“Inventory Auditing”. Just hearing the phrase is enough to give most K-12 teams a headache—but what is it that really makes managing inventory so frustrating?
For most school districts, it’s the planning, scheduling, and procedures involved. Unless your district has mastered their inventory audit procedures, it’s easy for vital school assets to go missing or unaccounted for.
In this article, we’re going to talk about the “who”, “what”, “why”, and “how” behind conducting a successful inventory audit, so you can raise your auditing standards and get complete visibility over all the finished goods in your district.
Why should my school conduct regular inventory audits?
An inventory audit helps school districts cross-check their financial records against their inventory records. A successful audit allows school districts to:
- Uncover any discrepancies in their inventory count
- Make inventory forecasting easier
- Plan the future maintenance of district assets
Regular audits of your school inventory also help prevent fixed asset theft in your district. This is a huge benefit for school districts that are worried about losing vulnerable mobile assets, such as student laptops.
Inventory auditing also alerts K-12 IT teams of any missing or stolen school technology that could potentially disrupt classroom instruction. If your district doesn’t carry any backup assets in district storage, like loaner laptops or tablets, this could potentially disrupt school curriculum or lesson plans that rely heavily on having school technology available for teachers and students.
When is the best time to conduct inventory audits?
Conducting an audit of your district’s inventory items during the school year is difficult because it requires the cooperation of school faculty, teachers, students, and everyone in-between.
If you don’t want the quality of your inventory audit to suffer under the pressure of busy school schedules and competing priorities, we recommend scheduling your inventory audit during the late fall, between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The end of the school year is often too busy to successfully conduct a thorough audit of your district’s mobile assets. By scheduling your audit at the end of the first semester, you can avoid scheduling conflicts with year-end activities like final exams, and you’ll have more time to forecast inventory and plan your school budget accordingly before budgeting time in March/April.
Conducting an inventory audit halfway through the school year also helps your school technicians plan any maintenance activities or potential work orders in advance. For example, if your school’s HVAC or plumbing system is reaching the end of its useful life, your district facility manager can take that into consideration when planning their budget for the upcoming school year.
Who should participate in your district’s inventory audit?
A successful inventory audit is only made possible when K-12 faculty and staff work together. In this section, we’ll break down the responsibilities and duties that separate teams in your district must perform to conduct a successful audit.
Your K-12 IT department is responsible for cataloging all IT-related assets and school technology during your inventory management audit.
Due to the rise of 1:1 technology in schools, your IT teams will be tasked with auditing thousands of mobile assets. To meet this unique challenge, your district’s mobile assets should all be tagged with an individual barcode, which can then be logged in school asset management software.
Teachers play a critical role in reducing the auditing workload for your district’s IT team.
With the help of barcode-scanning technology, teachers can use a connected webcam or scanner to verify student devices in their classroom and update those assets in your district’s asset management software or spreadsheet. This allows K-12 IT teams to audit a greater number of mobile assets in a shorter period of time.
To prepare your K-12 teachers to assist in your upcoming inventory audit, you’ll need to give them access to an individual teacher profile in your school’s asset management software, as well as a quick training video to walk them through the necessary steps of verifying individual student devices.
At Incident IQ, we’ve simplified this entire process with our “My Classes” feature, which helps K-12 teachers easily conduct rapid, physical audits right from the classroom.
Your student body is responsible for having their assigned school laptops ready to go on the day of your scheduled inventory audit. Without their cooperation, your IT team could fail to account for most of the mobile assets in your school district.
To ensure students have their assigned laptops available during the time of your audit, consider sending a school-wide announcement to K-12 faculty, teachers, and parents/guardians that reminds them about your upcoming audit.
K-12 facility managers are responsible for auditing non-IT-related assets, including HVAC systems, water heaters, lighting fixtures, plumbing, and more. Because these assets are all located on school premises, school facility managers must create a thorough auditing plan to coordinate their efforts on the day of the scheduled inventory audit.
To prepare for an upcoming audit, your school facility manager will need to figure out logistics, such as arrival and departure dates, safety procedures, and more.
Once the details have been worked out, your facilities team will also need access to:
- An easy-to-read, digital floor plan
- A list of your school’s existing assets
- A schedule of school events for the day of the audit
- Piping and instrumentation diagrams (P&ID)
The resources listed above allow school technicians to easily conduct their inventory audits and catalog your district’s assets. These assets can be cataloged in a traditional spreadsheet, however, we recommend the use of school facility management software to manage, track, and organize any assets that may require future maintenance.
What inventory methods work best in K-12 schools?
Here’s a list of the best auditing methods K-12 teams can use to assess their district’s inventory and create an accurate audit report.
1. Traditional physical inventory count
A standard audit is conducted by comparing your district’s current asset inventory with the inventory found in your audit. Any discrepancies your team finds should then be flagged for further inspection.
In the event that your audit reveals several missing or stolen school assets, you can then begin the process of tracking down those assets and adding that data into your upcoming inventory forecast for the new school year.
2. Cycle counting
Instead of a traditional, physical audit, some organizations audit their district inventory over time using the “cycle counting” method. These counting procedures involve counting or auditing a small amount of inventory each day, with the intent of counting their entire inventory over a period of time. Cycle counting is known for its high level of inventory record accuracy, requires thorough pre-planning, and must be maintained throughout the school year to be successful.
To reduce the complexity of these analytical procedures, your IT team may limit it to only a select group of assets. For instance, your team may choose to only audit student laptops to avoid a last-minute, mass audit at the end of the semester or school year.
3. ABC inventory analysis
In a traditional ABC analysis, assets are grouped and audited according to their value. However, K-12 IT teams may use this method to separate assets into groups such as mobile assets (student laptops), fixed assets (classroom projectors), and facility assets (HVAC systems, water heaters, etc).
Separating your district’s assets into separate categories gives your IT team greater visibility over select assets and helps reduce the workload into smaller groups.
4. Cutoff analysis
In a cutoff analysis, your IT department and all other teams involved in the inventory auditing process would halt their day-to-day operations to focus solely on the auditing process. This ensures that there are no mistakes or uncontrollable variables during the audit.
While this may not be feasible for K-12 teams during the school year, a cutoff analysis is best performed during the summertime or winter break when school and student activities have slowed down.
Maintaining inventory audit standards in your district
Your school district’s inventory audit will only be as good as the standards applied to it.
To ensure your school district is maintaining high standards for your inventory audits, pick one or two auditing methods and stick with them. Then, document the process so new and existing K-12 staff can easily conduct your inventory audit step-by-step.
We provide an example of this in our IT Asset Management Checklist for Schools.
What tools should I use for K-12 inventory audits?
Even if your district has a detailed auditing checklist, assigned roles and responsibilities, and a flawless itinerary planned, the tools you use could easily make or break the success of your inventory audit.
Traditionally, large data sets are managed within spreadsheets like Excel or Google Sheets. However, spreadsheets often fall short when managing large school inventories due to:
- The need for manual data entry
- Poor data integrity
- Limited user accessibility across departments
- An inability to scale
In response, more school districts are ditching spreadsheets and implementing asset management software in their IT tech stack.
At Incident IQ, we responded to this problem by creating asset management software built with K-12 schools in mind. Our asset management system features tools that streamline both physical and touch-free audits and allow K-12 IT teams to keep an eye on device counts year-round.
Want to see if Incident IQ is right for your district? Schedule a demo with our team and see how we’re helping K-12 schools master their inventory audit procedures.