7 Best Practices for Equipment Asset Tags and Equipment Tracking
Every piece of equipment that your business uses is an investment. The challenge is to make sure that you get as much use and value out of those assets as possible. Loss, theft, and poor maintenance reduce the returns on the assets you invest in.
Tracking assets using equipment asset tags is an accessible and effective way to understand the state of the tools and property your business has and keep them in the best possible condition.
Tracking items with a label isn’t a complicated concept, but there are still important steps you can take to make your program more effective.
In this article, we’ll give a quick introduction to equipment asset tags and the benefits of asset tracking. Then we’ll walk through seven simple best practices to make the most of your equipment asset tags.
What are equipment asset tags?
Equipment asset tags are an effective way of keeping track of your business equipment. They’re also a pretty simple system where each fixed asset is labeled so it’s uniquely identifiable.
To get started, it helps to define fixed assets. These are equipment or pieces of property that your business uses to create value. They're called “fixed” assets because the business expects to use them for more than one year. For example, a construction firm’s fixed assets could include jackhammers, excavators, and other equipment.
An equipment asset tag is a label attached to the equipment that makes it uniquely identifiable. Asset tags for equipment can come in many forms, most commonly barcodes, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags, or QR codes. We’ll take a closer look at these types of asset tags later on.
An asset management system is the final piece of the puzzle. You apply asset labels to your equipment, you use a scanner or reader to read the data, and you store all the information in your asset tracking software. Asset tags allow you to quickly look up important information about a piece of equipment, such as when it was purchased, who's used it, and its monetary value.
Benefits of equipment asset tags
The simplest and most obvious benefit of tagging your equipment is that you can keep track of it. Consistent tool tagging and scanning will allow you to find and use equipment whenever you need it because you’ll have records of when and where (and even by whom) it was last used. No more digging through the warehouse or calling colleagues to see if they know where the tool is.
Tagging your equipment also allows you to identify theft and lost property. If you know where an object is supposed to be, you’ll be more likely to notice if it's gone. And when you have a record of where your equipment is, it can save you from spending money on tools you already have.
Accurate records of your equipment can also help you take better care of it. For example, if you have a piece of machinery that needs annual maintenance, an asset tagging system allows you to keep track of when maintenance was last performed.
Beyond these practical benefits, equipment asset tags can have important financial advantages. If there were a fire or other accident at your facility, asset records will help you receive proper compensation from your insurance provider.
Asset tracking can also include tracking the value and depreciation of your assets. Because some equipment and property loses value over time (think of how a used car is cheaper than a new one), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows businesses to write off that depreciation on their taxes.
7 Equipment asset tags best practices
Now that you understand why tagging your equipment is a smart business move, we’ll cover some best practices to help you effectively track your assets.
1. Choose the right equipment asset tags
The first step to implementing a system for tagging and tracking equipment is to choose the right tags for your needs. As we mentioned above, barcodes, QR (Quick Response) codes, and RFID tags are the most popular choices.
Barcodes are the simplest kind of tag, made up of a series of lines of different thicknesses. Because you can print them yourself, barcodes are a good low-cost option, but they also store a limited amount of data. Barcode scanners also read tags by reflecting a beam of light off the label, which means you have to have a direct line of sight to the barcode.
QR codes store information through a unique pixelated square or rectangle. They also require a direct line of sight, but they can store more data than a simple barcode.
Finally, RFID tags use radio waves to identify tags. This means that they can be scanned without being visible, and you can even scan large quantities of items quickly. Because RFID tags contain microchips, however, they're more expensive than the previous options.
Once you've chosen what kind of scanning technology you’ll use, you should consider the appearance and durability of your tags. There's a wide range of different equipment tag options, from simple stickers to metal tags with permanent adhesive. If your equipment is exposed to a lot of wear and tear or is used in a harsh environment, you’ll need to find especially durable asset labels.
2. Find the right place for equipment asset tags
Where you place equipment asset tags can make a big difference in usability. That’s why placement should also be a factor in choosing your tags. For barcodes and QR codes, you need to place the tags somewhere that your team members can not only find, but somewhere they can easily reach with a scanner.
To help your team scan and track assets, tag placement should be documented and consistent. For example, your standard operating procedure for accepting new office equipment might be to place the tag on the front or next to any screen or interface. This means your team will know where to look and you can easily identify equipment that still needs to be tagged.
While RFID tags don’t necessarily need to be visible, using a consistent placement system will make it easier to ensure every asset is appropriately tagged. Whatever kind of tag you use, you should take into account potential wear and damage. If possible, place tags somewhere they won’t be scratched or otherwise damaged.
3. Categorize your equipment
To make asset audits, equipment distribution, and tracking easier, it’s a good idea to categorize your equipment. One of the easiest ways to do this is with colored tags. When different categories of assets have different colored tags, it can make them easier to visually identify. There’s a large variety of different labels to choose from and you can even order custom asset tags to fit your needs.
Think through how your equipment will be categorized. Is it based on monetary value? How frequently property is moved or borrowed? Or you color code labels by year purchased to identify aging equipment in need of repair or replacement.
If your business has multiple divisions, departments, or teams, you can also use color-coded tags to avoid mix-ups. For example, if you have three locations, you could use different color tags to ensure that equipment used in the field is returned to the correct location. However you choose to categorize equipment, make sure these categories are documented so anyone on your team can confidently track or manage assets.
4. Choose the right asset management software for your business
The success of your asset tracking system will depend on your tools and the software is possibly the biggest decision. Asset management software is the database for all the important details about your equipment. Typically, you’ll use a scanner to read an equipment asset tag and that will pull up the asset record.
With the asset management software industry projected to reach $5.2 billion in 2024, there are many different platforms, each with pros and cons. Since your team will need to use the software, you can’t overlook the importance of usability and an intuitive interface. And finding a system that integrates with your other tools will save you time and a ton of frustration. RedBeam, for example, offers REST APIs, which allow the software to connect with almost any tool.
5. Establish standards and train your team
Systems like asset tracking are most successful when employees are invested and informed. That means setting clear standards and practices and communicating them to your team. It’s also a good idea to get input from your colleagues as you create and implement a system. They may think of an important detail or a smart way to avoid human error.
Consider these questions as you create your asset tracking system:
- What assets will be tagged?
- Whose responsibility is it to tag new equipment?
- What details will you track (location, model, user, etc.)?
- When does equipment need to be scanned or updated in your asset management platform?
- Who's responsible for equipment audits?
Once you have your standards and practices set, don’t skimp on training and communication. It’s a good idea to provide both live training and discussion as well as written documentation about how the system works. Any new procedures will take time and effort to implement, so look for learning opportunities and recognize success along the way.
6. Update your asset records often
For asset tracking to work, it has to be a consistent part of your operations. That means tagging each fixed asset that you want to track, but it also means updating your records frequently. Updating and adding details to your asset management system should be built into your business procedures.
The best way to ensure asset records are updated is to identify and communicate to your team when items should be scanned. For example, you could determine that every time a certain category of equipment leaves your headquarters, the user and reason has to be documented.
Sometimes an update will simply be scanning the tag, which can be automatically recorded in your asset management software. But you should also regularly update details about the quality and functionality of the equipment. This can help you anticipate future expenses and assign accurate valuations to your assets.
7. Perform regular asset audits
Asset tracking is an everyday project, but it still pays to periodically audit your system. In the rush to get things done, maintenance and updates can sometimes fall through the cracks. Scheduling regular fixed asset audits will help you identify missing equipment and offer a chance to perform maintenance, if needed.
To keep it simple, you can designate a certain time of year or interval at which you will audit your equipment (annually, quarterly, etc.). Even if you don’t find any immediate issues with your equipment, asset audits help you stay abreast of the condition or your tools. If you see that equipment will eventually need replacement, you can plan and budget for that expense.
Asset audits are a great time to revisit the implementation of your tracking system. Ask whether new equipment is being appropriately tagged, as well as whether asset records are being updated as they should be.
Make the most of your company equipment
Most businesses will benefit from using equipment asset tags and an asset tracking system, but the specifics of your program will depend on your equipment and business.
Whether you’re just getting started with asset tracking or are revamping an existing system, you can use these best practices to ensure you have accurate records and help your business get the most out of its physical assets.
When it comes to asset tracking technology, RedBeam has partnered with some of the leading manufacturers and technology resellers in the industry, such as Zebra Technologies.
Zebra's top-of-the-line technologies are seamlessly integrated into our asset tracking technology package, fully compatible with RedBeam software. The Zebra warranty provides customers with peace of mind that their hardware investment is secure, while its advanced features significantly increase the speed and efficiency of asset tracking operations.
Our extensive knowledge of Zebra products enables us to make individualized hardware recommendations based on your business requirements and budget.
If you want to see how RedBeam’s intuitive, flexible asset management platform can benefit your organization, schedule a demo today.