I spent the second halves of yesterday and today holed up in the parts room taking inventory and sticking bar-coded asset tags on everything. I'm up to 210 items, with another cabinet to go. It's not exactly the most fun work in the world. But, it's work with concrete results, and it's keeping me out of my office. (My office, BTW, is in the basement of our building along with the rest of my crew. It has the plusses of being quiet and out of the way, with easy access to the loading dock and the street, and the minus of being a windowless dungeon when one is feeling at all down in the dumps.)
Barcodes are really nifty things. Back when I started this project to inventory and tag everything I bought a pair of inexpensive ($75) USB barcode wands. They're not high-powered fancy long-range laser readers, but they'll read almost any barcodes and you can't argue with the price.
I was out in the field with Pat on Tuesday, visiting the three new schools we set up this summer. One of the things we were doing was validating the inventory information. It went amazingly quickly. We'd walk into the wiring closet, I'd pull out my laptop, plug the scanner into the USB port, fire up Excel, and in 30 seconds scan all of the asset tags on the equipment. Another minute of looking around to make sure that there wasn't any of our equipment there without a tag on it and *zoom*, we were done!
Granted, these were fairly small wiring closets, but to be done in less than five minutes when the alternative would have been a half hour of pains-taking (and error prone) reading of serial numbers and manual entry was simply a revolution. I have some more database work to do to automate some tasks that are currently manual (like comparing inventories taken in the field to inventories registered in the database). Yet, the labor of tagging everything in the first place is already starting to pay off. It's nice when something works out the way you hoped it would.