Asset is a word used to describe houses, cars, and other large purchases, but there are many more assets for businesses. Businesses can have fleets to manage, high-value assets like microscopes and diagnostics equipment, autonomous forklifts, or construction equipment, all of which are considered assets to manage. But most modern businesses now also have digital devices that are assets. Company computers, laptops, cell phones, or anything enabled with a SIM card is considered part of the Internet of Things (IoT) and are all assets businesses need to keep track of and manage properly. Because of the growth in digital assets, asset tracking is now increasingly important for many companies. Let’s discuss asset tracking, why it’s so important, and strategies for tracking assets.
What Is Asset Tracking?
Asset tracking is when a company tracks the location of its physical assets. Asset tracking can be a part of an overall asset management strategy, or it can be the main aspect of managing assets on its own. For most companies, asset tracking is an important way to help avoid theft, manage loss, and keep business operations running smoothly.
There are a lot of forms asset tracking could take, but in general, it’s any way your organization keeps track of who has what physical asset and where each one is located. For example, a company with a remote workforce would likely keep track of which employees check out a laptop. The managers, IT team, or HR department would likely have a record of each asset and who has each one.
Asset tracking is still relevant in a physical office environment as well. Organizations that have a record of where every asset is, such as computers, cars, mobile phones, forklifts, and all other high-value assets will be better off. Asset tracking becomes even more important for valuable assets or assets crucial for operations. For example, tracking a company forklift would be crucial because it is a very valuable asset that should be tracked much more closely than standard office supplies such as a stapler. Assets that are of high importance to operations should also be tracked closely because a simple misplacement could have a large impact on the company’s productivity.
Benefits of Asset Tracking
Asset tracking helps your business keep track of where all of its physical assets are, and the benefits of doing so can be immense. Let’s take a look at some of these benefits:
- Reduce theft and loss: Companies will know where there are a lot of assets and moving parts. It’s important to keep track of where everything is so assets don’t slip through the cracks of operations. In addition, knowing where physical assets are can reduce theft, and in the case that theft does occur, companies can determine exactly what is missing.
- Ease workload of administrative employees: Administrative employees have a lot to keep track of, and having a clear record of assets will simplify their workload and help them keep the company running smoothly.
- Improve the workspace: If you know what you have, you can determine what can be removed, replaced, or improved upon to make the workspace more efficient. That way you’ll be able to improve the workspace and everything will go so smoothly.
- Stay on the cutting edge of the industry: Technology is always changing, and companies that are able to keep up with the changes are the ones that stay on the cutting edge and continue to lead in their industries. When paired with an asset management solution, asset tracking can help you stay ahead in the industry because you’ll know what assets are behind developments and be able to quickly switch out technology that will communicate status like tilt, shock, temperature, etc.
- Simplify record keeping: In some industries, record keeping is required, and it can be a long process to try and do it all at once. Asset tracking can simplify the process because your company will always be keeping records of its assets.
- Make tax season easier: Tax season can be a complicated process for many companies, but asset tracking can make it a little easier. With a good asset tracking system in place, you will already know what your assets are and what the breakdowns for each department are.
- Smooth operations, especially with remote workforces: Switching out assets, transitioning to new work styles, and more can potentially slow down operations and lead to awkward gaps. But asset tracking can help smooth operations by making it easy to switch, transition, and adjust. This is especially true with remote workforces, as tracking will let the administrative team easily know who has what and make adjustments quickly when necessary.
Strategies for Asset Tracking
Just as asset tracking can take many forms, there are many strategies that your business can use:
#1: Paper and pen
Paper and pen asset tracking is the most traditional method, and now one of the least common. Originally this was the only way to track your assets, but now there are a variety of other strategies. While it’s a traditional method that worked for many companies for years, this strategy isn’t the strongest to use in the digital age.
The main drawback of a paper and pen tracking system is that it isn’t searchable. To find where an asset is, an employee will have to search through all the records until they find the right one—instead of quickly entering a search term. Pen and paper records are also more difficult to update and adjust. Updating the paper records also takes valuable employee time. So pen and paper asset tracking really only works well for companies with few physical assets to manage. A small business office could use pen and paper to manage just fine. But for larger organizations, this method might be something of the past.
There are many software programs and applications that make using spreadsheets easier than ever and that can provide a variety of ways to use spreadsheets. Spreadsheets have the advantage of being searchable and easy to update and change. In addition, if you choose a web based spreadsheet, it can be accessed, updated, and adjusted from anywhere with an internet connection—not just the office computer where it’s saved.
But spreadsheets need to be managed carefully to be fully effective. If too many people have editing access to the spreadsheet, it’s very likely that errors in the sheet will occur. Some companies let employees adjust the assets themselves, which can lead to entries in the wrong columns or missing assets. So to use a spreadsheet effectively, companies should have a clear system of who has access to edit and who is responsible for managing the spreadsheet entries. With proper management, spreadsheets can be an effective tool.
In addition to tools to manage assets, companies also need to actually be able to track assets and know where they are. Global positioning systems (GPS) can be a way to do that. GPS can be used to track assets—especially valuable and important assets—in real-time. GPS tracking began with fleet management, but it can be used with many other industries as well. With GPS technology in digital technology assets, you can know where each asset is at all times. GPS can be very useful to reduce the risk of loss and theft because you will have real-time tracking and data for each valuable tech asset.
The one drawback with GPS is that it requires a large amount of energy to track everything. In addition, the assets must be capable of GPS tracking. Luckily, most highly valuable assets are able to use GPS tech. If you are looking to track a fleet, GPS can be one of the most valuable methods since everything will have a way to connect to GPS. Overall, GPS can be an effective way to track valuable assets and keep track of everything.
#4: Near Field Communication (NFC)
Near Field Communication (NFC) is a strong short-range way to track assets. One advantage of NFC is that you don’t need any scanning technology to make it work. Instead, you can use a smartphone to track assets. In addition, NFC tech doesn’t take time to process or load, so you can essentially have instant access to location information. But NFC is only for nearby assets. With a smartphone, you may only have a range of a few inches. So NFC technology won’t work to track a fleet or remote laptops, but it can be a powerful tool within the office space.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) uses radio waves to track product information. The data from a product or asset will pass through a RFID scanning device and then be stored in a database where you are able to see all the asset information. RFID is also known for its security, so you don’t have to worry about the data you’re storing.
The Bottom Line
Overall, asset tracking is keeping tabs on every physical asset your company has. Asset tracking can effectively help businesses operate smoothly and manage what assets they have. There are many ways to go about tracking assets, but ultimately the best strategies are the ones that work for your company, and most companies benefit from using a variety of strategies together.