Asset-tracking app gets Dallas' inventory in order

Software cuts time spent on auditing equipment bought with grant money

Officials at Dallas’ Department of Intergovernmental Services knew they had to find a better way to perform inventory checks on equipment scattered throughout the city's public safety and law enforcement agencies. 

Each office that receives equipment purchased via federal grants is responsible for keeping asset and maintenance records. The offices also need to track which employees check items in and out. However, when they needed to conduct grant-required inventory checks every two years, the manual process took too much time.

“Basically, most of them were using a system where they were just entering the items into a spreadsheet,” said Dina Colarossi, a fund analyst at the department. “Because it was decentralized, when those reports came back in, we had to go back and manually match them up with all of our financial records to make sure we did not forget something and leave them off the list.”

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The department manages and oversees the purchase of homeland security equipment for several operations units throughout the city, including the Bomb Squad, Urban Search and Rescue team, SWAT, Dallas Police Department Intelligence Unit, Water Department, and Information Technology Department.

The units collectively use approximately 4,500 items or assets, including armored vehicles, laptops, handheld police radios, mobile Global Positioning System devices and specialized equipment, such as helicopter parts. The city's grant-funded assets are worth more than $15 million.

Colarossi’s team took control of the situation by deploying asset-tracking software from Wasp Barcode Technologies. MobileAsset is available as a software-only system or a complete asset-tracking system that includes a mobile computer for managing asset data in the field and a bar code label printer for creating asset tags. Wasp asset-tracking software is offered with an unlimited number of PC client licenses.

The Urban Search and Rescue team is using MobileAssets to keep track of equipment as the unit is deployed to respond to disaster situations and crises throughout Texas, Colarossi said. So it was natural for her department to use the software, she added.

The software is installed on a database that resides on computers at the Office of Emergency Management and other departments that file their reports into the database. The department purchased software and printers, which print the bar codes placed on items, and handheld scanners for less than $5,000.

In addition to reducing inventory time, the Department of Intergovernmental Services can keep track of equipment without the fear of losing information if someone should leave a unit. Before the department implemented the software, it could take as long as three weeks to match each office’s inventory with the Department of Intergovernmental Services' financial records. Now the process takes two to three days.

The software comes with 20 custom tracking fields, said Brian Sutter, director of marketing at Wasp Barcode. For instance, in the case of the department, Colarossi’s team could use the funding source category. Any new funding source that helps the department buy equipment, such as a fire truck, could be entered in that field. An analyst could quickly print a single report for all items purchased by that particular funding source.

Dallas has an enterprise license of MobileAsset for other city departments to track assets, Sutter said. The Dallas Fire Department, for instance, can cut the time it takes to inventory assets on a fire truck. Conducting an inventory on fire pumps and all other equipment on the truck could take about two hours if someone must do so manually with a clipboard, Sutter said. However, with a mobile computer and scanning bar codes on the truck’s equipment, that process can be reduced to 10 minutes, he said.

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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