Asset tracking: What is it and how it works?
Tracking systems are primarily used by businesses to trace where their assets are at a given time. This routine has to do with managing commercial goods that are permanently owned by a business and used in its daily operations.
A few years back, many organizations used to keep manual logbooks of assets to track their usage. If you still keep paper trails of your assets in this era of automated business operations, then you’re living under a rock.
Many businesses have moved to the idea of clocking in asset details in spreadsheets. However, it still calls for manual data entry and bleeds into typographical errors.
Smart businesses, on the other hand, are jumping onto the ‘automated’ bandwagon. They use cloud based asset tracking solutions to keep accurate records of asset data in the cloud.
These automated asset tracking systems make use of asset labels to trace the whereabouts of each asset. They wipe out the need for manual data entry and ensure the veracity of your asset records.
Companies typically choose between the following asset tagging mechanisms:
1. Barcode labeling
Barcode labeling was introduced in the 1970s and remains the most widely used asset tracking technique to this day. Its popularity stems from the various benefits that barcode tags offer.
They are affordable, can be printed in various sizes and can stick to almost any material. In pursuit of automating your asset tracking, you simply need to scan the barcode tag on an asset.
The barcode scanner reads the asset information. It then logs it into a cloud database, curbing any instances of typographical errors. However, there are some downsides to barcode tagging too.
Barcode tags must be within the visible line of sight of a barcode reader. This means that barcode labeling proves futile for tracking assets in remote locations.
2. RFID tagging
RFID tags are more advanced and offer more features as compared to barcode labels. An RFID tag uses radio waves to emit asset data to a reader. It is ideal for tracking assets that are not easily accessible, for instance, a tool that is being used in a coal mining shaft.
RFID tags also enable businesses to scan multiple tools at once, thereby expediting the process of data documentation. Nevertheless, it does not come without its disadvantages.
Being more technical, RFID tags are definitely more expensive than barcode labels. They are, therefore, not suitable for small businesses that are looking to track various, low-value items.
Unlike barcodes, they can also be read by only a limited type of scanners.
3. GPS active tracking
Ideal for tracking assets in transit, GPS tags allow firms to actively record location coordinates of each asset item. GPS active tags send signals to relevant satellites so you can locate your goods wherever they are.
Since they are fairly expensive, it’s not feasible to use them for monitoring asset movements indoors. Fleet management, logistics or car rental companies normally use GPS tags to keep tabs on assets that are always on the move!
Okay, but which scanner do I pick?
Once you’re done selecting the asset labels you want to use, next comes the task of picking scanning hardware. Companies choose between either a handheld or smartphone scanner depending on the nature of their workflow.
Rugged handheld scanners have historically been a more popular choice. They are durable and enable you to capture data quickly. Some of them are designed to even work in harsh chemical environments.
Another, more affordable and more portable option is that of scanners integrated in smartphones. They are lightweight and easy to deploy in different locations.
Key aspects of streamlined asset tracking
To make the best use of an asset management system, you must first enlist some goals that you want to accomplish with it. It always helps to keep a checklist of such aspects ready.
Most businesses aim to realize the following objectives by implementing an asset tracking system.
1. Risk management
The prime risk most asset managers have to contend with is that of item theft or misplacement. With real-time asset updates, you can always conduct a spot-check on your assets, see where they lie and who’s using them.
Asset tags enable you to track asset movements and possession so you can always trace down a culprit in instances of theft.
2. Incident response
This has to do with detecting asset malfunction and rectifying it. The faulty equipment can either be an IT device whose software needs an upgrade or an office air conditioner that broke down.
An asset tracking system helps you schedule regular repair sessions and sends alerts for upgrades before they are needed. This helps establish a faster incidence response time.
3. Security measures
Most businesses store confidential customer information in their IT assets. If leaked or accessed by the wrong person, it can lead to dire consequences. It is important for companies to prevent such security breaches from happening.
You need to have an overall view of the assets you possess and must restrict their access to authorized personnel only. An asset tracking solution helps in this regard by defining user roles and placing certain groups of assets under the domain of each user.
4. Asset acquisition
With a dedicated asset tracking solution, you can keep a check on current inventory levels at all times. It enables you to carry out forecast demand so you do not end up with unnecessary asset purchases.
It also helps you maintain optimum stock levels, saving you tons of money and streamlining your warehouse management.
5. Quality control
No business can be viable enough if it doesn’t comply with federal quality regulations. With asset management software, you can harness strict quality measures by scheduling your items for regular repair sessions.
It keeps all your asset repository on the same page when it comes to reliable operating condition.
Asset tracking across industries: Common use cases
As mentioned earlier, barcode asset tracking is the most widely used method out there. It helps different industries run their daily business workflows in an efficient manner.
To help you get started, we have compiled a list of asset tracking use cases that various industries deploy to iron out their daily operations.
- Instant product information: Asset tags at the back of each stock item can be scanned to glean instant asset details. Easy access to inventory information enables you to plan timely procurement. This drastically helps in the retail industry where you cannot afford to run out of your inventory and lose out on obvious sales.
- Mobile point of sale: Most asset tracking solutions are smartphone compatible. They enable you to scan item labels with the camera of your phones. With your personal devices acting as a point of sale, you can expedite the checkout process, and cut down on POS hardware costs.
- Goods in transit: With GPS tracking enabled, you can keep an eye on your inventory when it is shipped off to different retail locations. Instant location updates in the asset tracking database lower chances of misplacement.
- Data management: A cloud based asset tracking system enables logistic companies to store relevant details about their orders and customers in a single database that is accessible across different branches.
- Shipment tracking: Different orders shipped to different customers sitting throughout the world can be traced using active GPS tags. It also helps notify customers of when an order has reached their doorstep or has been delayed due to unforeseen conditions.
- Bundles and packages: Some items are usually booked together by customers. An asset tracking system enables a logistics company to group such complementary assets in bundles. This way they can check them out together. It eliminates duplicate workflows and saves them time.
- Equipment maintenance: Patient safety and health is a top priority for hospitals. An asset tracking system enables medical technicians to regulate sterilization for surgical tools. It also enables biomedical engineers to check in diagnostic equipment for periodic maintenance. This prevents unpredictable breakdowns during patient checkups.
- Consumables management: Hospitals stockpile different types of pharmaceuticals and disposable medical goods. These consumable assets have a short shelf life and need continuous monitoring for timely disposal. Automated asset tracking solutions keep tabs on the expiry dates of such instruments and alert the hospital staff on when to get rid of them.
- Regulatory compliance: Medical assets are subject to strict quality controls set by regulatory authorities. Asset tracking software enables hospitals to run frequent asset audits to meet compliance. It also helps keep a check on asset ownership and usage to prevent fraudulent activities.
4. Information Technology
- Software licensing: Like hardware assets, software systems need oversight too. An asset tracking system lets IT companies record licensing details of each software and alerts them when a license needs renewal.
- Access control: Asset tracking software helps strengthen security measures by defining unique user roles. IT companies can then authorize which users they want to give access to different software assets.
- Third party integration: Asset tracking systems are easy to integrate with third-party applications. This consolidates information from various departments, enabling seamless access to business data. It also helps combine the expertise and functionality of separate applications so you can run your daily tasks without a hitch.
Universal best practices for tracking assets
Having an asset tracking system doesn’t do you any good unless you follow the best practices used by industry leaders.
Below are some tips and tricks you should consider while managing your assets with an automated system.
1. Create a baseline inventory
Once you’ve decided which software you want to use, the next step is to carry out a thorough inventory audit. Doing so enables you to capture every type of resource that your business owns.
Detailed insights about the inventory stock help you decide how you want to track it.
2. Know what you want to track
It is always smart to classify your resources according to their monetary or business value. This is one way to determine which tools you want to track and which ones you don’t.
For instance, there is no use to tag and track dumpsters in the parking lot of your office. Company laptops, on the contrary, are an expensive item and need surveillance.
3. Be more fastidious in your warehousing!
The more detailed your location and sub-location data is, the easier it is for your employees to locate and retrieve an asset. It also helps with faster checkouts and decreases employee frustration.
4. Ensure hardware connectivity
Most asset tracking software systems receive data from handheld scanning hardware. Some businesses use wired whereas others use Bluetooth enabled devices.
When working both on and off premise, it is key to stay connected to your scanning hardware. For this reason, most companies are now shifting to personal smartphone scanners.
It helps sidestep any disruptions in hardware connectivity and ensures seamless operations.
5. Maintain data consistency
When working with multiple asset types, you must make sure that you record the same data fields for them all. It helps establish a consistent and comparable database.
Asset tracking systems enable you to set mandatory default or custom data fields so you never miss out crucial asset information.
A rock-solid asset tracking solution is your key to achieving operational efficiency
A well-grounded asset tracking system enables you to run asset life cycle management and schedule for regular maintenance. With it, you can keep a check on your stock levels, conduct frequent audits and reserve assets for daily tasks.
It overthrows the need for futile manual workflows and automates your entire supply chain, from procurement to sales. It also offers revelatory insights on business performance so you can leverage on more lucrative processes.
With all these supercharged features, asset tracking software is a sound investment for businesses looking to raise their operational efficiency.
EZOfficeInventory is the leading asset tracking solution. It enables you to track, maintain and report on equipment from anywhere, at any time. We offer a free 15-day trial – no credit card required!