Inventory Management


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Senior Team
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"A Stage Apart" Lecture series: Inventory Management

Goal; to compile and expand upon a set of recommendations on how to best create an inventory, maintain a list of equipment, tag or mark your equipment for inventory purposes and for quick identification, and how to train up a staff that changes annually.
[top]What should be inventoried?

Any items of value should be inventoried. The value of an item may not only be how much it costs, but how useful it is. This does not include consumables though even though they may be useful/needed.
[top]In a Scene Shop

In the scene shop it is usually a good idea to keep an inventory of tools and equipment from large bench tools to small screw drivers. As many tools come with warranties and are given serial numbers, it is easy to track these items in a database or spreadsheet. You may also include service dates in the database.
Smaller tools like screw drivers and hand saws may not be serialized, but an accurate count and inventory by brand, type, size, etc. can be kept in an database or spreadsheet. If you make a count a few times over the year you will be able to tell what wanders home in someones pockets.
[top]Lighting Department

In the lighting department as in the scene shop inventorying tools is very important. The inventory that most people are concerned with from the lighting department though is the lighting equipment. Keeping a database of how many instruments you have, what lamps they use, and extra lenses is the tip of the iceberg. The inventory should include accessories like scrollers, gobo rotators, mirror heads, etc. You might also inventory cable by length and connector type. Any hardware like boom bases, cheesboroughs, side-arms should also be inventoried. Some people even keep an inventory/count of lamps which is useful as at the end of a show or season you know what you have used and can assess what you need for the future.
Keeping an inventory of stock gobos is also a useful thing. Using a spreadsheet it is easy to create document that lists the pattern number, manufacturer, gobo image, and stock quantity. For theatres that hire or have guest designers, this is a useful tool as it lets them know what you have on hand in a quick easy to read fashion.
Color Media: An inventory of full sheets, as well as the quantity and sizes of cuts for each of the stock fixtures is extremely useful. Buying brand new color for each show can get expensive. Developing a system of filing both full sheets and cuts can make it easier to know what one must buy, even though the inventory will be ever-changing, as gels fade or burn through.
[top]In the costume shop

As with the previous sections, keeping track of tools like shears and sewing machines is essential. In addition that keeping an inventory of costumes or individual pieces can be amazingly useful. This inventory may want to include photos of costumes/pieces, size information, what it was created for, etc. A digital database with this information would be easily searchable when trying to find the right piece to complete a costume.
[top]How to tag an inventory item


Tagging inventory items is done differently everywhere. Some places use inventory control tags while others just write the company name on items with a Sharpie. Some places require inventory control tags on items over a certain value.
[top]Inventory control tags

Inventory control tags come in many varieties. The most basic tag will just say "Property of So-and-So." You can also get tags that have serial numbers and/or barcodes so that every piece of equipment has a unique ID. Inventory tags come in all shapes, sizes, colors and materials. Some are made with permanent adhesives and some are made with adhesives that leave messages behind when peeled off. Choosing tags depends on what you need the tags to do.
[top]Marking Lights and other High-Temp Items

Please do not use an adhesive label for marking equipment like lights which are subjected to fairly high temperatures. There are inventory tags that have been specifically made for high-temp environments. You can also use a stencil set and mark lights with a high-temp rated paint. Paint pens are also available that have been rated as high as 2100°F
[top]What needs quick identification

Any item that is used frequently and needs to be identified from a distance or without having to take the time to read a label. Lights and cables are the two most common items that fall into the category.
[top]How to mark an item for quick identification

The goal of quick identification is to be able to I.D. an item at a distance with particular characteristics. For instance, being able to look up at the grid and being able to see what degree ellipsoidals are currently in the air or what the length of a particular cable is.
One theatre used a series of color-coded stripes on the yoke and color frame holder of an ellipsoidal to indicate what degree lens was on the light. It was put on the yoke to identify it when they are on the ground, and on the color frame holder so it can be identified in the air.
Cables are marked with bands of color to indicate length (not usually marked for connection types as that would be too complex, remember the goal is a indicator system that is easy enough for almost everybody) Color bands represent standard distances. 1 foot, 5 feet, 10 feet, 20 or 25 feet, 50 feet, and 100 feet.
[strong]Note:[/strong] Charts explaining the color coding must be posted generously around the shop and theatre wings, otherwise the system would run the risk of not being understood by everybody and potentially abandoned.
[top]How to actually write down the inventory

Once you have decided upon a method of identifying each unique piece of equipment in your inventory, you need to write it down somewhere. This is usually a two part process. 1) A printable sheet for writing the inventory down with a pen, 2) a computerized version for stored in the most backwards compatible format possible.
A spreadsheet stored as a csv file is probably the best as the file is totally software and operating system independent (can be opened by many different spreadsheet packages on many different operating systems).
What information do you want to write down about each item? What it is, serial #, when it came into the theatre, and place of purchase (can't tell you how helpful that is when something breaks)
Remember, you are not creating a huge database containing every spec and characteristic of each item. That's too much to process. Keep It Simple and it should stand the test of time.
[top]How to document procedures for entering and removing inventory
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