Your business relies on high-end equipment, but keeping tabs on these assets may prove surprisingly difficult. Therein lies the value of the modern asset management system, which provides real-time oversight. This, in turn, can lead to huge improvements in accuracy, productivity, and even compliance.
Asset tracking is important, but also, widely misunderstood. In this guide, we clear up misconceptions while also providing asset tagging best practices to help you make the most of your solutions (with a focus on RFID specifically).
What Is Asset Tagging?
The concept of asset tracking is simultaneously simple and complex. A critical process in logistics, retail, and many other industries, this essentially involves tracking physical assets. Typically, these consist of equipment — such as racks, forklifts, or conveyors in a warehouse environment, for example.
When an asset tagging system is implemented, the asset is attached to a label, which marks the item with a specific code or serial number. This code can be used to retrieve in-depth information about the asset in question, including warranty details, maintenance history, and more.
Why It’s Important For Your Business
Asset tagging provides crucial oversight and accountability for industries in which even comparably small losses could cause big problems over time.
Comprehensive asset tracking solutions deliver helpful insight into assets from the moment they’re procured to the point of delivery or disposal. Along the way, it’s possible to see how they are used or when they require maintenance. This, in turn, makes it easier to determine whether an asset is malfunctioning or has potentially been lost or stolen.
Main Types of Asset Tags
The concept of asset tagging encompasses a variety of types of labels and scanning solutions. Typically, however, businesses look to one of two main options: barcodes or RFID.
- Barcode. Familiar to most consumers, barcodes consist of alternating spaces and bars, which are meant to represent various characters. Barcode labels can be affordable and easy to implement, but they produce some significant line-of-sight concerns that often make RFID a preferred alternative.
- RFID. Radio-frequency identification (RFID) systems consist of two main components: tags and readers. This combination harnesses the power of radio waves to ensure that information is captured from the tagged object and conveyed to the reader (or the person operating it).
QR codes can be another option, similar in many respects to barcodes. QR codes contain information displayed both vertically and horizontally. As such, they are able to store far more data than their barcode counterparts.
While we primarily focus on RFID in this guide, barcodes remain beneficial in many settings and situations. Their applications may differ to some extent, but many of the benefits and best practices outlined below apply to both barcodes and RFID tags.
Benefits of RFID For Asset Tracking
While multiple options are available for asset tracking, RFID is arguably the most reliable and cost-effective solution. Key benefits of RFID tags include:
- Easy scanning. RFID solutions are notoriously easy to scan — even in difficult environments, or, depending on the situation, from a distance. While read range can vary significantly based on numerous factors (such as the power source), there’s no denying that data capture via RFID is a simpler, faster, and more accurate alternative to manual processes.
- Accurate data collection. Few tracking methods deliver accurate reads quite like RFID systems. This approach minimizes the potential for data duplication and transcription errors, which are common with manual solutions and can even be a problem for barcodes that are improperly scanned.
- Increased efficiency. A variety of RFID qualities allow these systems to improve efficiency. On a long-term basis, these systems boost productivity by ensuring adherence to maintenance schedules and, eventually, reducing downtime. The systems themselves are also highly efficient, as they allow for instant data gathering without worrying about location or line of sight.
- Visibility into assets. RFID solutions make it possible to store and access high volumes of data. This can instantly be retrieved to help business leaders know how assets are used across their lifespan — and when they might require maintenance or even replacement.
Asset Tagging Best Practices
While RFID solutions hold the potential to deliver dramatic improvements in asset tracking efficiency and accuracy, they must be implemented strategically to produce desirable results. Keep these best practices in mind as you upgrade your asset tagging approach:
- Use the correct label materials for the environment & asset. A variety of factors can play into which materials work best for your asset management solution. It is important to choose asset tags carefully to ensure that they actually are relevant to the situation at hand. Active versus passive must be considered, as well as how the tags are mounted. Polyester works well in many locations, but polycarbonate may be called upon in select situations.
- Apply correctly. Proper application is essential, and yet, many businesses struggle to make the most of RFID tags simply because they are not placed correctly. Often, the specific requirements of the environment prompt this issue, although varying protocols for active and passive tags should also be considered.
- Use helpful ID data. Details about location and timing are typically very useful to have in the ID number, although several other specifics can also be included. For example: information about procurement can be helpful for high-end items, as this plays into depreciation and maintenance.
- Add colors for organization purposes. Often, similar assets are required across different departments or for specific functions. If used for the wrong purpose, these assets can limit productivity and spark confusion among team members. Limit this problem by using a color-coded system to mark different types of assets. This provides an instant visual indicator to streamline everyday processes.
- Provide data that’s helpful to your team. While team members obviously need to know where to find assets and when they were produced or placed, these are by no means the only details that matter. Employees may also find maintenance suggestions and other supplemental information useful.
Make sure tags are still visible. RFID makes it possible to scan multiple items, but on occasion, information will still need to be viewed manually. If it does, tags need to be placed so that they can easily be viewed by team members.
- Check tags once applied. Verification post tagging is crucial, as tags can be vulnerable to degradation over time. Active RFID tags, in particular, should be tested, since their battery life can be limited. Short-term verification should also occur soon after tags are applied, as improper implementation can otherwise be surprisingly difficult to catch — and can lead to significant problems with accuracy or productivity.
- Tag high-value IT assets. While many types of assets can benefit from these solutions, it’s important to pay close attention to high-value IT assets. These should be subjected to lifecycle mapping and strict protocol for maintenance and decommissioning. Compliance is also a key issue with IT assets, so pay attention to encryption and inspection schedules.
Make the Most of Your Tagging System With Peak Technologies
If used to its full potential, asset tagging can deliver an impressive return on investment. Resources such as Peak Technologies can make all the difference. We are pleased to offer custom RFID services, such as consulting, software development, deployment, and more.