In 2017, the US education industry was valued at $1,350 billion and is expected to reach approximately $2,040 billion by 2026. With a CAGR of more than 4.5%, the education sector continues growing at an exponential rate.
A growing student body means more and more inventory to provide for them. This naturally means it is becoming increasingly difficult for the education industry to manage an ever-growing inventory. These struggles, however, are not limited to inventory only. They also extend to several other problems as well.
Changing times have made the use of technology commonplace in classrooms. in fact, universities and colleges now rent out their IT equipment to students as well. However, that means more high-ticketed assets for these institutes to keep track of, send for maintenance and manage payments for.
As we draw from the experiences of our customers in the education industry, some common rental challenges seem more prevalent than others. Here’s an overview of these overarching challenges that most education institutes face with their rental operations.
- Inability to track items across numerous locations
- Inefficient inventory management of consumable items
- Complex login processes for requesting to rent out equipment
- Difficulty managing equipment and financials manually
To deal with such issues, you must first look at what’s wrong with the current system. This helps uncover what exactly is it that institutes need to look for to improve the current state of things.
Let’s dive deeper to get a better understanding of the rental challenges prevalent in the education industry and how some institutes tackle with them.
1. No alerts for low inventory
When you think of the ‘education industry’, the most obvious thing that comes to your mind has to be stationery items. Pens, pencils, notebooks – all these are consumable inventory items because once they leave the storage they don’t come back. Obviously, you need to purchase such inventory in huge amounts to cater to your large student body.
After you’ve placed an order for the inventory, your storage looks something like this:
- 1000 pencils,
- 1300 pens (blue)
- 200 pens (red)
- 1000 notebooks
The important question is, however, how do you track the inventory quantity? You have to keep track of whether the inventory is finishing soon so you can place a reorder request on time. Unfortunately, if you’re sticking to old fashioned pen and paper, the risk of human error is too great to ignore. Your records might say there are 20 pencils left when in reality, there are none.
Even if you upgrade to spreadsheets, there is no method to send automated alerts. All you can do now is manually keep counting your inventory items so you always know when it’s low. But that probably only screams ‘inefficient’ to you.
The solution: Automated email alerts
If you bring your inventory on to EZRentOut, you can easily set up alerts for it. This way, you can define a low threshold limit. This means whenever a particular inventory item reaches this specified threshold, the system sends an automated alert to you. This helps you stay on top of finishing inventory, thereby helping you always reorder on time.
So you’ll never run out of inventory anymore!
If you want, you can set up alerts for other functions as well. For example, you can get alerts when a teacher checks out any piece of inventory.
Read More: Types of Alerts in EZRentOut
2. Failure to manage items location wise
Most educational institutes now incorporate blended learning methods in their classrooms. This requires storing projectors, LED screens, and even cameras, etc to help students in their projects.
Since all these items come at a hefty price, you need to make sure all the records are up to date regarding the current location of items. Or if you’ve shifted to spreadsheets, then you create a new column for ‘Locations’ and make sure to enter the current location of these items.
However, what happens when sublocations come into play?
For example, the overarching location of all such items is ‘Storage’. Now a student checks out a projector and then the new location becomes ‘Building 1’. However, knowing that isn’t enough because it isn’t very accurate. You can go to Building 1 and still not know where the projector is being used in that building.
This is where sublocations come in. A more accurate location of the projector will be ‘Room 12 in Building 1’.
Keeping track of these many locations and their sublocations on spreadsheets alone becomes pretty complex. Most likely, to keep things simple, institutes will stick to locations only and won’t define any sublocations. However, tracing items without any identified sublocations is very difficult. You’ll spend most of your time trying to figure out where the item is..
In short, it is hard to keep tabs on all the sublocations and different equipment available there.
The solution: Sublocations in EZRentOut
This issue can be easily dealt with if one can verify whether the equipment is physically present at a specified location and has not been stolen or misplaced. The Location Management module in EZRentOut helps you achieve this.
When adding inventory or assets into the system, you can mention which location and sublocation they’re at. Let’s say, the projector is lying in a cabinet in Room 3 of the library building. With nested sublocations, you can be more fastidious. They help you enter details up to the smallest possible sublocation.
This way, you will never have to worry about where your rental items are because you’ll always know.
3. Lack of control over equipment rentals
Since the entire system of renting out equipment is manual, it becomes difficult to control staff and students alike from checking out equipment.
Let’s say a particular item, such as a video camera, has to go out for maintenance. Ideally, it shouldn’t be visible to students or teachers and they should not be able to rent it out. Otherwise, this only leads to conflicting rental orders, which complicates the whole rental process even more than it already is.
A possible solution can be striking the name of the item off from the rental items catalog so students know they can’t rent it out. But then what do you do when it does become available again? It’s really just a cycle of juggling between availability and unavailability.
Like most colleges, you might showcase all the items on an online portal and students can simply rent them out from there. However, you’ll have to manually remove the unavailable items temporarily. That itself is time-consuming and since there’s a human element involved, the possibility of error is higher.
At the end of the day, there is no way of stopping users from not being able to view the unavailable equipment.
The solution: An Availability calendar
The availability calendar lets you know whether the item you want is available during selected dates or not. So when any student or teacher rents out an item, EZRentOut automatically makes it unavailable for that rental duration. This means if an item is rented out from December 01 to December 05, the item won’t be visible to other users on the portal.
Even if it is visible, students will not be able to rent it out for that duration since EZRentOut does not allow for conflicting bookings. Let’s say a student adds an unavailable laptop to an Order in EZRentOut. The system will show warning signs in front of the unavailable item. This eliminates instances of conflicting bookings.
Time to overcome these hurdles
Due to budget cuts in the education industry, schools are always struggling to make the best use of the limited resources they have. This becomes even harder when they have to cater to growing inventory management challenges, among others.
Dealing with all these struggles becomes a lot easier when educational institutes opt for a dedicated equipment rental management solution. It not only reduces the existing inefficiencies but also results in more accurate record keeping. You can also save valuable time by using EZRentOut to automate menial tasks such as keeping count of inventory.
Apart from some of the afore-mentioned features of EZRentOut, the education industry can also make use of several other functions. For instance, SAML integration enables your students and faculty to sign in with a single URL, using their company credentials.
We are online rental software that offers educational institutes seamless rental management. It also comes with a host of other features like asset tracking, maintenance management, a customized webstore, and much more. Try us out today!