. I’d like to share a few best practices with you that we learned along the way as we embarked on this journey, some of which were expected and some of which were surprises.

Best Practice #1: Mind Your Map

My first recommendation is to locate a good map of your campus and focus on the accuracy of the room numbers. I wish I had started out with such a map when we were setting up our inventory, since much of the equipment was assigned to a teacher, rather than a room, on the spreadsheets we uploaded. And if you work in a school, you know that some teachers may stay in a certain room forever, and others play musical rooms on a yearly basis. So assigning school-owned equipment to the room its located in, rather than the teacher, is the best way to go. This also lets us sort the Inventory Database by Room Number, which helps when we walk through and do a hands-on audit.

Best Practice #2: Verify, Verify, Verify

My next recommendation is to verify equipment on the database. Do a walkthrough audit to verify equipment in the room listed. While you are there, search for (and add) equipment that isn’t listed. This audit is a hands-on, time-consuming endeavor that requires cooperation and consistency from everybody on the IT Team to perform. But I can’t stress enough how important it is and how the process of keeping an accurate inventory is the responsibility of the IT Director and everybody on the IT Team.

Best Practice #3: Track and Update Personal Devices Used

Some items, like personal devices, can change, so we survey staff and faculty each year with a Google form. We ask everybody to let us know what personal equipment they are currently using, compare the data to our database, and verify or update our information. We also review spreadsheets to make sure all employees who have devices are listed in the database and that they have filled out a form.

Best Practice # 4 Raise IT Staff Awareness

We have found a best practice to keep our inventory accurate is to raise awareness for the IT Staff about equipment inventory. There needs to be communication when broken equipment comes in, and when equipment is handed out. All technology purchases need to be inventoried before equipment is distributed.  

Best Practice #5: Project Accurately

When all our equipment is accounted for and and our inventory is up-to-date, we make an accurate projection of what needed to be replaced. Our database lists the purchase date, purchase price, and replacement cost of all our equipment, which ensures our replacement schedule benefits our faculty and staff. I meet with Bill regularly to discuss replacing equipment. We look at the report he created, a “3-Year Replacement Projections Report,” which gives us an accurate total of how much we will be spending for the next three years to replace old equipment. We have a close working relationship with our school’s technology leaders so we can better understand the needs of the teachers in their department. The replacement schedule depends heavily on the report, but our relationships with technology leaders enable us to postpone equipment replacement if they feel it hasn’t reached the end of its life yet.

The Inventory Database we have created satisfies our need for an accurate inventory, and it also fills the need for accurate projections. Our Business Office can get answers to their capital expense questions with a quick phone call or email, which really helps build our relationship with them. Bill and I have worked together for two years to make a few tweaks to the database, adding and removing fields. The more we use the Inventory Database, the more ways we find there are to use it.

If your school is interested in trying out our process of developing an inventory system like ours and you have any questions, please feel free to email me ([email protected]). I am happy to help you! In addition, if you are interested in learning more about how to use Filemaker to track your inventory, you can contact Bill Donavan ([email protected]). 

Inventory and Budget Presentation.pdf

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