Columbus City Schools in Columbus, Ohio, has improved the accuracy and efficiency of its asset management program with a bar code-based asset tracking system.
The Columbus school system includes approximately 130 facilities, each of which houses a number of high-value audio-visual, computer and other assets. The district previously managed its assets using a relational database program based on asset information that was collected manually during biannual inventories, and through asset lists that the principal at each school was charged with updating. “Each year they were supposed to send us listings of disposals and additions they had made,” says Phil Watson, accounting manager, school support, Columbus City Schools.
The paper-based system was inefficient, and Watson knew that there were better ways to manage the data. “We wanted to find a cost-effective way of managing the information. The people on our audit committee also saw the need for this,” Watson says. “We wanted to find a company that would allow us to manage our assets using bar code readers at a reasonable cost so we could get a higher quality inventory, and improve our efficiency.”
The District put out a request for proposal (RFP), and selected BarScan based on its ability to easily import existing asset data. “We also appreciated that BarScan is fairly intuitive and easy to use,” Watson adds.
The system was deployed in June 2007, over a period of just a few days. Watson’s team was able to integrate the bar code technology quickly, in part because the existing asset tags used by the school system were already bar coded. Watson says the district spent a few months after the initial deployment working with its database to ensure the entries were consistent.
“Most customers think they are unique and have requirements that others don’t, and they have some specific field of information they want to track,” says Andy Schiffer, technical support, BarScan. “Our software includes a ‘user-defined field’ module that allows them to add to the database or rename existing fields without any programming.”
Watson’s team exported data on its existing 40,000 assets into an Excel spreadsheet, which was imported into the BarScan Asset Management System.
“The previous system allowed users to type in anything they wanted, so there was a lot of information that was typed different ways,” Schiffer says. “We spent some time cleaning that up before we imported the data.”
The school district uses the system to track capital assets with a purchase price of over $5,000, and computer and AV equipment that costs more than $500. Auditors use hand-held bar code scanners from Symbol Technologies to complete physical inventories. The PDA-style devices upload and download data via a cradle connection.
The school system has reduced the amount of time needed for its biannual physical inventory by a third to one-half. “Our inventory is much more accurate,” Watson says. “It gives us a much clearer view of what’s in the schools.”
BarScan is also deploying its Smart Client software for the District to provide Web access to the system at each school. “Every asset custodian at the schools will have an interface into the database so that they can post moves and new asset additions,” Schiffer says. “This will eliminate the paper-based process.”