Case Study: Oakland Employs Mobile Vision to Track Science Kits

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Oakland Unified School District streamlines asset tracking of critical science education materials with mobile apps and tools.

Name of Organization: Oakland Unified School District

Industry: Government

Location: Oakland, California

Opportunity or Challenge Encountered: Providing children with an early head start in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is one of the most important initiatives being pursued by today’s schools. For more than a decade, the Oakland Unified School District has used special kits to enable rigorous, equitable science curricula for every elementary school student. The boxes are part of the Full Option Science System (FOSS kits), a research-based science program developed at the University of California-Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science, used in all elementary classrooms.

However, there aren’t enough kits to go around. Three times per year, each of the 3,000 FOSS kits move between schools. However, often, entire kits sometimes went missing or showed up with missing items. When they did, teachers had to fax forms to a central office to request replacements, which got lost and weren’t trackable, often taking weeks to fulfill. In addition, the district operates a central warehouse where it stores the kits. The school district needed a more efficient process to move and track the FOSS kits.

While a mobile app simplified the task of tracking assets from its central warehouse through school locations and then back to the warehouse, the app had required school district personnel to type in the unique identifying code each time they needed to take action on one of the thousands of FOSS kit boxes. “As a result, even with the mobile app, tracking warehouse shipments was still a time-consuming process subject to human error,” a case study relates.

How the Opportunity was Met:  With $2 million of new FOSS kits on the way to classrooms for the start of the 2018-19 school year, a team of Salesforce volunteers built out a Salesforce Service Cloud instance. (Salesforce.org is a nonprofit social enterprise affiliated with Salesforce.com.) The first phase went live in August 2018, and future phases will sync with Oakland’s Student Information System, allowing changes in classroom location and roster data to be automatically reflected in Salesforce. A mobile app donation by Scandit enables teachers to assign kits and request materials on the go through the Salesforce mobile app using their mobile phone’s camera.

To improve tracking accuracy, the school district and Salesforce.org decided to enable the app to digitalize all the manual activity involved in tracking FOSS kit assets. This improvement would substantially reduce human error and cut down on the labor required to carry out asset tracking operations. Salesforce volunteers developed the mobile asset tracking app to streamline the process of tracking boxes at each step of the delivery process – loading trucks at the warehouse, unloading trucks at schools, placing boxes in classrooms, and then placing boxes on trucks at schools for unloading back at the warehouse.

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To facilitate adoption, Oakland implemented a bring your own device (BYOD) strategy, enabling employees to download the app to their own smart devices and avoiding substantial hardware and maintenance costs.

Since all FOSS kits shipped within the school district’s supply chain were identified with barcodes, Salesforce.org determined that equipping the Salesforce mobile app with barcode scanning functionality would be the best way to fully digitize asset tracking. To allow the district to maintain its BYOD app deployment strategy, a mobile data capture solution was needed to perform barcode scanning activities. The team implemented a computer vision platform from Scandit that enabled real-time asset tracking by the district’s employees.

Benefits of this Initiative: The real-time tracking capability has helped the school district eliminate all manual processes from its asset tracking efforts for FOSS kits. Now, employees simply scan FOSS kit box barcodes with their smart devices at key points, such as loading and unloading of trucks and placement of boxes in classrooms. The school district is on track to save over 500 hours per year of science teacher leaders’ time across 54 schools. .

(Source: Scandit, Salesforce.org.)

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