How do you keep track of inventory?

My team has grown vastly in the last couple of years in every way (number of team members, number of mentors, available shop space, advanced tools, sophistication of design, you name it) and this has presented us with a problem I’ve never had to deal with: how to keep track of all the parts, materials, and hardware we’ve acquired. Until recently we just didn’t have the space to hang on to much inventory and so keeping track of it was easy, everyone just knew what bin certain types of things were in and you went there to search for it. Since we didn’t have much space there were only a few bins, so no problem. But now we’re way beyond that and it’s become a problem during build season to know where what’s needed is to be found and to keep track of new parts and hardware. Our only successful effort in this regard is to organize small hardware into SmartJars on our large pegboard wall, but that’s just a drop in the proverbial bucket compared with all the other parts and hardware.

So my question to the CD community is, how do you do this for your own team? What tools do you use to keep track of inventory, both in terms of physical organization and in terms of inventory control records? I’m trying to find suggestions for what we can do to make things run more smoothly during our build season and waste less time (and materials.)

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We use SnipeIT it is open source easy to setup and use. We create labels with qr codes using it. Then we print and stick them to materials. If we need to see where something is supposed to go we just scan the qr or if we need to check where something is we use web interface to search for the product, material etc.

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We have to stuff everything into a closet and the back of my classroom at the end of every night, so it’s imperative that we stay organized…and it’s really, really, reallllly hard to get students (and sometimes adults) to put things away where they go, rather than wherever is convenient. To that end, whenever possible we have a Prop Master (or Prop Mistress), a student with a psychotic passion for organization who maintains the Sheets file specifying what we have and where it goes, and lurks at the supply closet during cleanup time to make sure everyone puts everything back where it goes, while meantime I lurk at the toolbox to make sure smaller tools go back where they go (and that we don’t accidentally steal stuff from the technology teacher).

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We use Sortly. We track all of our tools, equipment, and robot parts, etc --we use it semi-religiously and have like 15,000 items in there now… But, like anything else you need to keep up with it and update it every time something gets put on a robot or new inventory comes in --it’s a cool tool but not a magic wand. I setup all the tools and equipment in the app and it took me about two weeks to set up a very large shop, pit, robot cart, etc… It took another mentor several weeks to initially populate all our parts inventory. We still don’t have a good system for raw materials and some of our consumables like drill bits/cutters.

From an organizational standpoint we use shadow boxes --we’re going on year 3 of finishing that project but the tool boxes that we shadow boxed almost never have lost stuff compared to our machine shop that hasn’t been shadow boxed yet and things still walk away to never be seen again. We color coded all of our tools to a tool box --so for instance the CNC Mill tool box is all orange and the pit tools are all white so we know where stuff comes from if they do walk away.

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Currently, we organize our things roughly into a bunch of clear bins filled with similar items, then label each bin. If one thing gets to be taking up too much space in a bin, it will be seperated into a new bin. This is not the best, but better than before. I have started more in depth tracking with a google doc, to be converted to a spreadsheet of all our components, and where they are, including robots and stuff.
We also use rolling toolboxes, also labeled, with individual bins inside of them where we put like items. Each compartment of the toolbox is also labeled with generally whats inside.

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Is there an education plan for this software or do you have to pay full price?

I’ll need to ask if we’re getting a discount. I think we’re paying the either the ~350 per year (maybe the ~700). I bet the 2,000 unique parts / entries is plenty for most FRC Teams

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