Why Your District Needs an Inventory Audit Plan Now
Now more than ever, technology is being used as a powerful tool to track assets and provide education to students in hybrid and distance learning scenarios. School districts are distributing more equipment and materials, spending upwards of $13 billion on ed-tech for classrooms. As schools gain more valuable assets that enhance education, inventory needs are increasing rapidly.
As districts are subject to more scrutiny over lost technology, it is increasingly important to adopt the best asset inventory practices. Avoid costly errors caused by mismanagement and develop lasting organizational strategies to manage the resources needed to maintain a productive learning environment.
Pitfalls of Manually Tracking Assets
There are many problems districts can run into when it comes to manual asset tracking. While there is no bad time to do an inventory audit, there are better times. Properly staffing an audit is often difficult. There normally is not enough staff to manage an audit, and manual data entry can take hours. Keeping accurate data may include lots of information, upkeep of information, and the more assets your district has, the longer an audit will take if you are not using a robust asset management system.
Excel and other spreadsheet programs are clunky, have many columns, and are often difficult to navigate. Manual data entry is prone to mistakes, and there is often no way to catch those mistakes before they have a widespread impact. Additionally, using an Excel document or a similar spreadsheet eliminates accountability. Because Excel doesn’t allow for single user sign-on or track who makes changes, it is impossible to know what or who caused an error, when that error was made or how it happened.
The final phase of an audit – reconciliation – can also be burdensome. Once the scanning portion is complete, audit staff will be tasked with searching for unreturned-take home items, which is time-consuming, and will take away from other duties.
Outsourcing asset and inventory management can help districts avoid these common pitfalls.
Best Practices for Tracking Assets and Inventory
Creating a reliable baseline physical inventory is crucial. By creating this baseline, you will know what materials and assets are available for use, have the ability to determine what the district needs to order, and budget accordingly. A baseline inventory allows school districts to roll out a new inventory management system with confidence.
Utilizing barcode and RFID technology creates a seamless asset tracking process by allowing districts to be added, moved, or check-in and out while eliminating the risk of human data entry errors.
Maintaining objectivity is also essential in an efficient, well-run audit. Having an impartial inventory team asking the hard questions, finding the tough-to-find items, and declaring lost or missing assets gives better visibility, more accurate data, and reduces risk.
The Need for Expert Inventory Audits
While it is possible for districts to manage their audits independently, outsourcing physical inventory services districts can increase overall productivity, accuracy, and time management. Utilizing Hayes’ inventory services allows school districts to reap the benefits of working with an expert – accessing skilled expertise, reducing overhead, flexible staffing, increasing efficiency, and reducing turnaround.
A professional team is not only trained to be fast and efficient, but the time and skillsets are dedicated entirely to each district’s system, and each team member is free from the distractions and responsibilities that naturally come with being a district employee. When you outsource auditing to a professional firm, you benefit from that firm’s ability to engage, train, and employ the best people in that field and earn a more efficient use of resources while saving money.
Best Practices in Action: Eastside Union School District and Chicago Public Schools
Before conducting an internal audit, the Eastside Union School District had minimal understanding of their inventory. The district was solely relying on purchase orders and estimations to determine inventory availability. Hayes Software conducted a full physical inventory, and imported the new, clean data into the district’s inventory management platform. According to Eastside Union School District’s Superintendent, Dr. Joshua Lightle, “It has allowed for much more informed decision making than we’ve ever had, even in the first few months of the audit.”
The full scale audit indicated to Dr. Lightle and his team what assets were available for use vs. where the district should invest in additional materials.
Similarly, Chicago Public Schools has been utilizing Hayes’ TIPWeb-IT to manage their district’s assets. Chester Tindall of Chicago Public Schools said, “TIPWeb-IT has made managing assets a lot easier for us. You have much more visibility, which has been helpful during the pandemic. We can see where shortages are and move devices accordingly to ensure students get the proper materials and devices.” He continued, “I want to stress how important it is to do a physical inventory at the schools. You never know when external or internal auditors will come out to your building, asking for records. If assets are being assigned to staff or students, make sure you do it in TIPWeb, so you have a record if assets are lost or stolen.”
Performing physical inventory audits are necessary for any K-12 institution distributing materials, whether textbooks or technology, to students. Having clean data allows districts to spend money wisely and make the most informed decisions. Relying on inventory experts saves time, money and ensures you are working from the most accurate data .