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6 Steps to Organize an Office Equipment Booking System

science professional using lab equipment
by
Chuck Leddy
Published on

People don’t come into the office just for the free coffee, which they have at home, nor for desks, tables, and chairs. People come into the office to both collaborate with others and make use of specialized, often expensive equipment they can’t access or manage from home.

It’s important to recall that the origins of the modern office are historically connected to the beginnings of business during the Industrial Revolution in the early 19th Century. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, most people worked from their homes, either performing handcraft work like clothes-making or metal-smithing or toiling in family-owned businesses and farms.

The Industrial Revolution brought heavy, expensive equipment into a central workplace (i.e., a factory) to which workers would commute, forever changing how and where work happens.

Many industries, not just manufacturing, are heavily reliant on the availability and use of specialized, expensive equipment that employees can’t access from home. Electron microscopes, for example, housed in a lab or hospital can cost as much as a million dollars.

Why an Equipment Booking System is Essential

As anyone who’s worked in an academic or industrial setting with highly specialized, shared equipment knows, booking time to use the shared resources is hyper-competitive. 

What’s true of lab equipment is also true for specialized office printers and special-purpose rooms with equipment inside (e.g., a cleanroom at a microchip manufacturer) – when there’s more demand than supply, booking the use of equipment becomes an essential part of optimizing the asset in question, as well as supporting the productivity of people who use the equipment. 

Often, employees need access to specialized equipment. Booking software makes reserving these resources simple.

Without efficient equipment scheduling software, workplaces can become a chaotic, stressful battleground where equipment usage gets dominated by the strongest and/or most politically connected, who may not be the people most likely to optimize the asset’s value.

How would you feel coming into a workplace that felt like Mad Max or Game of Thrones every day where individuals or “insider” groups hoarded all your equipment? That’s a terrible employee experience.

6 Steps to Set Up a System for Equipment Reservations

An equipment booking software creates an orderly and transparent process for tracking, maintaining, and sharing equipment. It enables many benefits: any person can see what equipment is in use, by whom, and can track how much time it's reserved for each project. In addition, a system will prevent double bookings of equipment and enable leaders to monitor ongoing utilization rates, availability and the working condition of said equipment.

Here’s how to set up an equipment planning and shared-use system:

1. Take an inventory of your equipment

Start your project by taking an inventory of all your equipment so you know what your organization has on hand to share. Give each piece of equipment an identifying name and/or number, then assess its current condition and readiness for use. Put all this equipment-related information into a list or database of shared resources.

In addition, make it clear to people what specific tasks each piece of equipment can perform and what tasks it can’t. 

What about parking? Equipment booking can extend outside the office with dedicated booking functions for parking.

2. Consider creating kits 

When dealing with equipment, you may have accompanying cables and components of gear that go together (and should, therefore, travel together when shared). Instead of forcing people to reserve each piece of gear and equipment they need, which will create massive bottlenecks, create and enable people to reserve kits.

For instance, one kit might include a projector, an associated cable, lenses, and perhaps a battery. A laptop kit might have more equipment and contain a charger and a laptop bag.

3. Track damage to shared equipment

It’s important to have a process for documenting any damage to equipment as a result of shared use. You can take photos and craft written descriptions of damage. Then have a plan to repair equipment as needed.

Remove damaged equipment from your inventory until repairs are made. This prevents others from reserving equipment that doesn’t work and makes it easier to identify inventory that requires maintenance.

4. Use technology as an enabler

Spreadsheets were a good technology for equipment booking in 2001, but aren’t as good in today's era of smart, integrated systems and a mobile app for everything. You need booking software for equipment bookings that offers visibility into the who, when and how of equipment usage. All relevant information should be just a few clicks away. 

You should have alerts enabled for when equipment is returned, when it needs repair or scheduled maintenance is done, and who’s next in line to reserve the shared equipment. If the calendar component of your equipment reservations and booking system connects with the shared calendars of your users (Google, Microsoft, etc.), that would be even better -- all stakeholders could then view new equipment bookings, and existing reservations of equipment quickly.

It's important that your booking software displays when specific procedures were last executed, such as adding a patch or software update to a laptop or re-setting a factory setting on a piece of equipment. Setting up reminders for these needed processes is necessary.

Looking to free up those in-between spaces? Give employees the opportunity to book collaborative and even social areas.

5. Create user agreements and enforce them

Make it clear to your users where and when shared equipment can be picked up by the user and when it should be returned for shared use. Set guidelines around the acceptable use of the shared equipment and define penalties for non-compliant behavior, such as misuse of equipment that causes damage. 

Remember, when valuable equipment is a shared resource, it must be treated with care and respect so others can use the equipment.

6. Enable the collection of usage data and analytics

Your leadership team, which has chosen to invest capital in the shared equipment, will want visibility into how people are using it, so they can make better decisions. For example, If 2 machines are rarely used, it may be wise to take one of them out of circulation. You might sell rarely used equipment and use the funds for something more value-adding than unused equipment taking up space somewhere. 

If certain equipment is used constantly and people have to wait in line to use it, it may be wise to buy more of that equipment to reduce delays and the potential for double bookings. Having data and analytics coming out of your office equipment booking system enables you to create reports, streamline your schedule, and manage your system, while also making more strategic decisions to optimize utilization rates.

Employees should be able to access any kind of space, amenity or resource they need.

Better Workflows for Your Equipment and Resources

Any workplace is an ecosystem that connects people, processes, equipment and resources with the technology that enables the ecosystem to operate smoothly and efficiently for its clients and users.

At Robin, we talk a lot about the intelligent office and how AI and automation can respond to people’s needs and offer solutions. Space booking software is a part of that, and so is office equipment scheduling software. Want to learn more? Reach out to us today.

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