Data Entry

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Free Geek is not much different from any other business; especially when it comes to handling and being knowledgeable concerning inventory. Almost everybody keeps track of day to day items of stock with a computer based inventory control system. So too does Free Geek. This lesson is concerned with helping you to understand and assist in our inventory control.

Here we use the term ‘gizmo’ for every single part that comes through the door and is originally handled by the receiving department. Each gizmo is assigned its own individual number when it is donated to us. At the present time, January 2005, our numbering system has already surpassed 225,000. Meaning, we have handled almost a quarter of a million pieces/parts of computers for our recycle program.

Every one of these gizmos is kept track of from the time it enters through the receiving area to when it leaves the premises at some future time. Any number of things can happen to a gizmo after it comes in the door. These include adoption, cloning, going up for sale, being sold in our store, getting sold online, being given away through the grants program, used internally for in-house purposes, getting refurbished, recycled and/or just being stored temporarily until some use for it develops. Every time it is handled from one place to another we say it has changed its status. And whenever a gizmo changes status we make a new data entry so as to update our inventory.

It is entirely possible for one item, one gizmo number, to be entered and re-entered numerous times in our data bank, corresponding to every change in status for that item. For example, let’s say a monitor comes into receiving and it is clean enough and new enough to be considered a possible ‘keeper’. The first step in its journey is to test it to make sure it functions properly. After passing a test or two it is moved into the ‘stored’ area until some future use for it is determined. At this point in time a data entry is made changing the status of monitor XXX from ‘received’ to ‘stored’. Later on, this monitor may be attached to full complete system, let’s say, in the build program, and sold outright, adopted by a volunteer, or given away through the ‘grant’ program. Then, the number for this monitor, along with the other numbers for the different parts of the completed system would all be data entered again and these numbers would all be changed in status from whatever was the previous classification(s) to whatever is the new one. When the item leaves the premises, the final status is entered into the data bank.


Most of the time, for regular data entries, you will get a sheet of paper with a list or two of gizmo numbers. These lists generally come from any one of many workstations, most commonly the test areas. Usually, all the gizmos on the page are for the same item; be it printers, mouses (mice), video cards or whatever. There should be a notation at the top of the page designating what type of computer parts are changing status. It is important to know and realize that every number on the page is supposed to be for the same type of gizmo. More about this later.

Data entry has been made as simple as any other level of work within this operation of recycling computer parts. The whole of the change of status procedure requires entering the gizmo number, finding and clicking on the new classification and then just clicking on the update bar. Then, you are done with that number and can move on to the next. Frequently, and especially after you develop some understanding of how easy it is, and what little needs to be done, most entries can be completed in less than a minute.

Generally, when making entries you will be flip-flopping from one page to a second page and back again. Page one is almost totally blank. There is a small box near the top and on the right side that is for manually entering the gizmo number. For your benefit and for everyone else, please mentally and visually check that you have entered the proper number. Let’s face it, we are all humans and therefore can make mistakes. If you enter a wrong number and don’t catch the error, you can disrupt the whole operation. After recording, and checking the right number, you move the cursor to the little task window which reads ‘look it up’. Immediately another page pops up. The second page, the ‘update’ page, has two perpendicular lines of text. For the most part you are only concerned with the text on the right side of this page.

The gizmo number you have entered on the first page becomes visible in two places on this page. You are more interested in the number on the right side of the two-part text, although you should confirm that it is identical to the number at the top. Then you should read down from there to understand what has happened to this gizmo part in the past. The next line down reads ‘Gizmo.Component.XYZXYZ.’ (What is represented here as ‘xyzxyz’ should actually read whatever is the type of component corresponding to the gizmo number you originally entered on page one: power supply, video card, modem, printer, etc.) Line three should read exactly the same as the gizmo component on line two. Line four lists the date and time this gizmo was originally entered into the system. Which usually means the time and date it was first entered by the receiving department. Line five gives the date and time of the last status update for this gizmo. (If the gizmo is still listed as being in ‘receiving’ then this line reads exactly the same as the one above.) Line six exhibits the status of the gizmo prior to the last update. Line seven gives the current status. Line eight is the change of status pop-up menu. This is where you will actually do the update. Click on this bar and a list of different statuses appears. All you do now is move the cursor to the proper status line and click the left side of the mouse. (You should notice that line seven now reads the same as whatever was the new status you just changed to.) (At this same time line five is updated with the current clock time and today’s date.) The last thing you need to do is make a checkmark next to the gizmo number on the sheet you are working from. This shows that the gizmo number listed has been entered and updated.

There are a few cautions and pre-cautions you should become aware of. The first and foremost is to be ABSOLUTELY SURE that the gizmo component type listed on line two of page 2 is exactly the same as the type listed at the top of your worksheet. If there is any discrepancy, for example if you are entering ‘systems’ and the component type reads ‘video card’, stop – STOP - STOPPPPPPP right there and think about the problem for a moment. Obviously, somebody has goofed up. Was it you? Did you enter the right number from the worksheet? Did you transpose one or more of the digits? If the error was not yours, then apparently the person who wrote the gizmo number has made a mistake. (Here, again, we are all humans and therefore are liable to slip-up once in a while!) On the other hand it might possibly be a case of not being able to read and decipher the written numbers on the worksheet. It is not normally recommended that you try to fix the problem yourself for fear of adding to the problem by making an incorrect judgement call. Let someone else deal with it. Somebody who has a better understanding of how, and when, to make the proper adjustments.

What can you do about it? Probably, nothing, or at least not too much. Other than making someone else, a P.I.C. aware of the error. The simplest and easiest way to do this is to draw a circle in the margin at that same place where you would normally have put a checkmark to show that the entry for that number has been completed. Continuing on with the remedial procedure you should turn the page over, write down the number of the error and list whatever was the error situation. (999999 = sound card?) After you have completed entering all the data from the worksheet and you get ready to hand it in as ‘done’ you should advise Kathie or whomsoever is running the reception desk that there is an error. They are more learned in how to handle this type of situation.

Another type of error message you might see is ‘gizmo number does not exist’. This situation is handled in the same manner. Draw a circle instead of putting a checkmark and write a note on the reverse side of the page.

The last thing you should do when you have completed this worksheet is to make a large checkmark at the top of the page and a notation at the bottom, in large and readable lettering, stating ‘Data Entry by (your name) and also (the current date).

(These ‘rough notes’ prepared by Bernie J. on Jan. 25-26, 2005)