By Lyn Wilkerson
This week, we pass the reins over to guest blogger Lyn Wilkerson, Inventory Control Manager at Dallas Independent School District. Dallas ISD is the 14th largest district in the country serving 160,000 students with over 294,000 of below capital value assets. We asked him to share some best practices and lessons learned from his experience creating and implementing an inventory management program from scratch at his district.
I started working at Dallas ISD in November of 2014. Our CFO realized that lower value assets (those worth $500-$5,000) didn’t have a place in our fixed asset system and were not being tracked consistently. Because of my extensive background conducting inventories for large retail stores, I was hired to create an inventory control department and oversee inventory management policies and procedures.
Our inventory program has been in place for over a year now, and I’ve learned a lot along the way about the specific dynamics of school systems. Here are five tips I have for creating a new inventory management initiative from scratch.
1. Build relationships with your campuses
I’m really proud of the fact that we have such a positive regard for our inventory program on our campuses. Inventory is often one of the tasks staff will groan about, but we’re lucky to have a team that actually appreciates the value of what we’re doing.
When we started this initiative, we went out to our campuses to do pilot inventories. Two or three days before we actually conducted an inventory, I would visit the campuses to meet the principals and get feedback and provide information about the new inventory policies and software. Doing this shows the campuses how important the initiative is and our department’s commitment to its successful launch.
Making the time to go to each site and meet staff face to face demonstrates that you’re there to support them, and also shows them that an actual district administrator will be following up about inventory, so it’s harder for campuses to dismiss it.
2. Prioritize training
We trained our campus representatives to manage and use our new asset inventory management software, TIPWeb-IT, at their sites. We have limited district staff and capacity in our department, so utilizing the campus representatives gives us 230 members of our army out there managing inventory.
After taking the time to ensure our campus representatives are well trained, we check back in with them regularly to see how they’re doing. We make sure they’re involved in the process, and we work closely with them to show we’re committed to their success. We know learning a new system isn’t always easy, so we make it a priority to be supportive and give them the tools they need to succeed.
3. Start with clean data
If I could do the entire process over again, the only portion I would do differently would be to give our district more time to ensure the data we started with was accurate.
When we began using our asset inventory management software, we imported existing data. Once the process was completed, I realized that we had many inconsistencies, such as 20 different product names for the same model of document camera. If we had taken the time to sort through our data and clean it up, we would have caught those discrepancies. It would have saved us a lot of headaches because now we are having to go back through all of this data and clean it up so that our inventory reports are consistent and accurate.
4. Try new technology and identify what works for you
Each district is going to have different needs when it comes to an asset inventory management program. It’s important to know what the options are and explore them fully before creating your plan. A lot of districts haven’t taken the time to learn about the technology that can help them manage their assets, and they waste hundreds of hours each month trying to track their inventory.
We recently tried RFID technology in our district, and realized that offers features we would like to implement in the future for efficiency and ease of use. If we hadn’t explored that, we wouldn’t know that we need to plan for that technology now.
5. Train staff on the features and processes they need to know today, before adding more
When we initially started training our campus representatives on TIPWeb-IT, we were excited to share all of the software’s features with them. We wanted them to know up front all of the ways this technology could be helpful, but we quickly learned that the results were much more effective when we trained them solely on the tasks they needed most when they got back to their campus. Once those day-to-day tasks have been mastered, we move on to the next round of features that can help them. If we throw everything at them at once, they tend to forget the parts that aren’t imperative to their day-to-day roles. So instead, we wait and provide just-in-time training when needed, and we’ve had a lot of success with that.
Do you have any tips for creating an inventory management program at your district? Let us know in the comments!