Anyone out there have a good accounting/inventory system for your build? We’ve been using the Federal Bailout method of spend a lot, get in trouble, beg for loan forgiveness. It’s worked so far, but…

Seriously, any good Access or Excel stuff that’s really good? Thanks for any help.


Our Motorola mentor takes care of the primary order placing. But I think that Excel would best serve your needs. Just make a chart with the functions in place, and put in your spendings.

As far as inventory is concerned, we don’t have a hard copy of everything, but everything is pretty organized so we’re on top of what we have/what we need.

The past couple years, I’ve done most of the purchasing of robot parts. I think Forbes is a Scottish name? Maybe that’s why I’m so thrifty?

We only spend money if we really have to, because we know how hard it was to get.

I hear you can make a successfull robot with the relatively cheap plywood they sell at the hardware store.

As for keeping track of it…doesn’t matter what you use, the important thing is to have a plan before you start buying stuff.

We use Google docs to co-ordinate our budget / purchasing. Just create a spreadsheet with each item as you purchase it and the quantity. Be sure to create columns for: On the Robot | In Supply | Broken Defective
This also helps with creating the Robot Breakdown for inspection.

I just use an Excel spreadsheet where I list everything, where it’s coming from, total cost, shipping cost, what/which team it was used for (as we purchase things for 254/1868/our lab), and when it was ordered.

We’ve used Peachtree accounting…mainly because we have a CPA on the team =P

We use a google doc for our BoM and some of our purchasing.
Here is the Data for the 2009 KoP
You are welcome to copy and adapt it to your needs. The part numbers in blue are hyperlinks to the sellers webpage. This makes finding parts a lot quicker. Warning; some links have changed. I will make a new set of sheets for the 2010 KoP and fix any broken links after kickoff.
The 2010 BoM spreadsheet will be posted here
Google spreadsheets works well with people who may need to collaborate from different locations. This allows mentors to discuss via skype and both parties may enter data or view the spreadsheet at the same time. I know that some will prefer excel. Whatever works best for you is the best.

I think the key is to limit the people who can purchase items for the team. On our team, we have a few mentors who make almost all the purchases for the team (although occasionally students will want to do it, and they can buy some specific things from local sources). It’s done this way for a few reasons. First, we can usually get stuff at discounted prices by ordering through our suppliers at work. Second, it ensures that we don’t over-spend. All of the mentors on the team are pretty thrifty and know how to spend on a budget, while students can often have trouble with that.

At the beginning of the season, we prepare a rough budget - we know going in, for example, how much the bus is going to cost, how much the hotel is going to cost, etc. We can also look at our inventory and past experience and judge how many spikes, victors, jaguars, or motors we may need to buy. We may be right, we may be a little off, or we may be way off. But it’s a rough budget that allows us to say (numbers are made up) “we’ll spend around $400 on electrical components, $700 on mechanical components”. That can all be done before the kickoff.

After the kickoff, we spend a few days developing our design, and a week or so prototyping with whatever material is on hand. During that time, you can really nail down the numbers - you can figure out exactly what motors you need to buy, how many motor controllers, approximately how much stock aluminum, etc. Normally, you’re going to have a number at this point that’s lower than your actual spend for the build season - to be safe, budget yourself and extra 25% for robot parts, and use whatever is left over for a team dinner at the end of the season.

One of the keys here, though - budgeting is just as important as everything else you do, and it goes hand in hand with your design/prototyping phase. You may come up with the best design in the world, but if you can’t afford to build it, you should get started on the second best design that you can afford.

On an interesting note, this is how companies do it, too. Typically, you have a small budget for research/prototyping, and when something shows promise, you get a budget approved to develop it. Where I work, we call that going to contract. Once you go to contract, you have a due date, a fixed budget, etc… You can’t decide (at least, not very easily) halfway through the project that you’re going to need more money.

I agree here.

On my team, I made a pretty decent excel we use for handling ordering. Anyone on the team can talk with me about acquiring items (I encourage students to do the bargain hunting; which some really, really surprise me with) and have items added. This list is then reviewed by myself and the lead mentor, and we order from there.

Unless we get substantially more mentors, I don’t think we’ll change it. It’s really nice for both of us to know pretty much everything the team has purchased.