The first and foremost reason for implement and asset tracking system is to know what are your assets and where are they located. With today’s technology, it’s hard to imagine that there are still companies out there that do not even have a spreadsheet of their assets. One of the most common reasons I get for not having an asset tracking system is they don’t have the time or it’s too expensive to implement. Let’s now begin the journey to discover how neither reasons are a valid for not having a system.
The first step in implementing an asset tracking system is acknowledging that it is not something that will be setup once and then forgotten about. Managing assets is a constant process of care and feeding that, when done properly, should become second nature and require minimal effort. If you can get over this first hurdle, the rest is easy.
The ROI on implementing an asset tracking system is usually very short and most often is determined by looking at costs associated with lost or misplaced assets/equipment and the costs associated with the lack of information about an asset. Consider some of the following scenarios:
- Lost Asset – When an asset or piece of equipment is lost, how much labor is spent to find it. And if it’s not found, how much does it cost to replace it? In many cases, this question alone is enough to justify an asset tracking system.
- Production Loss – Depending on the nature of the business, a missing or malfunctioning piece of equipment can mean stopping production. In most businesses, this is a disaster but happens more often than we like to admit. The costs associated with unproductive labor, facilities and unhappy customers can be overwhelming.
- Labor Loss – In the event of a malfunctioning asset, how long does it take to collect the information necessary to coordinate a repair. Things like make, model, serial number and repair history often takes hours or days to research and collect.
- Expired Items – What is the cost of items that get thrown away because they weren’t used by their expiration date?
Once you’ve committed yourself to the idea that an asset tracking system is a process rather than a task, the implementation becomes the easiest part. At its core, an asset tracking system is software that allows one or more users the ability to enter and access all the information associated with that asset. As part of the process, new assets are automatically entered into the system. Then, based on an implementation timeline, a schedule is determined for collecting and entering information on existing assets (i.e. one room per day, or one piece of equipment per day). Most asset tracking systems provide mobile features for this data collection to be completed on handheld devices, saving the time to write it down and take it back to a computer. Companies that have information (even partial information) in electronic from, such as spreadsheets, can import that data to save time. Then users can simply review and update information as needed.
Now that we’ve gone through the general concept of implementing an asset tracking system, it’s time to review optimization and error proofing. While an asset tracking system can be completely manual, by adding RFID and/or barcode technology you can add efficiency by speeding up the user input, minimize user errors, and even automating the process.
Barcoding your assets allows users to access information by scanning an item to look it up rather than hand entering an ID number. The scanning process takes a fraction of a second and there isn’t a way for the user to mistype and select the wrong asset. The cleanup process (if the errors are found) for fixing notes and history that was entered for the wrong asset isn’t the best use of someone’s time. Scanning the asset takes care of this problem.
RFID, on the other hand, goes way beyond simple scanning. Since RFID doesn’t require a line of site, it can be used to manage a lot more information. This can include collecting and updating the location of assets as they move into a room or through a doorway. Or when reconciling assets, the user can read all the RFID tags in an area within seconds (rather than having to scan each one individually). As you can imagine, this saves an enormous amount of time compared to barcodes or a purely manual system.
And don’t limit yourself to just RFID or Barcode. Both technologies can be used in the same application. RFID tags are available on adhesive labels with barcodes printed on them. These tags are read with a barcode scanner and with and RFID reader. The key is to pick an asset tracking solution that supports both.
While an asset tracking system is designed to provide the core functionality of tracking assets, it’s important to realize that this process is easily be expanded to track much more. Assets are not limited to only tools and equipment. People, jobs and documents are tracked in the same way. Asset detailed information, location history, associated tasks and genealogy are all based on how data is grouped, categorized, and stored in the database.
When evaluating an asset tracking system, it’s important to review some of the following items to ensure that you’re getting a solution that works for you. Ask about:
- User experience
- Tracking beyond just Assets (Inventory, Tasks, People)
- How to leverage existing data (Importing Data and Getting Started)
- Reporting Capabilities
- Data Dashboards
- Web based vs. Thick Client
- Cloud (internet) accessible vs. On-Site installation
- Mobility options (iPhone & Android Support)
- RFID & Barcode Support
- Implementation Support, Training and Tech Support services
- Data Integrity and Security
If you’re in the market for an Asset Tracking System or just starting to think about it, feel free to contact InformaTrac anytime at (866) 619-7411 for a free consultation. An implementation specialist can answer any questions you may have.