W.Va. gets the picture with inventory

State treasurer John Perdue says the system cut the time and manpower needed for an inventory.

West Virginia's inventory of its government property won't be only words and numbers much longer. This fall, the State Treasurer's Office will begin taking digital photographs of items recorded in its new inventory system.

Project administrator Jim McMillon said the treasurer's office in August completed its annual inventory using the FAS Gov Asset Inventory system from Best Software Inc. of Irvine, Calif. The office purchased the system earlier this year, and workers received training to use it before conducting the inventory.

By keeping photos of items with the inventory, West Virginia officials expect to improve their tracking of state property.

'The feature of being able to attach pictures of the assets to their files in the database was very attractive to us,' McMillon said.

The inventory system uses bar code tags that treasurer's office workers attached to items in recent years. The staff uses scanners from Symbol Technologies Inc. of Holtsville, N.Y., to read the bar code tags and compare them with information downloaded from the FAS Gov database, such as the serial numbers of the items.

Inventory staff can correct discrepancies between the database and the physical inventory by using the handheld scanners, McMillon said.

The inventory system resides on a Microsoft SQL Server database on the office's network, McMillon said.

'We attach the tag to the asset in a not easily removable place. If the tag is removed, it leaves the word 'Void' in that area,' McMillon said. 'So if we misapply a tag, we can account for it, or if we find the word 'Void,' we know at one time it was tagged.'

Staff members will use a digital camera to record the inventoried items, McMillon said.
'We could also download an image of an item from a manufacturer's site on the Web,' he said.
Before the office adopted the FAS Gov system, it used a database that it had developed itself to track major assets. The old system relied on spreadsheets and required manual data entry.
'The in-house system did not have the bar code capability or the picture-taking capability,' McMillon said.

The new system also lets users attach images of documents to inventory records. McMillon said this would allow the office to record purchase orders, shipping labels and other documents associated with assets, which will be helpful in accounting for them and for recording their disposal.

Faster inventories

Agencies transfer inventory data to the West Virginia Financial Information Management System, a mainframe application, McMillon said. The office uploads its FAS Gov data directly to the mainframe, he said.

The FAS system has sped up inventory times, according to West Virginia State Treasurer John Perdue.

'Last year it took two people about two weeks to complete our physical inventory,' he said in a statement. 'With the FAS system, one person is able to do the entire job in four days.'
McMillon said the system cost a total of $25,325.

'The advantage of the pictures is that if you were looking for something, you could be guided by the picture,' McMillon said.

'We had no hiccups in the first inventory,' McMillon said. 'I kept holding my breath that one of the scanners would lose data, but we carry around a charger and the process went really well.'

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