Everything You Need to Know About Metal Asset Tags

Asset tags are a fantastic way to keep track of valuable equipment. But printed asset labels aren’t suitable in several scenarios, such as equipment on construction sites or manufacturing plants and assets exposed to harsh conditions.

That's where metal asset tags come in. These durable, long-lasting tags can be attached to your equipment to help you easily identify and track your assets in even the toughest conditions.

In this article, we'll explore the benefits of using metal asset tags and how they can help you streamline your operations, save time, and protect your valuable assets. 

What are metal asset tags

Metal asset tags are permanent metal plates that you can attach to equipment and use as part of an asset tracking setup. They are commonly called anodized aluminum tags. Aluminum or stainless steel are the most common metals used to create the tag. Regardless of the type of tag, all of them are finished with a decorative anodic layer. 

Metal asset tags can be attached to fixed or movable assets — anything from machinery to a laptop. 

They work similarly to more common stickers of plastic asset tags, where each tag is printed, embossed or etched with a unique identifier. In most cases, this will be a barcode or QR code, which can be scanned with a smartphone or hardware device to bring up a digital profile for each asset.   

It’s important to note that metal custom asset tags can’t be used with RFID tags because the metal interferes with the tag’s radio waves. 

When combined with asset tracking software, metal asset tags make it easy for employees to record and edit data for each of your assets. You can use metal asset tags to record the location of movable assets, record the condition of fixed or physical assets, or run an inventory to make sure all of your assets are accounted for. 

Metal asset tags have a wide range of benefits compared to their alternatives, which we'll discuss in detail below. They are extremely durable, can last for decades, and are very hard to remove or alter. But that comes with a price. Metal asset tags are one of the most expensive asset tracking solutions you can buy. 

Benefits of metal asset tags

There are several benefits to using metal asset tags over alternatives like plastic asset tags or sticker-based barcodes.

Metal makes for a highly durable asset label. Unlike plastic or sticker-based asset tags, they can last for decades. They rarely dull or fade over time, either, making them just as easy to scan in five years' time as they are today. This also makes metal tags ideal for equipment with long lifespans. You only need to pay for and apply for a single asset tag and it should last the lifetime of the equipment. 

They are also incredibly durable. Most asset tags are weather and scratch-resistant, making them perfect for harsh environments like construction sites. Metal asset tags are unlikely to peel off or get accidentally damaged to the point where they don’t work. Even if assets suffer a lot of wear and tear, metal asset tags should remain readable.

Finally, metal tags are tamper-proof. Even if malicious individuals try to deface or remove your asset tags, they are unlikely to succeed. This is in stark contrast to most sticker or plastic-based asset tags, which are either very easy to remove — simply by peeling off — or easy to deface by scribbling over or scratching off barcodes. 

Metal asset tags aren’t perfect. However, the durability of metal tags also creates a potential downside. Because they are hard to remove, they're unsuitable for businesses that regularly update their equipment or want to change asset tags. There’s little point paying for a set of metal asset tags to track a range of equipment you only plan to keep for six months.  

Further, metal asset tags are one of the most expensive asset tag options. Not only are you paying for the material the tags are made from, but you will also need to pay for them to be printed and shipped to you. Unlike sticker asset tags, you’re unlikely to be able to print metal tags on-site. 

When to use metal asset tags

Despite the fact that metal asset tags cost more than other barcode-based alternatives, there are several scenarios where they are the best or only option available — and well worth the investment. 

In harsh environments

In harsh environments like construction sites or manufacturing plants, you need asset tags to be as durable as possible. While sticker-based or plastic asset tags can be rendered unusable by the weather or through standard wear and tear within a couple of months, metal asset tags are much harder wearing. When securely attached, these tags should last for years. With their durable and tamper-proof nature, employees should be able to keep scanning them, regardless of where assets are stored or how they are treated. 

To track fixed business assets

Metal asset tags are ideal for tracking fixed assets like machinery. These kinds of assets are designed to last for years, if not decades, so it makes sense to track their condition with an asset tag that can last at least as long — if not longer — than the machinery itself.

Metal asset tags are also suitable for tracking a fleet of vehicles or other expensive equipment that can be moved. While stickers can be defaced or removed, it’s unlikely thieves or employees are going to be able to tamper with or remove metal asset tags when they are properly applied. 

When security is a priority

If security is your highest priority or in instances where you want to track expensive assets, metal tags are your best bet. They are the most secure asset tags you can purchase, and are highly effective at preventing theft. Not only are they incredibly durable and hardwearing, as we have described above, but they are also tamper-proof. 

It’s very unlikely a malicious individual is going to be able to tamper with a metal asset tag to the point where your team can no longer scan the asset. Nor will they be able to remove the tag so that you can no longer track the asset. 

When you must comply with government or industry regulations

Are you a government organization or a business that must abide by strict industry regulations? Metal asset tags are going to be the best bet. There’s no danger of them getting damaged or removed, meaning you can guarantee your ability to track assets and inventory.  

How metal asset tag-based tracking systems work

Metal asset tags provide a seamless asset tracking solution. Here’s what it is like to use a metal asset tag-based tracking system on a day-to-day basis. 

Create metal asset tags and affix them to assets

This is arguably the most important part of the process. You need to ensure that every asset you want to track has a metal asset tag inscribed with a unique barcode or QR code. That way, there is no danger of getting one asset confused with another. Next, attach them to each asset. Metal asset tags can be a little harder to attach than sticker-based barcodes. You can glue the tag onto the device. Or, if you want a more secure option, you can screw or weld the tag to each asset. 

Use a specialized reader or smartphone app to scan assets

Most businesses will choose to purchase one or more dedicated readers to scan metal asset tags and record information. There are many models to choose from, but we recommend businesses use something like the Zebra TC52x.

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This is a rugged and reliable scanner that integrates seamlessly with RedBeam’s software and lets users edit records on the scanner without having to use an additional screen. By using a scanner alongside metal asset tags, employees will be able to take inventory or update records much faster than using spreadsheet or paper-based methods. 

Manage everything with asset tracking software

Asset tracking software will act as the centralized database for your asset tracking solution, allowing you to check on the status of assets, run reports and manage everything from a single location. 

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It’s important to choose asset tracking software that lets you track the specific data you need, while also integrating with your scanners and other technology. It should also be user-friendly, so your team doesn’t have to waste hours learning how to use the system. 

Best practices for metal asset tag tracking

Make the most of your metal tag-based asset tracking system with the following best practices. 

Include key information using metal asset tags

Make sure you record as much data as possible when creating digital entries for each of your assets. That could include:

  • The make and model of the asset
  • Its location
  • The date of purchase
  • The last time it was serviced

You can even color code metal asset tags to further differentiate assets. For instance, different colors could signify the year in which the asset was purchased or the primary location of the asset. 

Securely fix them to assets

There’s no point using metal asset tags if you aren’t going to attach them securely to your assets. Welding or screwing metal asset tags to equipment is the best approach, but you could also glue the tags if you don’t want to damage or alter assets. 

You’ll also want to make sure you're securing them in a place that enhances usability. Make sure you attach metal asset tags in places that are easy to see and reach with a scanner. Attaching metal tags on the front or side of assets at eye or body level will be your best bet. Try to be consistent when attaching tags to similar assets, too. 

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If you are fixing tags to your company’s printers as in the image above, make sure every tag is placed on the front in the same place. 

Ensure metal asset tags are suitable

Metal asset tags are the ideal option for businesses that want to maximize the security and durability of their asset tracking solution. But they aren’t always the right option.

If you are set on using RFID tags, for instance, then metal asset tags simply won’t work. Nor are they suitable for businesses that want to print asset tags on site or update their equipment regularly. 

Choose suitable asset tracking software

While choosing the right kind of asset tags is important, it is more important to choose suitable asset tracking software. Your asset management platform will act as the central database for your equipment, allowing you to record and update as much information as needed. 

You’ll want to find a solution that streamlines the process as much as possible. For example, RedBeam’s asset tracking software is mobile-ready and integrates with Zebra scanners, meaning employees can manage entries on hardware devices rather than constantly referring to a laptop. The software also works offline when you don’t have internet access and allows for custom fields so you can enter as much additional information as you require. 

Ready to start using metal asset tags?

Metal asset tags are a durable, tamper-proof solution for businesses. They're perfect for any business that wants to keep track of assets that are either valuable or regularly exposed to harsh conditions. They are simple to attach, and work seamlessly with handheld scanners and asset tracking software. 

If you’re using metal asset tags, trust RedBeam as your software provider of choice. We have solid partnerships with the leading hardware manufacturers in the asset tracking industry, including Zebra Technologies. Together, we provide a comprehensive asset tracking solution that can be tailored to any business. 

If you’d like to know more about how you can use metal asset tags as part of your asset tracking solution, schedule a free RedBeam demo today!