How to save money and time with asset management software

A district-wide initiative

asset-managementWhile searching for a solution to its asset management problem, the district found one possible answer right in its own educational technology stable. Already using Follett Learning’s Destiny Resource Manager, the district started leveraging the platform’s physical inventory capabilities. Using the web-based system, teachers and administrators can view current inventory levels and locations, manage the inventory, and more efficiently plan for resource expenditures. They can also reallocate assets to different schools, thus reducing redundancies and stockouts.

Harkin’s team began by conducting a complete asset inventory. The process was handled by a dedicated team of staff members for whom “the management and movement of those assets” were part of their part of their job duties, she said. Finally, the district installed a new staff person to oversee asset management from the central office and coordinate the process across D300’s 26 schools.

As a component of the physical inventorying process, D300 weeded out books that weren’t part of its curriculum. “Why track assets that don’t matter to us anymore?” Harkin asked. In addition, the district shifted its textbook ownership philosophy from “building level” to “district level.” Because textbooks are now a district item, if a building has an overstock of 100 books, those assets can more easily be moved to another school as needed.

On the financial side, Harkin estimates that the district saves “a couple hundred thousand dollars per year now,” with most of the savings coming from its ability to more accurately track assets across its schools. In the past, for example, institutions with growing enrollment numbers would simply buy textbooks, not knowing that another school with declining enrollment numbers had the needed assets sitting in its storeroom.

“In the past, schools would hold onto them because they already paid for the books and didn’t want to give them up,” said Harkin. “By taking ownership across all of our schools, we’ve been able to make asset management a true, district-wide initiative that everyone is now onboard with.”

No more paper and faxing

With 230 schools and over 150,000 students, Dallas Independent School District relied on an antiquated asset management system that resided at the district office and accommodated just four user logins. When they needed textbooks, teachers would have to fill out handwritten forms and fax them to the office, where someone else would input the information and place the order. And while the previous system was used to maintain inventory, the fact that only four people could access it made it cumbersome and far from collaborative.

“We needed a new solution to bring us into the modern times,” said Matt Tyner, manager of textbook services.

Other asset management challenges plaguing the district included a lack of system data, no automation, and low visibility over textbook inventory across its many campuses. “My predecessor had been here for 25 years, so when I came onboard in 2011 it was definitely time to automate and streamline these largely manual processes,” Tyner said.

After putting out a request for proposal (RFP) that attracted bids from two different software vendors, Dallas ISD decided to implement a textbook inventory management solution from Hayes Software Systems. Key criteria included a system that would provide the district with real-time data and that would offer a district-wide platform that all parties could use via any internet-enabled device or computer. “We needed something that would replace the phone calls we were getting on every single issue and question,” said Tyner.

Functional capabilities

Dallas ISD’s textbook inventory management solution handles functions like the requisition of instructional materials, the return of instructional materials to the warehouse, campus textbook inventory, a repository for lost and used books, and an easy way to transfer materials among campuses. All of the activities take place online and can be access 24/7 on an as-needed basis.

According to Tyner, the system has helped the district improve its inventory tracking and real-time accountability — two things that were largely handled on a manual basis before 2011. “Our teachers and principals really had to jump through hoops to find their books, write up their orders, fax them in, and then monitor the order progress,” said Tyner. “This is just a much simpler way to get all of that done.”

To districts that are struggling to get a handle on their school-owned assets, Harkin said the first step is simply admitting that this is one of the “hidden issues” that isn’t always talked about or discussed — but it does exist and can be both expensive and time consuming. “If you really want to be responsible with your textbooks, you have to admit that you have a problem and that you’re willing to tackle it collectively,” she said. “It may require an initial investment in time and money, but if you keep ignoring the problem it’s only going to get worse.”

Bridget McCrea is a contributing writer for eSchool News.

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