Have you ever been unable to locate a piece of equipment, such as a laptop? Or maybe an employee is leaving your organization, and you realize you are not sure what equipment they have? Have you hired a new employee and not known whether you have the equipment they need? These are the problems solved by asset tracking.
The term asset tracking is not as complicated as it sounds. Put simply, it is the method a business uses to keep tabs on its physical assets, such as IT hardware, tools, equipment, furniture, and vehicles. It provides real-time data so that you always know what assets you have and where they are.
Organizations use different methods to track their assets, but all methods share the same general ideas. At its core, asset tracking involves identifying and naming each asset, labeling it with a barcode or asset identification tag, and then keeping track of the asset every time it moves to a a new user or a new location. An asset may change hands multiple times over its lifespan. With asset tracking, you can always pinpoint who has it, when they got it, and when it is being returned.
What is an Asset?
When we talk about asset tracking, we are talking about tracking tangible, or fixed, assets. In other words, an asset is any physical item owned by a business that has value, such as machinery, office equipment, or vehicles. In contrast, intangible assets such as software or patents also have value, but lack physical substance.
Assets are different than inventory. Inventory, also called stock, are items that a company intends to use in production or to sell, such as products, parts, and materials. By comparison, an asset is a resource that an organization generally holds on to for a longer amount of time and uses to run its business. To illustrate, think of a clothing manufacturing company. The company’s inventory will include the cloth, thread, and materials used to make the clothes, as well as the finished product that the company is going to sell. The company’s assets include all the machinery used to make the clothes, and any equipment used by the employees in order to sell the clothes, such as the point-of-sale systems and computers. Because an organization’s needs differ with respect to its assets and inventory, they need to be managed in different ways.
In general, tangible assets include equipment, fixtures, and furniture. The type of assets an organization owns will vary depending on the nature of the organization. For example, a software business might have lots of IT hardware. A school might have sports equipment, theater props, and tablets that are used by its students. A car rental company might have a fleet of vehicles. A durable medical equipment company might have hospital beds and portable oxygen concentrators. Whatever the assets are, when their value is totaled in the aggregate, they often represent a huge portion of an organization’s bottom line. For this reason, organizations take care to ensure they are managing those assets appropriately.
How Do You Track an Asset?
The process of tracking an asset is simple. Here is a basic workflow for tracking assets, although each organization may adopt a different process to suit its particular needs.
1. Maintain a Log of Assets
When your organization acquires a new asset, you should add that asset to a log or list of assets. In the list, you should note some specific details about the asset, such as its purchase price, its make and model, its description, and its life expectancy. By knowing these details, you can more easily search within your log to find the asset should it need to be located. By knowing the lifespan of the asset, you can plan purchasing decisions because you will know when certain assets are reaching end of life. For example, let’s say you run an audit and determine that 80 percent of your laptops are more than six years old. Knowing this information will help you plan your budget for the rest of the year.
2. Tag the Asset
As you add the asset to the log, you should assign it an asset tag ID and notate the ID in the log. Then you should physically attach a bar code or asset tag that has the asset ID on it to the asset. Since every ID is unique, these tags will help the organization keep track of that specific item and follow it throughout its life. For example, your organization may have ten 13-inch MacBook Pros. By assigning a unique asset tag ID to each one, you will be able to locate them individually and keep track of maintenance and assignment history.
3. Document the Location of the Asset
Next, you will need to assign (or checkout) the asset to the person who will have custody of it or to the location where it will reside. For example, maybe the asset is a printer that will be in a specific office. Or maybe the asset is a laptop that will be assigned to a specific person. You must know where the asset is going to be or who is supposed to have custody of it in order to track it down when necessary. Whenever the asset is assigned to a new person or location, it should be documented in the log to ensure your records are up to date.
Part of this step also includes documenting important information about the person who will have the asset or the location where the asset will be. You will want to document any associated physical addresses and contact information. You can also document any due dates if the person or location will have the asset for a limited time. By doing this, you will be able to keep track of when an asset is overdue.
4. Keep Your Asset Log Up To Date
Finally, it is important to always keep your asset log up to date. If your organization disposes of an asset, your log should be updated to reflect that. If a person changes their phone number, your log should reflect that. Having real-time, up-to-date information is essential to maintaining an effective asset tracking system.
(Bonus). Consider Using Asset Tracking Software
If you already have a lot of assets and have not been managing them effectively, it may take some time initially to set up your asset tracking process. The most cumbersome part will be setting up your log of assets because you might not know where your assets are or what assets you have. However, after that part is completed, the process of tracking your assets will be straight-forward. Even so, sometimes using a simple spreadsheet won't be enough.
If your organization has a large volume of assets (generally over 100), a large volume of employees (generally over 100), or expensive assets, it might be beneficial for you to use asset tracking software that can help you automate the tracking process. Asset tracking software is like a spreadsheet with superpowers.
For example, asset tracking software like Assetbots allows you to assign assets with the push of a button or by scanning a barcode with your phone (without the need for an expensive scanner). This creates real-time, accurate data. It offers superior searchability and discoverability, allowing you to filter your assets and find items with advanced searches. Finally, Assetbots allows you to easily discover what each person currently has in their possession, and the contact information for that person.
One of the main benefits of asset tracking software is that it provides an audit trail for your assets, showing every person and every location each asset has been assigned to. For this reason alone, many organizations use asset tracking software over spreadsheets.
What are the Benefits of Asset Tracking?
Asset tracking offers many benefits. Here are a few important ones:
Reduced Equipment Costs
By having a central repository of your assets, you will always know what you have, where each item is, what needs repair, and what is nearing end-of-life. This will help you answer questions such as "What do we need to purchase this year?, and "Do we have enough equipment to onboard new employees?" You can easily avoid purchasing new laptops when your organization already has a few sitting unused in a closet. Asset tracking also helps you avoid theft and loss of equipment because you will always know where your assets are and who has responsibility for them. This in turn increases accountability for your users.
Reduced Administrative Costs
With an efficient asset tracking system, you will cut down on the man-hours needed to locate assets, which can add up. For example, let’s say you have an employee who makes $60,000 per year and who is trying to locate a missing laptop. Without an efficient asset tracking system, it might take them several hours to investigate the laptop’s whereabouts. If the laptop is never located, you have now spent more than $1,000 (when you add up the cost of the laptop plus the cost of the employee’s hourly pay for that search). This scenario also results in lost opportunity costs because your employee is diverted away from other more pressing tasks. With an efficient asset tracking system in place, locating an asset takes seconds.
Asset tracking produces accurate data that is useful to organizations when making decisions. By knowing when your assets might need maintenance or when they are nearing end-of-life, you can plan repairs, upgrades, or replacements in a way that will minimize downtime for employees. Organizations can also ensure that their assets are properly cared for, thereby extending the asset’s lifespan. An organization can also gather information on how assets are being used, whether certain brands are favored over other brands, or whether some models are having more problems than others. This information can help guide future purchasing decisions.
Improved Regulatory Compliance
If your organization is regulated in any way, you may be required to monitor your assets and keep records. For example, if your equipment contains protected health information (PHI) or personally identifiable information (PII), you will need to know where that equipment is at all times. Or if your business deals with dangerous equipment, you will need to track important information such as its condition and maintenance history. Perhaps your organization is funded by grants or other funding sources that require you to account for how such money is spent. For example, some schools are required to complete audits of their fixed assets every year. Asset tracking helps you meet your regulatory requirements and makes audits a breeze. By using asset tracking software, you can rely on an accurate audit trail to ensure compliance or to get ahead of issues before they become problems.
Asset tracking offers many benefits to organizations and is easy to do, especially with the help of software. Assetbots is easy-to-use, cloud-based asset tracking software that offers affordable plans for every budget. Visit Assetbots to get started with one click and start tracking your assets today!
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