Asset tagging best practices: A guide to labeling business assets
Asset tagging is extremely crucial for companies wanting to manage a high volume of business equipment quickly and efficiently. With this in mind, this post takes you through some asset tagging best practices. We’ll start with the benefits of asset tags, the various types of labels businesses can use today, the purpose they serve, and end with some guidelines for ensuring you make the most out of the asset tagging process.
- What is an asset tag?
- What are the benefits of using asset tags?
- Which assets should I label?
- What information should I put on my labels?
- What type of labels should I use?
ii) QR Codes
iii) RFID Tags
- What purpose do different labels serve?
- What are some guidelines for labeling assets?
1. What is an asset tag?
A business can acquire hundreds of different types of assets for the successful completion of daily tasks. Often, tools and equipment get circulated within different departments, or across different locations.
This practice increases the risk associated with misplacement, loss, and theft.
In order to cut down on administrative overheads, companies need to track their assets with precision. The best way to do this is to label all your tools and equipment with unique asset tags, and follow asset tagging best practices right from the start.
Asset tags are generally adhesive labels that can be put on equipment for quicker processing and easy identification. They contain unique asset codes or identification numbers, details about location, group, or any other relevant association.
Often, these labels can be scanned to produce additional dynamic information about the item in question. This process improves the visibility and security of your assets, making it easier to monitor them.
2. What are the benefits of using asset tags?
Asset labels let you supervise it all – from the purchase of an asset to its disposal. They can be very helpful for your business, encouraging:
- An easily accessible database right within your system
- Streamlined maintenance management processes
- Time savings as a result of label scans
- Cross-sharing of equipment across departments
- Increased chances of compliance with regulatory bodies
- Ability to calculate depreciation with readily available utilization data
- Fulfilling audit requirements, such as those of the International Accounting Standards Board (I.A.S.B)
The majority of companies today label their tools and equipment because of the many benefits of this practice. Tagging your assets offers you to generate actionable data, stay operationally nimble, and even store information on the cloud!
3. Which assets should I label?
When it comes to labeling your assets, you must devise a strategy on how your team is going to go about it. Since asset tagging is a beginner’s step towards achieving higher security and efficiency, you should first shortlist the items you want to label wisely.
The IT and internal audit departments can provide valuable feedback about which equipment should be hard coded with identification numbers.
Answering the following questions can set you on a well-defined pathway to label your assets:
- Which tools have a greater risk of theft or misplacement?
- Which assets are used the most?
- Is there a chance of instruments moving between departments?
Once you have listed down all the assets which fall into the criteria, you can get a better understanding of which items you should label. This could, for example, include portable devices which can be easily lost across locations, or items that are in high-demand. The most frequently tagged equipment includes laptops, smartphones and printers.
Depending on the size of the business, such items can be expensive capital investments which are not easily replaceable. Other than monetary value, laptops and hard drives often contain confidential information which should not be accessed by unauthorized personnel at any cost.
For this very reason it becomes crucial to label any asset which needs to be protected and tracked throughout its utilization.
4. What information should I put on my labels?
The data you decide to include on your label plays an important role in recovering and monitoring assets. Due to technological advancements, you can enter additional details on the tag – such as geo-location or IP addresses.
Doing this comes in extremely handy especially when you have a lot of tools being checked in and checked out on a daily basis. To make management processes as accurate as possible, you should therefore design your labels with care.
The first thing any label contains is the traditional serial number or asset identification number. Apart from that, you have the leeway to enter any particular data points which allow you to differentiate one item from another. This could include location, handling instructions, department, etc.
For security purposes, many firms choose not to mention their company name. Say for instance, you lose a laptop or a hard drive. If it has a tag with the company name, anyone who finds the device can use it against the organization or use it for a competitive edge.
To help with recovery, companies put the asset manufacturer’s name and contact details on the tags. This practice proves to work in favor of the organization as it traces the lost equipment back to the manufacturer without the risk of revealing the business name. The vendor can then get in touch with the company directly.
Overall, it is best to play it safe with sensitive information on asset labels.
5. What type of labels should I use?
Every organization has its own specific requirements which define its asset choices. Keeping in mind these variations, it is logical to conclude that different companies opt for different types of asset labels. But, how can you make that choice?
The answer is very simple: Outline your asset utilization practices and set aside the budget you want to allocate for asset labeling. Having done this, you will be able to choose one of the following types of tags for your company:
A Barcode is a machine-readable data representation which is used to store short descriptions about products. Usually coming in 1D and 2D versions, Barcodes consist of black and white parallel lines which can be read by scanners and even mobile apps. Barcodes are used extensively in inventory tracking in order to speed up management processes.
Relying on Barcodes for equipment processing can increase organizational efficiency and accuracy by a huge amount. We all know that manual processes are associated with human error. Barcodes let you enter huge amounts of exact information in your system through a single scan.
There’s a reason Barcodes are so popular. They can be affixed to any sort of equipment with minimal infrastructural overheads. They also don’t require any training, which is why they are a good option for small businesses looking for low up-keep costs. With the option to customize asset labels per your company requirements, 2D barcodes can even store specific product details in addition to general asset data.
Who are barcodes good for? Any firm looking to tag a diverse range of assets with low set-up and up-keep costs.
2. QR Codes
Originally used by the automobile industry, the QR Code has gained popularity within other sectors as well. In fact, the number of redeemed QR codes are said to reach 5.3 billion by 2022.
A traditional QR Code looks like black squares arranged in a grid against a white background. The prominent features of this type of label include fast readability and greater storage capacity in comparison to other forms of asset tags. Below is a visual of how QR codes work:
Products with a QR Code can be quickly scanned with a smartphone instead of a clunky specialist reader. This eliminates the need for machines and allows employees to work on the go by using their phones to check out required assets.
Employees don’t necessarily need a computer or a scanner to update asset information in this way. With the proliferation of mobile apps, workers can scan tools anywhere, anytime. This makes it easier to work on a budget for companies that cannot afford to buy costly specialized scanners, and also to carry out work at different job sites effectively.
You can read more about QR Code and Barcode Recommendations here.
Who are QR Codes good for? Small firms that are asset-intensive, highly mobile and carry out projects off-site.
3. RFID Tags
A RFID tag is a small electronic device which consists of a chip and an antenna. This can be placed on various assets with a unique code and read with a scanner. The information on the tag is received by an interrogator through a signal emitted with the antenna.
One of the biggest advantages of using RFID tags is that the reader and product don’t need to be in the line of sight to function. This allows employees to scan assets in a warehouse quickly without the hassle of going to the exact location.
Active RFID requires batteries to operate, which can be costly and add to the maintenance of the tags as well. So, if your company plans on investing in RFID tags, you should take into consideration the overhead expenses which might be incurred.
On the plus side, though, the use of RFID tags lets you take mass actions and check assets in and out from large shipments with ease. You can learn about RFID Asset Tracking here.
Who are RFID tags good for? Companies involved with warehouse management and retail operations in time-sensitive environments.
While the three types of asset labels each have their advantages, the final choice mainly depends on the structure and operations of your company. Each organization has distinct priorities and wants to achieve different outcomes. Once you decide whether you want a cost effective, easy to implement solution, or a bulk-action time-saver, the selection will become fairly straightforward.
Source: EZOfficeInventory Whitepaper
6. What purpose do different labels serve?
Labels are identification tags for your assets. If not affixed properly, the codes can wear out. Damaged labels can be painful to deal with. They can lead to unwanted delays in check-outs, untraceable equipment, and high costs associated with replacing lost assets.
This is why you must take a few elements into consideration when choosing asset tags. Labeling is highly correlated to the type and execution of asset tasks in your company. To make this easier for you, here are a few examples of labels you can opt for:
A company should implement the highest security workflows for the protection of valuable assets. This is because expensive tools and machines have a greater risk of theft, especially when they are left untracked.
It is therefore advised to choose tags that will deter the unauthorized transfer of tools and equipment. But what if someone just tries to pry the labels off? Even if this happens, tags exist that show the word ‘VOID’ on the surface of the asset to flag up misconduct as soon as someone takes them off.
Recommendation: Tamper-Evident Barcodes
Most businesses have some assets that change hands regularly and are highly mobile – for example, a set of tools that have to move between different job-sites.
If you lose the identification codes on such items, you should always have a backup. Some codes come in pairs, so you can attach one to the item, and the other to hard copies of your records. This makes it so much easier to keep track of equipment that you won’t be able to have on hand all the time.
Recommendation: Two-Part Asset Labels
Things that are used a lot can be quite hard to find asset tags for. As an example, heavy furniture such tables and chairs tends to take a lot of abuse in office settings, but that shouldn’t stop you from labeling them!
The correct type of tags will stick to high-use items and last a long time. These should come with an over-laminate which prevents the graphics from cleaning chemicals and the like.
Recommendation: Polyester Asset Labels
Some assets have uneven surfaces that can be hard to adhere tags to. For these oddly contoured assets, you need tags that are both flexible and able to withstand abrasions easily.
In addition, you have to take into account the kinds of surfaces that your assets have. For assets like computers or machinery, you’d need tags that could easily adhere to plastic or metal surfaces. A lot of low-cost tags won’t have the adhesive properties to do that successfully.
Recommendation: Foil Asset Labels
7. What are some guidelines for labeling assets?
Labeling assets can be a tough task. There are so many different components to keep in mind, such as the type of assets you want to label, the conditions the tag would have to endure, and the data you’d want to add to the label.
To help simplify this process, we’ve laid down some asset tagging best practices for you to make quick work out of label management at your organization!
1) Pick item IDs with care
One way to devise an asset labeling routine would be to add the location, item and department code within the item ID or AIN itself. This works well if your employees tend to travel extensively with tools and machines. You can assign different codes to different locations, such as NY for the branch in New York.
To add to this, device categories can each have their specific codes as well, such as L00 for laptops. You can then pick a specific set of numbers for different departments, such as 100 for IT. The final code for a laptop from the IT department in New York will therefore be NYL00100. This lets you know all the important details about an item immediately from the item ID.
2) Add procurement details
For items with a high upkeep, it helps to record the year of purchase right on the asset label. Doing so makes it easier for depreciation and maintenance management.
This way, new items that are undergoing maintenance a little too much can be quickly flagged for a more in-depth examination. At the same time, you might see that an item is nearing the end of its useful life, and so shouldn’t get a costly upgrade.
3) Color code you tags
Some companies take on new projects every season. They can find it extremely hard to keep different packing lists and custody records straight. Regular businesses might also get confused between the same kinds of assets belonging to different departments, for instance, or between assets that looks the same but have different properties.
To simplify things, you can color code your assets. For example, you can have a green tag for a Dell laptop with a 4GB RAM, and a blue tag for the same kind of laptop with an 8GB RAM.
4) Determine what’s worth it
Often, a business does not have the resources to track and label every asset they own. To make business strategies cost effective, you can create a benchmark for the minimum dollar value you’d be willing to tag. Such practices keep your valuable tools safe, and ensure you’re not spending time and money tracking items that are just not worth the effort.
5) Customize your data
Depending on the nature of your assets, you can also record specifics to maintain a database that actually provides you with meaningful insights. For example, barcode labels can carry the manufacturer’s name, serial numbers and tracking numbers, and details about which project the item is associated with.
All this information allows employees to access detailed history on a certain asset, and run reports later to get actionable data on how processes can be improved.
Asset labels and the road to business efficiency
Asset labeling can be a very complicated task if you start off on the wrong foot. Creating an outline of your company’s assets can streamline asset tagging and make for efficient lifecycle management.
The first step in choosing the correct labeling strategy is therefore to circle back and get a good understanding of your business goals and objectives. This can lead to huge efficiencies with respect to your workflows. You can lower costs, improve equipment ROIs, and even eliminate the risk of asset loss and misplacement!
This article was written with thousands of EZOfficeInventory business customers in mind. We provide asset tracking software that helps companies manage equipment across locations, create and customize asset labels, and track maintenance and procurement with ease.
Our mobile app comes with label scanning features to help you make the most out of your business assets. You can sign up for a free trial to see what we’re all about.