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The 4 Biggest Inventory Mistakes You Don’t Realize You’re Making (and How to Fix Them) 

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K-12 school districts have limited resources, often with little funding or time for the countless administrative processes that seem to grow with every new state or federal legislative session. Taking inventory shortcuts may be tempting, but they can cost you time and money in the long run. Here are four common school inventory mistakes districts make without even realizing it — and how to fix them. 

Mistake #1:

Not making inventory a priority. 

District leadership must be committed to the inventory process, making it clear to staff that they believe it is vital to the success of technology programs. 

Making inventory management a permanent responsibility of a district level department will ensure every site and every asset is managed with the same policy. The task fits well within the mission of a district technology department, though smaller districts may need to merge the responsibility into a maintenance or finance function. 

An inventory management system (such as Frontline’s Asset Management) is critical for ensuring the inventory process can be handled in an efficient manner. This will ensure that employees will be able to receive system training at any time and employee turnover will not cause a break in management of the inventory. 

This will ensure that employees will be able to receive system training at any time and employee turnover will not cause a break in management of the inventory.

The Complete Guide to K-12 School Device Lifecycle Management.

Mistake #2:

Using a dollar amount as the ONLY determination for whether an item should be included in inventory.

Technology items often fall below the cost of “fixed assets” as defined by many states. But because they are often purchased in large quantities (like iPads), the total cost can be very high. If you only track inventory above that threshold, you will lack data about assets you have in significant quantities — and therefore a high overall value. It’s important to know where these items are and how many are functional at all times so you can prepare and budget for device refreshes. 

It is also important to track all agreed upon technology resources, regardless of how they were obtained. Inventory purchased with grants and donations should be tracked the same way as items purchased with federal and state funds. Many grants require that items be tracked for a specific length of time, and also require yearly reporting on progress. In the event of an audit, you want to be sure the information is readily available. Members of the public who donate items want to know that their donation is utilized. If a request for public records arises and a district needs to show where donated items are used, having them tracked in the system is very beneficial. 

Mistake #3:

Not using standards when building the inventory catalog. 

An inventory system relies on a strong, consistent catalog of items to be successful. Spend time determining how catalog items will be entered and how similar items can be divided or merged. Create consistent naming conventions so you avoid multiple spellings of a single asset type (e.g. Chromebook, Chrome book). Involve all your stakeholders in the development of the catalog! It will make all the difference in the world to the success of the system. 

How Director of Technology Heather Heater manages assets, streamlines support,
and keeps the district’s inventory data clean with Frontline Asset Management.

Mistake #4: 

Not conducting comprehensive audits.

Audits are a vital part of a successful inventory system. In the K-12 environment, timing audits can be tricky, as you will want to avoid creating disruption in the classroom during certain critical instruction times (i.e. at the beginning of the year or during assessments such as progress monitoring and standardized testing). 

Planning is essential. For the audit to go smoothly, a comprehensive audit plan must include all district stakeholders. Scanning teams need to go through EVERY room in EVERY site, so all employees must be aware of the audit and what their role is to ensure things go smoothly. Work with site leaders to develop a schedule, then make sure everyone sees it more than once before the day of the audit. 

Never skip an audit! A complete scan of assets should happen every year. Inventory management systems help this process by automating the database preparation, scanning of bar codes, and reconciliation. Don’t forget to work in smaller audits throughout the year by having technicians do random audits when they are in a classroom or requiring entry/exit audits when an employee starts or leaves a position. 

Complete the reconciliation process. Once the scanning is complete, there must be a team dedicated to tracking down items that were not scanned, scanned in the wrong location, or scanned but not listed in the system. This process is vital to keeping the inventory system up to date, which in turn provides the district with real-time data that can be utilized as an immediate, reliable, and complete source of information. 

Whether you are making one or all of these school inventory mistakes, they will have a direct impact on the credibility of your inventory data and how effectively you steward the public funding invested in education technology. School districts should make every effort to ensure they can account for each dollar spent, respond quickly to audits, use data to inform the budgeting processes, and ensure that assets are utilized in the classroom and for the productive operations of the district. Don’t let these school inventory mistakes hold you back!