"What we're looking for needs to do all of the following, if possible:
- maintain inventory of equipment owned
- keep track of when loaned equipment is overdue
flag and automatically generate alerts about overdue items for the person(s) in charge of gear
verify whether or not an item can be loaned to the person borrowing it (are they listed in our database as a certified instructor, etc.)
tally the number of times a loan item is used over time
track length of time an item is in service
- keep inventory of saleable items
- generate invoices and purchase orders
- tally sales and receipts
- generate alerts when saleable item inventory is low
- keep track of who buys what (by integrating with our contact/mailing list database, this is for internal use only)
- use bar codes and/or RFID tags to maintain inventory and check items in and out (both unique tags permanently attached to large items and generic tags that would be scanned for each sale of a small item from a group of identical items)
- be able to import and export data to/from FileMaker Pro, Excel, etc.
- incorporate Dewey Decimal system (or similar) for books and videos
- generate reports of contacts sorted any way we want, e.g., by type and frequency of training, other groups they are associated with, etc.
- conform to modern interoperable software standards (SQL, TCP/IP, SOAP, or whatever might be involved in a project like this)
- work with Macs, Windows, Linux, etc. (because of the above standards)
- have the possibility of integrating with a MySQL database on our remotely hosted website, allowing people to reserve gear or order items online (is this crazy talk?)
- be able to incorporate current inventory numbering system (is this crazy talk too?)
I'd rather not watch my organization walk into the trap of a big, expensive, bloated, proprietary, non-extensible system. And since I'm the 'tech' person and even I know next to nothing about databases and inventory control systems, it really needs to be fairly easy to admin and set up. We have the funds to buy such things as a dedicated server for this, but a dedicated server and a bunch of proprietary terminals is something we'd like to avoid. We've looked around town at libraries and various stores and searched the net and saw a lot of that sort of thing. A lot of specialized hardware and proprietary software.
I'm thinking of something that might be accessible through a web browser, for searches at the very least. Since it needs to incorporate some sort of bar code reading hardware, I suppose the actual computers attached to the readers will need some sort of client software beyond a web browser, but if so it would be great if that client software were available for different platforms, in case we ever do move away from the Macs. If we need to move all the OS9 computers the OSX we can do that, but replacing all the hardware is really out of the question until they reach the end of their useful lives. (It doesn't look too good though, we searched for inventory control systems on Google and got about 200,000 hits. Add the word "Mac" and it goes down to about 7.)
So how about it? Is this a pipe dream? I'm not necessarily looking for Open Source here but it would be nice. I know there are thousands of businesses and organizations out there who already incorporate this type of system for inventory control, so what do you use? Any recommendations? This is a huge project to research and we need help just getting started!"