What is the Inventory Project?
Starting fall of 2020 I picked up an old project that was working to implement an open-source inventory management software called Snipe-IT. Basically, it would allow any Leahy Center employee to log in and browse all owned assets at their disposal, letting workers check assets in and out as they see fit for their various projects. This checkout process helps maintain a chain of custody over assets so that nothing gets misplaced and everyone knows who has a device or asset at any given time. The fact that it was open-source was perfect for us since it meant we could use and modify it with no subscription or other limitations.
Why are we doing it?
The Leahy Center has a lot of assets, hundreds of devices large and small ranging from DJI quadcopters to digital investigation and cybersecurity tools. Some of these are used daily such as toolkits and cameras but others are part of certain projects and teams. One specific case that will really benefit from the inventory system is the Internet of Things (IoT) team due to the sheer number of devices they have in storage and in use on a daily basis. IoT devices include anything from smart doorbells and security cameras, to an internet-connected egg observer that tells you when your eggs are going bad (seriously, it’s a thing). Currently, IoT devices comprise over one-third of all assets in the system so the IoT team was a major inspiration for the project. Our overall goal is to make it simple for Leahy Center employees to check-in and out their essential devices as well as for management to track and catalog all assets currently in Leahy Center possession.
Let’s Get Physical
Once we felt like the software side of our inventory project was done it was time to put it into action. Our team spent the next two weeks adding every asset the Leahy Center has at its disposal. In the end, we cataloged over 200 total devices. The next step in the process was to print out labels for all of these devices. The labels were designed to have both a 2D QR code and 1D barcode tags that fellow employees could use to check out the device. They also would be able to simply enter the device information from the tag into the system. Now that all the devices were entered and their labels were attached, the initial build phase of our project was complete.
Groups and Permissions
When creating software like this, the idea of permissions always comes into play. Because there are so many teams in the Leahy Center, we figured that we would need to assign permissions based on each project’s role in the lab. Originally, we were thinking about mitigating who could take what types of items of the lab, but we realized fairly quickly that that might be too involved of a process. Each semester, there are new students and new projects being cycled through the lab. This would create quite a headache with the system, as permissions would need to be changed constantly. Instead, we decided to allow students to check-in/out any asset. On the flip side, we also needed to figure out what teams needed Admin or similar permissions. After talking with the current Supervisors in the lab, we determined that the System Administrators and Help Desk technicians would need admin permissions in terms of being able to manage assets in the system.
Once the system is 100% set up, we’re going to need to make sure that employees know how and when to use the system; some employees might need it every day, while others might never use it in four whole years. These employees will need to learn how to access the system and use it for their daily projects. We may also need to fine tune aspects of it, like what permissions each group has access to as well as who receives which group. Moving forward our task will also be to continue general upkeep and maintenance of the system such as adding new assets as they come in or removing old ones that are no longer in use. Overall, we’re hopeful that it’ll be a well used and useful program for Leahy Center employees.