How to Choose, Design & Manage Barcode Asset Tags

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Companies and organizations of all sizes and scopes use barcode asset tags to identify and track their fixed assets. For those who haven’t yet implemented such a system, determining how to get started can be a bit confusing because there’s not just one way to track and manage fixed assets. Barcode asset tags come in different varieties and materials, and the fixed asset tracking systems with which they sync are many and varied, as well. The best barcode asset tags and asset tracking system for your company can give you the flexibility to track and manage your fixed assets any way you want, in as user-friendly a manner as possible.

Let’s get started with the basics.

What are barcode asset tags?

Barcode asset tags display machine-readable code and are attached to fixed assets as a quick and easy means of identification throughout each asset’s useful life.

What is asset tagging and verification? Asset tagging describes the process by which a fixed asset (for example, computer hardware and software, office furniture, machinery) is labeled so that it may be tracked by the company that manages these items. Asset tagging makes it possible for users to quickly look up a fixed asset from an asset inventory label and determine details about its condition, maintenance history, the identity of the individual who currently has it, its check-in/check-out status, depreciation, and other vital details. Asset verification involves a physical audit of fixed assets to ensure that assets have been tagged and cataloged properly. One example of an asset verification process would be making sure that the serial number recorded for an asset is correctly associated with the barcode attached to it. This process can help companies determine whether their fixed asset data is accurate. By creating a consistent fixed asset tagging and verification process, companies gain the assurance of knowing that all of the details that come up in an asset tracking platform when an asset tag is scanned are correct so that they can make decisions with confidence.

Asset verification is important for two reasons. First, organizations should always know the fixed assets they have, what condition those items are in and where they should be located. Second, they’re required to keep tabs on that information for accounting and, often, compliance purposes, so routine audits must be conducted. Throughout the year, administrators have to record in the system any fixed assets that have been disposed of as well as any that have been added, and they also have to keep up with depreciation. Additionally, they should be able to track how and where assets are being used, which ones aren’t being used and which are candidates for retirement and replacement. Regular asset verification can ensure that companies are using and replacing the right equipment at the right time.

In the long term, barcode asset tags and asset management save companies time, increase their efficiency, can reduce theft and waste, identify and eliminate shadow IT, and generate cost savings. The ability to accurately track fixed assets allows them to keep up with routine maintenance and updates, maximize the lifespan of these items and avoid early replacement costs.

Until recently, logging the barcode on an asset meant writing it down or entering it into an Excel spreadsheet. What happens after that? Often, a lot of confusion. Let’s say you have multiple employees assigned to the task of managing and tracking your fixed assets. Human error is an all-too-common occurrence. A typo here, a missed keystroke there, and those mistakes can throw off your record keeping. You might have duplication of efforts or simple oversight as your employees become distracted by all of the day-to-day tasks for which they’re responsible. When it comes time to locate an asset, employees might spend hours spinning their wheels in search of the item if you’ve been relying on manual processes. Confusion, frustration and wasted time are the results.

In addition, if there are gaps in your records of any kind you could very well end up paying insurance on assets that aren’t even in your inventory anymore. Those items, called “ghost assets,” could remain undetected for months or even years. With manual record-keeping, it’s also easy to overlook the periodic maintenance or updates your assets need. A relatively minor repair could turn into a major overhaul or even a premature equipment replacement, costing unnecessary time and money. Tightening up your procedures with a more automated, centralized approach can significantly add to your bottom line in terms of money, time and morale.

What types of barcode asset tags are available?

Among the most important considerations when setting up asset management is determining the type of asset tag you'll use. Barcodes come in many different forms, and barcode labels can be purchased to cover a wide range of applications.

There are two types of barcodes: 1-dimensional (1D) and 2-dimensional (2D) barcodes. The most common example of 1D barcodes is the UPC code found on consumer goods. 2D barcodes are more complex and store a larger amount of information, including images if desired. Perhaps the most commonly recognized 2D barcode is the QR, or quick response, code, which can store up to 4,000 characters of text and may include URLs.

1D barcodes are often used when labeling an item that will have additional data stored in a separate system. A flexible asset tracking platform can scan a very simple ID number and provide a wealth of information about an asset. These barcodes can be affixed to almost any kind of asset and are made in a variety of materials from printable paper labels to pre-printed industrial-strength metal. The material chosen will depend on the environment the label will be used in, and can help provide resistance from simple abrasion (for a laptop tag) or chemicals and high heat (for a heavy equipment tag).

How do I design a barcode asset tag?

To design your own barcode tags, you'll want to start by identifying what assets you'd like to track. You'll want to prioritize assets that are mobile, in high demand and/or easily lost.

Once you've determined what you'll be labeling, you'll want to make sure to follow some best practices:

  • Every label should be unique. Purchasing sequential barcode labels can help ensure you avoid duplication.
  • Size to fit. Laptops have plenty of space to attach a label, but you might find you need something smaller for certain tools or equipment. Consider buying a variety of label sizes as needed to accommodate your needs.
  • Avoid leading zeroes. Instead of starting with "0000001", start with "1000001". This will help make sure your labels are compatible with any barcode tracking system.
  • Keep it simple. Larger labels can often be more expensive, so don't overload your labels with too much information (text, logos, warnings, etc.). In some cases, it might make more sense to buy a separate, theft-resistant label if you need to tag assets as "Property of...".
  • Print ID numbers on your labels. If the barcode on the label gets damaged you should still be able to look up the asset by its ID number, and vice versa.

If you don't need highly durable tags, some asset tracking systems like Asset Panda can help you easily design and generate barcode labels that can be printed on a label sheet with a standard office printer or specialized label printer.

Asset management with your new barcode asset tags

Note that your barcode asset tags are only as effective as the asset management system you choose. To maximize your chances for success, aim for a system that’s flexible, comprehensive and user-friendly, so you can get all of your stakeholders on board easily. You want a system that provides transparency and can help you more effectively manage your assets, reduce your security risks, help your organization achieve license optimization and ultimately maximize the overall life cycle of these assets.

That’s the philosophy behind Asset Panda’s highly configurable SaaS platform.

Asset Panda offers clients the most powerful, yet simple to use approach for tracking and monitoring fixed assets. With a mobile app available for both iOS and Android, the system contains everything you need to track the complete lifecycle of any asset. It even includes a mobile barcode scanner so you won’t need to purchase a separate handheld scanner or any additional hardware or software, for that matter. Everything you need to track the lifecycle of your fixed assets is already in the palm of your hand.

From your smartphone or tablet, you can simply scan the barcode for each of your assets, then add supporting documents, photos, videos or voice notes. Drop a pin with an asset’s exact location every time you scan it, and record the identity of the person who has it, its check-in/check-out status, complete maintenance history, insurance policy information, lease/purchase information, and more. All of your data is served up in real time 24 hours a day because Asset Panda syncs with the cloud – and that gives you the assurance that you’re making decisions based on timely, accurate information.

Asset Panda also makes asset labeling easy, enabling you to generate and print your own barcodes and maintains partnerships with experts who can help you determine the right material and durability for your unique needs.

You can use Asset Panda to create custom reports, conduct audits on an ongoing basis, schedule maintenance, and even cut down on your support call volume if you use the tool as an enterprise service desk. You’re entitled to an unlimited number of users at no additional charge and given complete access to our entire feature set, which continues to grow. Based on the philosophy that clients should be able to track their assets any way they want, Asset Panda is completely customizable from the dashboard, fields and columns to the notifications, alerts, security settings, calendar feature and more. The app is flexible enough to incorporate new technologies as they become available in the future, and it’s incredibly intuitive and easy to use.

Whether you're looking to more effectively manage your IT assets or other fixed assets, Asset Panda can help you take the first step toward better business practices. For a deeper dive on the system, get a demo today!

By:

Courtney Roush

Courtney Roush is a freelance writer, editor, and communications strategist with 25 years of experience. Her favorite discipline is crisis communications – and it’s a highly relevant one in our present times.

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