By Adam Rosenfield
You spent the year working toward tracking and managing your inventory more efficiently. You saw where changes in your policies and procedures have worked, audits were conducted on time, and loss rates are decreasing. But if you don’t pay attention to your inventory during the summer, all of the progress you made during the year could be lost.
Researchers have coined a term called the “summer slide” that describes the tendency for students to lose the achievement gains they made during the year if they don’t continue to stay engaged in stimulating educational activity. And it can happen to your inventory management program too if you don’t keep up your positive momentum throughout the season.
Here are five tips to prevent your district from experiencing the “summer slide.”
1. Update Your Policies and Procedures
Summer is a time for retrospection. Decide what went right or wrong with your inventory management program last year. Start with a small group of people, like your core inventory team, to help brainstorm what processes are working and which ones need to be improved.
There may be local, state, or federal laws that have changed and will impact how you operate your inventory management program. Also ask your campuses for feedback about current tasks because ultimately your processes should easily integrate inventory management duties into their day-to-day roles and responsibilities. Look for opportunities to increase efficiency and automate tasks wherever possible to promote job satisfaction and process adoption.
2. Discuss New Initiatives Coming to the District
There also may be new initiatives coming to your district that will impact how you manage devices and materials, or you may be purchasing items with new funding categories (like E-Rate or Perkins Grant) this year, which require you to comply with additional accountability standards.
If a 1:1 initiative is coming to your district, you will need to address issues like:
- How will the devices get to your district?
- How will you tag the devices?
- Will you distribute devices directly to students and staff?
- Will you record the assignment of accessories (case, charging cable, etc)?
- Will you collect for insurance or charge for malicious damage to the device?
- Will the student be able to transfer campuses with the device?
- Will you collect the device at the end of the school year?
This operation requires a lot of people, and the summer is the ideal time to create a plan for who will be on the 1:1 initiative team.
3. Talk to Your Vendors
Use this summer to also have a wrap-up and planning session with your vendors. Ask them the same questions as your core inventory team: What worked this past year? What didn’t work? What will be changing for the next school year?
Some areas where your vendor can play a bigger role in inventory management are:
- Asset tagging and deployment
- Providing an electronic list of purchased asset details (this would include tag number, serial number, make, model, memory, warranty)
- Warranty and repair
- Pick up and disposal
Ideally, you’re already doing this with your vendors throughout the year, and have developed a list of frustrations, as well as a wish list of items that could enhance your district’s inventory management program.
4. Plan Your Trainings Early
Ongoing staff training is a key component in ensuring a successful inventory management program. Summer allows you ample time to plan your trainings for the upcoming school year. Determine how often you’ll have training sessions, the type of content that will be covered, and the skills that are required for staff to complete tasks effectively. We recommend splitting up trainings for new and returning employees. You may even want to split up these trainings by building grade level so situational stories are relatable to others.
These trainings also give you the opportunity to recommunicate the district’s vision and goals. As you share your vision, take another look at what metrics your district is using to measure the success of your program. Corral your team members and decide how to use metrics to motivate staff, because if no one knows their tasks are being measured, your project could stall. Set attainable goals to show progress and reward staff for meeting those milestones.
5. Come Up With A Plan for Your Transitioned Inventory
This past school year, your district may have had a renovation, a new 1:1 initiative or instructional material adoption, high staff turnover, or an extensive summer cleaning, causing inventory to be misplaced and your records to be out of date. A principal may have changed an instructional area, causing a large amount of items to be unaligned to the needs of the students in that room. Additionally, a teacher may have locked items in a cabinet, or custodians might have put inventory in the wrong room while cleaning.
TIPWeb has reporting that allows you to see what devices and materials should correspond with each room and person. Take a look around your schools and find your missing inventory. Ensure all items are in the correct location before the school year starts.
Do you have tips on how to prevent a summer slide in your district? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!