An IT Manager’s Guide to the Ideal Asset Tagging Procedure

There is hardly a business today that doesn’t rely on many fixed assets to run smoothly. Rather than hiring woodsmen who bring their own axes, most companies provide all the tools the employees need to do their jobs.

Depending on your industry, this could be as simple as an office printer, a scanner, and employee laptops or as complex as an entire manufacturing plant with millions in equipment.

Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, there’s value in knowing exactly where and what state your physical assets are in. And that’s what asset tagging is all about.

In this guide, we’ll break down proper asset tagging procedures — how you can lay the right foundation to make asset management a breeze.

What is asset tagging?

Asset tagging uses various tags — barcode tags, RFID tags, and QR codes — to label and index your equipment and other fixed assets.

The scope of what these asset tags help you do depends on the type of tag and asset management system you use. But in general, you can:

  • Keep track of your assets more effectively. 
  • Better plan the asset lifecycle, like repurchasing.
  • Make sure your assets are maintained to extend their lifespan.

The building blocks of a working asset tagging system

These are the four essential moving parts of an asset tagging system you need to get up and running:

  • Barcode or RFID printers — or a third-party supplier that creates the tags for you.
  • The tags themselves — for example, a printable roll and a way to fasten them to assets.
  • A barcode or RFID code scanner — yes, you can technically do this with a smartphone and an app. But if you’ve ever tried to scan QR codes, you know how clunky this can be. A professional handheld asset scanning device has a broader range and a stronger scanner. It can pick up signals more reliably, speeding up the process and reducing the chances of worker error.
  • Asset management software — you need this to make sense of the data from the asset tags. It helps you manage asset locations, asset maintenance schedules, asset checkout, and more.

Finally, you need a reliable procedure for creating and attaching the tags to all your assets. We outline our recommended approach in detail below.

How asset tagging can make a difference in your company

Barcode tagging isn’t just useful for retail companies to keep track of products in their warehouses. It can be a game-changer for companies to utilize all their assets better.

If you’re in an industry where your company has a lot of expensive equipment, it’s a must. Even the average company has many types of assets they often struggle to keep track of. 

The main benefits of asset tagging include faster inventories, less searching for equipment, and longer asset lifespans.

It drastically speeds up the asset inventory process

Using asset tags can save a lot of time compared to a system that relies on purely manual look-up and data entry — like spreadsheets or even a pen and notebook.

For example, it makes inventory of assets in an office or storeroom much faster. You can simply scan each item, confirm the location on the handheld device, and scan the next one.

Your staff spend a lot less time looking for equipment

With a good asset tagging system, your staff can know in which office, department, warehouse, or specific room or area a certain asset is without searching for it. They just need to search the database in the asset tracking software

It will tell them where the item should be and where it was last scanned — with barcode tags. Or it can show them these assets' live location — with RFID tracking tags.

Either way, this is good news for productivity. In 2021, technicians spent 3–8 hours per week searching for equipment, depending on the industry.

With a more effective system, you can minimize the time employees spend on this. They can immediately know a specific asset's department, room, or even real-time location. No tedious manual searching is required.

Maximize the lifespan of your assets

Asset tags also help you manage the maintenance schedules of assets to ensure they’re always in tip-top shape.

A well-maintained asset can have a significantly longer lifespan. That’s vital for valuable equipment like lawnmowers, edge cutters, or asphalt compactors. The last thing you want is to purchase replacements for expensive tools earlier than planned.

You can also reliably track the condition of all your assets and the value depreciation over time for tax purposes.

Our recommended 7-step asset tagging procedure

In seven steps, here’s the right way to implement an asset tagging system in your company.

1. Consider your needs and invest in the right hardware and software

A good starting point to figuring out your asset tagging needs is to answer these questions:

  • Do you have a large number of assets?
  • Do you need active location tracking for your assets, or is it enough to check assets in and out of specific locations?

If you don’t need live location tracking and have many assets, barcode tags are the way to go. They are cheaper and easier to use but with no location data past what your employees register.

While technically you could use a smartphone (like with the RedBeam mobile app), we strongly recommend investing in professional handheld scanners like the Zebra TC52.

RedBeam’s asset management software integrates with enterprise-grade barcode scanners and printers. That makes investing in the right hardware and getting up and running efficiently much easier.

2. Import your inventory of assets into the asset management software

Once you have the tag printers, tags, and scanners, you need to get the necessary data into your software of choice.

In RedBeam, you can arrange the data in your spreadsheets into our assets template and import all assets in bulk.

That means you don’t have to add assets one by one in the app interface. This is a significant time saver.

3. Expand and update the asset database with necessary data

The next step is to update the asset database with all the necessary data points. You can’t start printing tags until you’ve finished this step unless you already have a complete data set.

For example, you may not have assigned a unique asset ID to your various assets. However, you need unique IDs for printing tags and effectively using the system for asset identification. So, ensure every asset has its asset ID, location, serial number, description, and other data.

Without the right data in place, your asset tagging system will be a mess, regardless of how good the tags are.

4. Print the appropriate tags (or order them from a vendor)

Consider material needs (wear and tear and how long a lifespan you need for the tag). These needs will depend on the asset type and where you typically store and use them.

You can easily print regular barcode tags with the Zebra ZD421 or a similar desktop barcode printer. Its compact size makes it easy to carry to locations and plug into a laptop to print tags on-site.

You will need to order more advanced tags, like active RFID tags in metal or hard plastic casings, from a vendor. You can buy smaller batches from e-commerce sites like Amazon or buy in bulk from vendors directly if needed. These tags are more suitable for outside usage for larger and more expensive equipment.

5. Choose the suitable asset tag attachment mechanism

Depending on the tag type and your use case, you may want to attach tags with different mechanisms. Each has its pros and cons, with more secure methods being more bulky and easier methods more susceptible to harsh environments.

  • Adhesive — the most common approach because it’s easy and you need no equipment. Just print the tags you need, remove the backing, and apply them to the asset. For high-performance, tear-resistant tags, consider using the Zebra Z-Ultimate 4000T Labels when printing. Using a higher quality tag will lead to a longer lifespan, but don’t expect more than 3 years of outside use.
  • Zip ties — an easy way to attach bulkier tags like RFID tags. The downside is that they’re very visible and easy to remove. So if you’re trying to prevent asset theft, it’s not the best option.
  • Screws — most suitable for larger active RFID tags on heavy equipment. Can be used to discreetly attach tags to expensive equipment. These tags can track location and help prevent theft without getting in the way.

If you’re just trying to keep track of IT devices in your office, adhesive barcodes or RFID tags are more than enough. If you want to track heavy equipment that’s used outdoors, screw-on tags are more useful.

6. Attach your tags to the assets

Now that you have your assets registered in the system, printed the tags, and figured out how to attach them, you just need to tag your assets. 

The easiest way is to do this one area at a time, bringing a mobile tag printer on location. Doing it one by one means you’re much less likely to tag assets incorrectly. That means your system will have higher quality and more useful data.

It might seem straightforward, but it’s easy to go wrong. Make sure your employees tag assets carefully, as mistakes can quickly lead to confusion.

An asset management system is only as useful as your employees’ ability to use it. Take the time to set it up right and train your employees to use it.

7. Do your first asset inventory to test the new tags and system

Now, you’re ready to actually do your first asset inventory and experience first-hand how much more effectively the new system works.

If you use specifically designed mobile devices like the Zebra TC52, this will be a breeze. Your employees can easily scan the assets without issue and key in the necessary information in a few taps.

They can also quickly double-check that other data points like the maintenance history are correct.

Make asset tagging and management a breeze with RedBeam

QR codes and using double-sided tape with a spreadsheet system can work if you only have a handful of assets. But you don’t want to wing it if you have many different types of assets spread across multiple offices and locations.

RedBeam integrates with robust handheld scanners and barcode printers from Zebra Technologies. That makes it easy to create an asset tagging procedure that will stand the test of time. With stick-on barcode tags with an estimated 3-year lifespan of outside use, you can tag most assets once and be done with it.

Our import templates make it easy to get all the asset data you already have into a more effective system. If you want a cohesive, higher-level view of all your assets, sign up for the 30-day free trial today.