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I'm looking for ideas on inventory management software.
For example, I have a set of radios in multiple locations. (1) I need to keep track which location the individual radios are at. (2) I need to know if the radios are in service or out of service. (3) Radios can be checked out to staff. I need to keep track of who has which radio.
This really extends to all sorts of equipment. We're a search and rescue team, so there's a lot of team level equipment. It moves around, requires maintenance, has to be retired based on age or amount of use.
Any ideas would be appreciated.
From your description you could use a spreadsheet or any database application.
From my perspective you could use a paper notebook as well. The most important thing with tracking inventory is keeping it updated. If you have people responding to emergencies and grabbing what they it's understandable, but really messes things up.
If you can describe more about how you need to use the software it can help with other recommendations.
A lot of great questions. Let me try to speak to this.
Today our gear is spread across four caches in our operating area. Pen and paper are out simply because they prevent the knowledge from being team-wide. Questions like "where is my nearest litter?" can no longer be answered. We live in the digital age and we need to take advantage of the technology available to make us more efficient.
A spreadsheet on a local computer is equally useless. Multiple sets of eyes need to be able to look at the information - equipment managers who take care of the gear, personnel who use the gear, logistics when it's time to replace or reorder gear.
You're probably going to say, "why not use Google Sheets?" at this point. Actually, we do. But its cumbersome and tracking things we need to track is hard in Google Sheets. Sorting things by category is hard. We can use multiple sheets for that, but some items fall into multiple categories, so even cell data is a challenge. Here are some other examples:
I mentioned radios before. Most of our members have their own radios, but if they are responding from work, they may not have their radio with them. Or their battery may have died. Sometimes a radio bounces down a rocky slope and ends up as debris. Radios do get lost (anyone with a sense of adventure, we've got a missing radio, last seen on Andrew's Glacier). Sometimes we need to hand a radio to a member of a served/jurisdictional agency or another team, responding under mutual aid. Editing a Google Sheet on a smart phone in the field is nothing short of a nightmare. Additionally, we want to know how old the radio is, bands it can work on, frequencies programmed in, how old the battery is.
We have an AED that we take to events where we are asked to support public safety. Races, runs, parades, public venue, etc. We need to track the last time the AED was tested, how old the battery is and when it's due for servicing/replacement, when the pads are due for replacement.
Our medical kits have perishable supplies. We need to know which kit and when adhesives, bandages and medications need to be tossed. We also have oxygen bottles in these kits. They have to be tested and refilled. We need to track these dates. We have other electronics, such as electronic BP meters, pulse ox meters, thermometers. We're a battery operated society, so all these things need to be tested and maintained regularly.
Even simple things like rope need management. 8 mil? 11 mil? Other size? How old? What's the rating? And rope has to be examined regularly, too. The nylon will degrade with use. The mantle will degrade with abrasion. Rope (and a lot of other gear) has to be cleaned and/or decontaminated after being in certain environments. If we use bleach, we have to note it. It dramatically cuts the lifespan of a rope.
Sometimes we borrow equipment from other teams. Or loan equipment to other teams. This is another form of tracking that has to be performed.
This barely scratches the surface of our equipment management issues. As you can guess, Google Sheets is not equipped for this sort of documentation. And it's definitely not field friendly when we're using smart phones.
Would love to get some feedback. I know our situation is somewhat distinct among the other TechSoup participants.
It does sound like you might be best off with purpose-built inventory management software. My first thought is NetSuite. They offer nonprofit discounts on some of their products, but I don't know whether their inventory module is one of them. At the other end of the spectrum, there's MERCI, an inventory tool built on Drupal. Finally, here's Capterra's list of other options.
RobertForum Moderator Robert L. Weiner ConsultingStrategic Technology Advisors to Nonprofit and Educational Organizationsrobert [AT] rlweiner [DOT] comwww.rlweiner.com
It sounds like you really need a customized inventory management and case/workflow/workorder management system. Have you considered SalesForce? Check out https://help.salesforce.com/articleView?id=fs_set_up_parts.htm&type=5 and https://help.salesforce.com/articleView?id=support_admins_intro.htm&type=5
If you have Salesforce, you should get these capabilities for free already. Its pretty easy to setup and use SalesForce, and the best part is it is extensible and customizable for your purpose, and has plenty of 3rd party app integrations.
Hope this helps. All the best.
Thank you for the feedback, everyone. We are evaluating the options.
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