Barcode Asset Tracking: What Is It & How Does It Work?

Barcode tags changed how we do business. Invented in 1948, barcode technology is now the foundation of asset tracking processes that keep businesses organized. Specifically, modern companies use barcode asset tracking to improve data accuracy for better inventory management.

Asset tagging or tracking technology has come a long way, as have cloud-based asset tracking software solutions. As a result, many businesses today have incorporated barcode scanners and labels into their inventory management systems. Despite that there are more technologically advanced tagging options, many businesses still prefer barcode asset tracking because it's a cheap and straightforward solution.

What Is Barcode Asset Tracking?

Barcode asset tagging helps you track and manage your business's physical assets. It has three main elements, a barcode label or tag, a barcode reader, and asset tracking software, which make this solution suitable for business processes such as inventory management, lifecycle management, and asset control. Barcode tags come in many different forms with varying capabilities. Each barcode label stores data in letters and numbers, which can be scanned using a barcode scanner.

Many small businesses favor barcode asset tracking because barcodes are easily printable on-site. All you need to do is assign data to a unique barcode, print it, and attach it to a physical asset, be it a fixed asset or a current asset. Barcode asset tracking benefits your business in several ways, which we will discuss in a later section. First, let's break down the process of barcode asset tracking.

How Barcode Asset Tracking Systems Work

Several industries, including construction, education and travel, use barcodes in one way or another. However, regardless of their application, the process behind barcode technology relies on the same elements: barcode tags, readers and software. With these in place, the asset tagging process involves three stages.

1. Generating the Barcodes

Barcodes are a series of bars and spaces that represent alphanumeric data (letters and numbers). The bars vary in size, much like the dots and dashes in Morse Code. Barcode asset tracking systems use two types of barcodes: 1D and 2D.

1D barcodes hold a maximum of 100 characters, making them suitable for retail applications, such as storing universal product codes (UPCs). 2D barcodes store up to 2000 characters and are commonly used as QR codes. You can either print your own or buy barcode asset tags for your business's asset tracking needs, making them a suitable option if you have a business with relatively few assets.

2. Reading the Barcodes

Barcodes represent a unique pattern that is associated with each asset. A barcode reader scans a barcode, decodes it and transmits it to a computer in the form of ones and zeros. There are different types of barcode scanners, each serving a specific purpose. They include pen-type readers, CCD Readers, laser scanners and camera readers. Most mobile devices can scan 1D and 2D barcodes, making them an excellent alternative to barcode readers.

3. Managing the Barcode Information

Barcode asset tracking software generates, stores and manages the data assigned to barcodes. Examples of such data include an asset's location, quantity, purchase date and maintenance history. The software generates a unique code, which you print and assign to an asset. When a barcode scanner reads the barcode, it tells the system which records to open, update or act on.

How Barcode Asset Tracking Benefits Your Business

Tagging software has massively improved the ability of businesses of all sizes and industries to track and manage their assets. Specifically, these software solutions play a critical role in companies that rely heavily on assets to generate revenue. Like NFC, RFID and other tracking solutions, barcode asset tagging technology benefits small businesses in several ways.

  • Improve Speed and Accuracy. Barcode asset tracking automates and accelerates essential business processes, such as inventory management, facilitating best practices for asset tracking that translate into increased revenue.
  • Minimize Human Errors. Manual asset tracking processes are susceptible to human errors, which can be costly, especially when they go undetected until it's too late.
  • Reduce Asset Tracking Costs. Barcode asset tracking is cheap and effective. With low upfront costs, a small business can manage large inventories.
  • Easy to Use. Barcode asset tracking systems are relatively easy to use compared to other tagging technology. The barcode stickers easily attach to items. To read the barcode, you only need to point the scanner at it.

How Barcode Asset Tracking Compares to RFID Technology

Barcodes were the go-to solution for reading asset data accurately before the advent of battery-powered tracking tags. Today, many businesses still prefer barcode asset tracking because of the benefits mentioned in the previous section.

However, more advanced asset tracking solutions have emerged. Among them is RFID, which has several benefits and drawbacks compared to barcodes.

  • Cost. RFID tags contain chips, which makes them cost more than barcode tags.
  • Range. Barcode scanners can only read barcodes within their line of sight, whereas RFID tags require no line of sight and are effective for up to 15 meters.
  • Speed. Barcode scanners read one barcode at a time, whereas an RFID system can scan multiple RFID tags simultaneously.
  • Durability. RFID tags are highly resistant to damage and harsh environments, whereas barcode labels are easily damaged.
  • Storage. RFID tags store up to 4 million characters, whereas 2D barcodes store up to 2000 characters.
  • Universality. Barcodes are more widespread, whereas RFID tags and frequencies are more location-dependent.

Barcode asset tracking is an undeniably important aspect of asset inventory management and is often underappreciated by both large and small business owners. Any one of these benefits (including even just a few) can help your business's supply chain be more efficient, which in turn will save you time and money.

Tracking Made Easy With RedBeam

RedBeam helps you track your business's valuable assets, such as equipment, computers, tools, and more, using barcode asset tracking technology. Contact us today and let us help you keep up-to-date records and streamline your next asset inventory management.