The Role of Asset Tags with Barcodes in Asset Management
Asset management is a critical aspect of any business, regardless of size or industry. Managing assets effectively can significantly increase the life and security of equipment, and reduce business costs.
Barcodes are a fundamental part of the asset-tracking process. By providing a unique identification code for each asset, asset tags with barcodes offer a cost-effective way to help organizations keep accurate records of asset location, condition, and maintenance history.
In this article, we'll cover everything you need to know about asset tags with barcodes, including how barcode tracking systems work, when to use asset tags with barcodes, and the benefits of managing everything using asset tracking software.
What are asset tags with barcodes?
Asset tags with barcodes are pretty self-explanatory — they're tags that you place on an asset you want to track. The tag has a barcode that you scan with a barcode reader, and the data is uploaded to an asset-tracking software solution.
Each asset is assigned a unique identifying number encoded into the barcode. The barcode label can come in several different forms. The most common version (and the one shown in the image below) is a 1D barcode called Code 128. You can also have a Code 39 barcode, which looks very similar. Most 1D barcodes can store a few dozen characters.
There are also 2D barcodes, of which QR codes are the most common form. Other versions include Data Matrix, Aztec Code, and MaxiCode. These barcodes offer significantly more storage while remaining small in size. Your typical 2D barcode can store up to 2000 characters.
One of the biggest selling points for barcode asset tracking solutions is their price. It's incredibly cost-effective to use barcodes to keep track of assets. You only need three items to make an asset tag with barcode tracking solution work: a printed barcode (linear, QR code, dealer’s choice), a barcode scanner, and an asset tracking platform to store and manage data.
In the vast majority of cases, you can print barcodes on site, and use them to keep track of pretty much any asset. You don’t even need a dedicated scanner to read the information. An iPhone camera can read any QR code, and you can download an app that can read 1D barcodes.
Barcode asset tracking vs. RFID asset tracking
Barcode asset tracking shouldn’t be confused with RFID asset tracking. Unlike barcode asset tracking, which uses stickers, RFID (Radio Frequency-Identification technology) tags use microchips to identify and track objects. This makes RFID tags more expensive to create than barcode tags.
But there are benefits to using RFID tags which some businesses may prefer. For instance, RFID tags:
- Have a greater range and are faster to scan
- Are more durable
- Can store over a million characters compared to the 2000-character limit of barcodes.
Benefits of asset tags with barcodes
There are some significant advantages to using asset tags with barcodes beyond the ones we have already touched on. In many ways, they are the ideal solution for small businesses looking to manage their assets.
Increase speed and accuracy
Barcode-based asset tracking eliminates the errors that occur with manual, handwritten tracking. It’s also incredibly quick to scan assets. And if you have an asset tracking platform automatically storing the data, it’s even faster.
It doesn’t matter if you print barcodes on-site or purchase them from somewhere else; asset tags with barcodes are still one of the most cost-effective asset-tracking solutions on the market. This makes them ideal for tracking both low-value and high-value assets.
Automate the asset tracking process
Asset barcodes allow you to automate most of the asset tracking process. Sure, an employee will still need to scan the barcode, but everything else, from creating the barcode to reading it and storing the data, happens without human intervention.
Very little training is required
If you’ve ever worked in a grocery store (or used a self-checkout service), you know just how easy it is to use barcodes. They are effortless to print, attach to assets and scan. Your asset management system will take care of everything else.
How asset tags with barcode tracking systems work
It doesn’t matter whether you are in education, construction, a government department or another business — asset tag tracking with barcodes works the same way. It’s what makes them such a versatile and cost-effective solution.
The first step is to choose which kind of barcode you’ll use to track assets.
Asset tracking uses 1D barcodes (the kind you find in grocery stores) and 2D barcodes (QR codes, Data matrix, PDF417, etc.). They are both incredibly versatile and can keep track of an incredible number of assets. If in doubt, choose a 2D option like a QR code since they store more characters.
You can print barcodes on-site or buy them ready-made from a distributor. Before you print them, you’ll need to encode each barcode with unique identifying information so you know which asset is which.
You’ll need a piece of hardware to scan and read your asset tags with barcodes. This will be a barcode scanner for most businesses, but you could also allow employees to use their smartphones. Many smartphones ship with the ability to read QR codes. Apps for reading other types of barcodes can be downloaded.
Managing asset tags with barcodes
You’ll want to connect your barcode scanner to an asset-tracking software platform so that data is easy to store and manage. When an asset is scanned, the platform will identify the unique asset data encoded on the barcode and open the specific asset’s records. This makes it easy for your employees to record vital information like the asset’s location, quantity, and condition.
If you’re using a smartphone to scan assets, you’ll need a mobile-ready asset-tracking platform like RedBeam.
Best practices for improving asset tags with barcode
Guarantee your asset tracking success by following these barcode best practices.
If you’re using barcodes to track a large number of assets, then it's worthwhile categorizing them beforehand. Doing so will make it easier to print and affix barcodes, and to manage the assets in your asset management software.
Store all the information you need
While a barcode can only hold up to 2000 characters, there’s no limit to the amount of data you can store in your asset tracking system. So don’t scrimp here. Store all of the information you could possibly need, including data points like an asset’s:
- Serial number
- Warranty expiration date
- Purchase cost
Make sure barcodes are readable
Affix asset tags with barcodes in a place where they’re easy to scan. Don't, for instance, put them on the back of heavy assets, or in obscure places where it’s hard to point a scanner at them. If you store assets on shelves, make sure the barcodes point outwards, as in the image below.
Ensure you affix each tag clearly so that the tag doesn’t tear or have air bubbles. It’s worth taking time here so that it’s easy for everyone to scan assets in the future.
Color-coding assets is a great way to make them even more identifiable. You can use a different barcode color for different types of assets or have a single color for assets stored in the same location.
You can even use colored barcodes to make sure that the tag is clearly visible on the asset. In other words, don’t have a white barcode on a white asset.
When to use asset tags with barcodes
Not sure whether asset tags with barcodes are the right solution for your business? There are several signs you can look for:
You don’t know the total number or condition of assets
It doesn’t matter whether you're a school or a construction firm — every organization should have a firm understanding of exactly how many assets they have. Not only does it make it much easier for finance to keep your books in order — it's also important from a security perspective. You want to know if an asset goes missing, right?
But knowing the number of assets is just the start. It’s also important to know what state those assets are in. The last thing you want is to need a specific asset for a job only to find out it doesn’t work.
You’re spending too much on new products, replacement parts or repairs
Most businesses shouldn’t have to budget a significant amount for new products or repairs unless they are growing rapidly. If you are, it’s a sign you are losing assets or not taking proper care of them. Both can be improved with a barcode-based asset-tracking solution.
You can’t find the location of assets
All assets go missing occasionally, but when you are constantly losing assets then it’s time to think about using a barcode asset tracking solution. Even if assets get regularly moved, a barcode asset tag will let you quickly find an asset’s last location.
Inventory takes too long to process
Taking inventory can be a tedious job. But it takes even longer if you do it manually or use a spreadsheet. When inventories take weeks or even months to accomplish, it’s a severe waste of company time — and a problem you can solve with asset tags. Barcodes make scanning and updating records easy, meaning your team can complete inventory in a couple of days or even faster.
You can’t afford to use RFID tags
If you know you need to use a tag-based asset tracking system but are conscious of budget, barcodes are the way to go. They are significantly cheaper than RFID tags, easier to create, and easier to affix. For the vast majority of businesses, they’ll work just as well as their more expensive counterparts, too.
Combine asset tags with asset tagging software for businesses
Attaching asset tags with barcodes to your assets isn’t enough to effectively track your assets. Nor is investing in several good barcode scanners. The success of your asset tagging strategy hinges on the software you use to manage the entire process.
With a unified platform, you do away with messy spreadsheets and human error, and manage everything in real time. There are several key features to look for in asset tracking software, including:
- A web-based portal so that employees can access the platform wherever they are.
- Mobile-ready, so employees can use their smartphones to scan barcodes and access data.
- Strong security standards to keep your information secure.
- Role-based access to restrict employee access as needed.
- Detailed history so you can keep track of assets with long lifetimes.
- Smart data import, so you can easily upload the information you already have.
Make tracking easy with RedBeam
Asset tags with barcodes are one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to track and manage your business’ assets. They're easy to create, affix, and read — you can even use your smartphone. Barcode-based asset tracking is even easier when paired with an asset-tracking platform like RedBeam.
RedBeam takes great pride in its collaboration with top-tier manufacturers and technology resellers in the asset tracking industry, including Zebra Technologies.
Zebra's innovative technologies are integral to our asset tracking technology package, fully synchronized with RedBeam software. With Zebra's warranty, customers can rest assured that their hardware investment is safeguarded, while its advanced features dramatically enhance the speed and efficiency of asset tracking activities.
As we specialize in Zebra products, we can offer customized hardware recommendations that match your specific business needs and budget.
Contact our team for information on how we can help you streamline your asset tracking solution, or schedule a demo today.