Now that we have likely convinced you of the benefits of conducting a thorough inventory of all assets and materials, it is time to get your scanning, cataloging and organizing show on the road and conduct your own inventory. Before you do, however, we have compiled a few must-haves to help you get started.
Determine the "why" of your task upfront. Ask What's my Goal?
Though it is unlikely anyone is dreaming of beginning an inventory for no reason, an inventory conducted for the sake of simply "doing something because we have to" will likely produce nothing of value. Having an explicit, clearly-stated purpose for the inventory is necessary, whether it is to find lost assets, re-align safety stock levels or clear space for new, needed equipment. Why? Clearly articulating your end goals will ensure you define the data you need to capture upfront, the data format you need back and the actual inventory process itself. Good planning at the start will definitely save you time, money and headaches on the backend.
Invest in a reliable collection tool.
When it comes to choosing a collection tool and connected software, flexibility is key. Choose one that is configurable and facilitates easy data transfer to your software of choice for maximum efficiency and minimum headaches.
Figure out where your data will live.
You have a number of choices. Depending on the purpose of your inventory, the place where data from it is stored may be anywhere from the company's financial system of choice, a proprietary inventory management system or an operations support system. It is up to your organization to make a judgment on which system is the proper one for the purposes of any particular inventory.
Document the inventory process.
Data collection can be troublesome without a good plan for the process. Attributes can be overlooked or questions you want to answer with data can arise at the end of an inventory after it is too late or much more costly to make data capture changes. In order for the information collected via inventory to be useful, the data collected must be observed and recorded in a consistent way in terms of nomenclature, format and method. Define a clear inventory process, or the quality of data you retrieve may be less than useful after all the hard work.
Create or employ inventory experts.
Even after defining the right data format, formulating a solid plan, employing reliable collection tools and a having good idea of why the inventory is being performed in the first place, an inventory will not be successful if the technician or technicians collecting the data are not trained on and experienced in the process, are unfamiliar with the type and format of data being collected and do not know the nomenclature of collection and data delivery. In the end, humans make the difference. Make sure to train them well.
Asset Inventory is a complicated task. Having a few key items in place greatly increases the chance that the inventory will run smoothly and help deliver actionable results. Consider these must-haves and your company will be well on your way to a successful and efficient inventory.