6 Inventory System Integration Trends You Need to Know About – Part Three: Procurement Systems

By Jessica Zaleskipurchasing-system

Welcome to part three of our six part series on inventory system integration trends, where we will discuss how your procurement system and inventory management system can complement each other and save your district time, effort, and money.

The other parts in our series address systems management, fixed asset, help desk, cash management, and network management systems.  Check back to our blog as we release future installments of the series.

Procurement system recap
Centralized procurement systems are used by school systems to streamline the request, ordering and accounting of purchases with district funds. Some purchases will be inventoried assets like technology devices, maintenance equipment, and instructional curriculum. A best practice is to centralize the creation of Purchase Orders to control the accuracy and consistency of details like product description, make, model, object code, and vendor.

How does this help my inventory management initiatives?
When a district aligns their procurement system processes with their inventory management system, staff have full transparency into what assets schools already have in active use so new purchases aren’t made unnecessarily; what was purchased but never asset tagged; and where theft and loss is occurring.

Some inventory management software solutions offer districts the ability to interface data provided from their procurement system to give everyone a transparent view of new purchases made on a daily basis that should be inventoried.

Using these two powerful systems together will reduce duplicate data entry, because a good asset inventory system should utilize funding information in reporting capabilities, including the purchase order number inventory was bought on, the funds used to buy it, the date it was purchased, the vendor it came from, and the product details of what was ordered.

What’s the catch?
Often, Purchase Order line item entries aren’t recorded to the same level of detail needed for effective inventory management. For example, product descriptions like “PC” or “iPad” may be entered without recording the make or model. Open Purchase Orders may have limited details, be adjusted over time, or don’t include actual inventory quantities only the total available funds.

Another process to think through is how items are sold versus how they are inventoried. Many vendors quote items in systems or bundles. Take the scenario were iPads are often sold in bundles of 10 to schools. The line item on the Purchase Order will show only a quantity of 1, while there will be 10 devices that need to be asset tagged and managed. Systems may also include the total price of an asset, like a computer or server, with related accessories or components which could include keyboards or hard drives.

A successful data interface
The exceptions we’ve described should be considered in the interface design process to ensure standards are established between the two systems. Involving departments responsible for creating Purchase Orders for inventory to address these conditions is key to reducing manual data entry and increasing the reliability of inventory reporting.

By addressing interface goals up front, districts can ensure a plan is in place that will guarantee assets are accurately recorded, and there are no gaps or incorrect funding data. Good vendor partners (for both purchasing and inventory management) will have the experience to guide your district through this data mapping and normalization process in the most efficient way possible to help you achieve your goals.

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