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School Inventory Made Easier Utilizing RFID Tracking

April 9, 2021

Radio frequency identification (RFID) is a technology that you often hear about and how it holds great promise for a lot of applications and systems throughout everyday life.  Even though it has been around since WWII, it's only been in recent decades have RFID systems have spread silently into most aspects of public and private life including school districts.

RFID Helps With School Inventory Practices

An RFID system usually consists of a product, a RFID tag, a reader and often some type of inventory software. The RFID tag (or label) contains a small microchip connected to an antenna.  The chip inside the tag is encoded with an identification number that makes that tag unique.  The school's receiving office attaches the RFID tag to the product when it arrives and scans it with a handheld device called an RFID reader. The read data is sent to the inventory software which identifies and catalogs the product.  Subsequently, after the product has been placed, the tags are scanned with the either a mobile or stationary reader to locate, verify and analyze stock as items are moved or used from the inventory.

Now that RFID technology has become more commonplace, the tags and readers of RFID systems seem to be everywhere-and that's, mostly, a good thing. It's certainly a positive step to have RFID technology helping with school inventory process and systems.

RFID technology helps school inventory their assets in several ways:

Schools Know What Assets They Have In Their Inventory

For years, teachers, secretaries, and detention-room teenagers have had the responsibility of counting inventory and recording the numbers with paper and pencil. Eventually, this task was done with the help of barcodes and readers. Now, according to Motorola, RFID can reduce inventory counting time up to 95%  over manual and barcode counting. Staff is free to do what staff was hired to do: in some cases, actually teach. Plus, the data gathered has proven to be more accurate than if counts were done by human or barcode count: consider an inventory where no interruptions occur and where the text showing results is easy to read.

School Districts Know When They Have Items In Their Inventory

Although using active RFID tags, which collect data  in real time, for school inventories is cost prohibitive, use of passive tags is not. Managing an inventory with regular and frequent cycle counts using a reader with passive tags is an efficient way to keep up-to-date on inventory. Using supply chain management practices, district-wide administrators can keep supplies current without overstocking. 

School Personnel Know Where They Have The Asset

RFID records locations. Checking RFID data, school personnel can immediately find a product which may be in various locations: the supply room, a classroom, elsewhere on campus, another district campus, or no where- stolen for party use, perhaps. Consider multiple sixth grade classrooms that are sharing a gong for units on Asia because the band director doesn't need it until 3 and knows exactly where to find it. Collegial sharing of resources benefits the learning environment and enables administrators some understanding of staff dynamics. In the case of theft, RFID readers and software can be placed and programmed to alert personnel that a product is leaving an assigned area or that a discrepancy in stock has occurred. Here, besides books, consider CD's and other tech gadgets that mysteriously disappear from labs and libraries.

Using an RFID inventory management system certainly allows a school district to reduce the time and labor needed to to do inventory, but RFID can do much more and has multiple possibilities for schools to use the technology in unique ways for years to come.  

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