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Inventory Organization

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Having a simple and solid inventory organizational plan is essential before you start entering any items into FP2.  Consider your inventory plan as “Step Zero” of this process.


Think of what you have in your station right now in general, broad categories and group them together.  For example, pagers and radios can be grouped into a Communications category.  Trucks and squad units can be grouped into an Apparatus category.  The best thing about FP2’s inventory system is it can be custom-fitted to your needs with just a little forethought.

FP2 allows you to refine the Categories you’ve sketched out into sub-categories, as this is a good idea to visualize what sub-categories your inventory may fall into.   Using a spreadsheet is a great method to lay this all out, so you may see it at a glance (see Figure 1):


Figure 1

You may be as specific as you like, but bear in mind that these categories should be broad definitions and not be too specific.


1.Begin with a Category in mind.  We may use an SCBA air bottle as an example.  Open the Inventory Module and click on the Add () button. You will see a small menu appear.  Click on the Add Inventory option (see Figure 2):


Figure 2


2.The Inventory Information window will appear and you will see these series of Editable Lists at the top of the window (see Figure 3):


Figure 3


We will start by adding “SCBA” to the Category List.  Click the Edit List button () to the right of the Category list and the Inventory Categories window will appear.  Here, you may add the category 'SCBA' to this list by clicking the Add () button.  To save it to the list, click the Save  button().  Now this item will appear in the Category list in the Inventory Information window.  Let’s go back and revisit that window now – but first, let’s close the Inventory Categories window.


3.From the Category list, choose the SCBA category that you’ve just created.  Now we can be more specific with this item by creating a Sub-Category for this SCBA.  While using sub-categories are optional, they are useful to keep your inventory organized.  As well, if you wish to track servicing on any item, you will need to have a sub-category for it.


Going back to the SCBA – an SCBA is made up of an air bottle (of different compositions), a harness and a face mask. As these pieces may be interchanged, they are kept as separate pieces of equipment. We’ll start with the air bottle. You may have a few different types in your department (composite, aluminum, etc.), but we’ll start with composite air bottles.


4.This is done by the same method we used to create the Category.  Simply click on the Edit List () button to the right of Sub-Category and the inventory Sub-Categories window will appear (see Figure 4).  In the Sub-Category textbox, we can type in the sub-category we wish to add, which is “composite” air bottle.


Figure 4


You will see a Description textbox below as well.  Here, you may provide a brief description of the Sub-Category.  If there are any specific brands of bottles that fall into this sub-category, this would be a good place to enter that. Otherwise, enter any other description that would help someone choose the correct sub-category when they are adding equipment to the system. This description will appear to the right of the Sub-Category list on the Inventory Information window.

The Default Linking drop-down menu provides you with the means to default the link type to any item added to this sub-category.  We will discuss this in next week’s Tip of the Week (#162), as this tip is dealing with organizing our inventory.


5.You will notice the Service Schedule section below.   These are service items that happen on a regular schedule. Two examples for air bottles could be their hydrostatic test and an annual visual inspection. Hydrostatic tests are typically for different time periods, depending on the construction material, and this is why you could have different sub-categories for air bottles.  This will be covered in more detail in Tip of the Week #164, which will be available in three weeks.


6.Going back to the Inventory Information window (see Figure 3), you will see the Location editable list.  This is where the item will (or should) be typically located.  As with the previous two editable lists, click on the Edit List () button to open the Inventory Locations window (see Figure 5):


Figure 5


You will see that you may select the Station the item is associated with.  As well, you can enter the Group Code, which is used to tie multiple locations together for reporting purposes. An example of this would be if you were using separate compartments on the apparatus as locations. You could then join all of compartments on one vehicle together by assigning them the same Group Code ("Pumper 1" for example).  Remember that the Group Code is optional and there are many stations that do not use it.


7.Back at the Inventory Information window (see Figure 3), you will see the Code textbox.  This textbox will allow you to provide the item’s main description, which should be a unique identifier as it will be how FP2 will refer to this item.  


8.Let’s expand the spreadsheet we’ve been working on to include the Location and Codes of our proposed inventory items (see Figure 6):


Figure 6


Note: A great conceptual idea when starting to organize your inventory is to imagine yourself asking someone to get it for you.  You can see you have to know what the item is (the Category and Sub-Category), what number it is, what it is called (the Code) and where it should be (the Location).


9.Another great thing about FP2’s inventory system is you can duplicate similar items and edit the details (such as the code and the serial number) later.  Using this option will save you a lot of time when entering inventory items such as air tanks and radios.    If you need to enter another inventory item similar to the one we just created, all you need to do is open it and click on the Duplicate () button.   In the Inventory information window, all you need to do is enter the new item’s unique identifiers (model, serial number and etc.) and save it.