Why It’s Time for a Digitalized School Inventory System

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A digitalised school inventory system offers many transformational benefits, not least making a teacher’s operations much more efficient and manageable.
In this article, we explore the key benefits of digitalizing your school’s inventory system and how improving the inventory management process can bring to your educational operations.

An Overview of Your School’s Inventory System

As you know, schools consist of a number of various assets. Including fixed and portable I.T. equipment, classroom furniture, technological teaching aids, books and resources, and consumables like stationery and cleaning equipment.

Large settings can have hundreds, if not thousands, of assets to track and manage. And, in current time, these can be expensive assets such as computers and tablets. In fact, according to a 2015 survey by the British Educational Supplier’s Association (BESA), 44% of schools are expected to have one tablet per child by 2020.

This is where an effective inventory system plays an essential part in your school asset management. It helps asset managers to understand where the school’s assets are at all times. Additionally, it allows you to make sure assets are being looked after and used correctly. With the aim to extract the most usage from them before they need replacing.

As software solutions are becoming increasingly popular in educational settings, you may already be familiar with asset management. Inventory management is a module of this system, and it’s one that can significantly enhance your inventory control processes.

It can offer many other benefits too, such as helping to ensure the school’s finances are used as effectively as possible.

Demonstrating financial effectiveness is challenging for schools, perhaps even more so since the government’s ‘rapid feedback’ school spending comparison service. Lord Agnew (Academies Minister) informed academy trust chairs about this in February of this year. It was also confirmed that Ofsted inspections were to focus more on finances from September.

5 Key Benefits of Implementing a Digital School Inventory System

  1. Improved Organisation

    A computerized inventory system gives a bird’s eye view of all your equipment, resources and infrastructure. During implementation, you’ll create a detailed register of all the school’s assets within the system. If you currently use a manual inventory system, you’ll appreciate how quick it is to pull up the necessary records of an asset electronically and find related asset data in an instant.

  2. Reduces the Risk of Asset Loss and Theft

    Asset theft is not only expensive, especially working with a tight budget, but also disruptive for your staff and students. Earlier this year, a Telford primary school had more than 20 laptops and tablets stolen, which led to a delay in the teaching of the school’s IT curriculum.

    Although it’s not always possible to avoid theft if your school has been targeted, like the example above, a robust school inventory system can generally reduce the risk.

    Assets can be carefully tracked and monitored through the use of a digital school inventory system. Any students or teachers looking to hire equipment will be able to make a request through the system. You’ll then have the necessary data to conclude whether to approve or reject those requests. With an inventory management tool, unauthorised requests and informal exchanges can become a thing of the past.

    Most inventory management tools come with built-in asset tracking too, allowing you to assign barcodes or QR codes to individual items and see a log of when they were last used. Some software also supports integration with anti-theft labelling solutions. This gives you greater control over assets and reduces the chance of equipment going missing.

    Being able to show accountability for all your assets will help during audits and help to identify if your school needs to request additional funding.

  3. Streamlines Inventory Management Across Departments

    Multiple school departments can make use of a digital inventory system, making inventory management more streamlined and effective. For example, P.E. teachers can track sport equipment and supplies, and science staff can effectively manage lab equipment and chemistry supplies.

    All this can be done through a single system, resulting in fewer inaccuracies and allowing yourself to oversee each process. Individual items with barcodes/QR codes can also be assigned a departmental code for easy filtering and reporting.

  4. Provides Insights for Asset Performance

    If you purchase an inventory management tool as part of a broader asset management system, you will also be able to monitor the performance of your assets. For instance, if your school has a large selection of laptops for students, you can easily see which ones are in use and those that are out of action due to faults or inactivity.

    Having this sort of information at your fingertips to present to the leadership team can be incredibly helpful. It can inform future decision-making in terms of what equipment is useful to the school, what needs to be repaired or replaced, and what the school can do without. This data can also help to build future maintenance schedules and avoid harmful downtime.

  5. Greater Accessibility

    A digital inventory system will typically be accessed via the cloud, which means you can log in while you’re on the school premises, or off-site. This flexibility means you’re not limited to managing your inventory during school hours. Effectively allowing you and other key stakeholders access to the system at any time and anywhere.

    As an example, consider the unprecedented time we find ourselves in. The coronavirus pandemic has led to many schools closing, with a skeleton staff in those that remain open. Yet, by embracing technology, you can effectively check your school’s inventory and make provisions to secure new assets, such as additional software licenses, even if you need to work from home.

Key Features to Expect From a Software Solution

Software differs from vendor to vendor. Typically, you should come across the following features:

  • Asset tracking: The ability to track individual items, or groups of items using barcodes or QR codes
  • Stock status summary: So you can get a complete picture of your inventory
  • Low stock-alerts: Enabling you to reorder/replace items when necessary
  • Purchasing records: So you can record inventory transactions
  • Check-in/check-out tool: To manage requests for borrowing equipment and resources
  • Multiple user support: So you can have different logins for key members of staff
  • Reporting tools: To provide standard or customised reports when needed
  • Support for integrations: The ability to tie in with accounting tools or other functions relating to asset management

Summary: Now is the Time to Digitalize

Though EdTech is on the rise to help improve student learning outcomes, many schools are lagging in the tech department when it comes to processes such as asset management.

The government has already identified that technology can drive change in areas like administration, as set out in its strategy document; Realising the Potential of Technology in Education.

If you currently use a manual inventory system or an outdated tracking system in your school, there are several ways that digitalization can enhance your operations.

The right software can lead to better organisation and give you greater visibility of all educational assets. It gives you a better understanding of which teachers and students have access to specific equipment and resources. As well as more control in terms of allocating resources across departments.

A digital school inventory system is usually cloud-based, accessible from anywhere, and with support for multiple users. This enables you to streamline inventory management both on and off the school premises.

Finally, it allows you to utilise assets properly and provides you with accurate reporting capabilities. This is critical at times of auditing, and to support the leadership team with strategic decision-making.

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