Welcome back to our Fixed Asset Inventory Management and Tracking Basics Series.
Part 2: Automation and Technology
Automation and Technology can be a fairly broad topic. For the purposes of this post, we will address some of the basic and minimum considerations for technology that can help automate asset management processes.
Asset Tracking Software – At the heart of any asset management program is the asset tracking software system. Most large organizations have an asset tracking software module in place, whether it be part of their ERP system, a commercially available standalone product, or something homegrown. However, we find that many smaller to mid-size companies do not. This is of course highly dependent on the nature of business and how much of a pain point this has been for them. Many are simply using spreadsheets, if they are tracking/managing their equipment at all.
Many of the applications are now hosted in the cloud, so there is no longer a need to install a dedicated server or create an internal environment suitable to host your system. Ditching the spreadsheets and uploading to a centralized system allows for multiple users to easily access and update asset information in real time, create and receive automated alerts, and generate custom reports (among other things). Make sure you implement a scalable system that can be configured to suit your needs (track information that is relevant to your organization). If you need help finding an asset tracking software system that is suitable for you, contact us.
Mobility – A very important tool in your asset tracking toolbox is a mobile device with an application that enables you to manage your assets. Our intent here is not to recommend a specific toolset (though we can if you Contact Us), but to make you aware of the capabilities and importance of this technology.
Many asset tracking systems include a mobile tool or offer as an add-on component. There are also standalone applications that are inexpensive and offer a lot of flexibility (no perquisites for your backend system). iOS, Android, and Windows currently have a good share of the market, however there are others that are up and coming. Here are some considerations before purchasing;
- Do you already have mobile devices you want to use? If so, make sure the system you commit to has an application that supports the OS installed on your mobile device.
- What functionality is important to you? Some basic functions to look for include;
- Wi-Fi/Cellular/Bluetooth Capability
- Directly connect to the backend system
- Suitable for conducting physical inventory/cycle audits
- Should have the ability to define custom data fields, import/export data, edit asset records, create new asset records, scan barcodes, and take digital images
- Check In Check Out Assets and Equipment
Asset Tags – Our overview on automation wouldn’t be complete without addressing barcode and RFID tags. We advocate the use of pre-printed labels direct from the manufacturer as they are generally better made and more durable. Most use sub-surface printing which is a feature you cannot get with desktop label printers. There are also a variety of materials available that cannot be utilized with a desktop printer. For bar coding, there are a variety of metallic labels designed to withstand harsh conditions. On the RFID side, the sky’s the limit. RFID chips are encapsulated in every material you can think of to help protect the internal chip and antenna as well as enhance its performance, including; plastic, ceramics, rubber, foam, silicone, and standard peel and stick. Our physical inventory service teams use pre-printed barcode labels and pre-printed/programmed RFID tags.
With all that said, if your preference is to generate your own asset tags, there is a variety of equipment available that is easy to set up and use for both bar coding and RFID.
Regardless of where you source your asset tags, or the technology you choose to deploy, asset tagging greatly simplifies the tracking and managing of assets.
In Part 3 of this series, we will talk about Fixed Asset Management Processes and Procedures.