Asset Tracking Basics

Start Asset Tracking
Decide What to Track
Select Handheld
Determine Unique Asset Identifier
Produce Barcodes
Review Location Listing
Perform Complete Inventory if you are Creating your Asset Database
Perform Baseline Inventory (QuickScan and QuickScanPlus Modules)
Review Baseline Reconciliation
Create Location Grouping Assignments
Review List of Models
Review Employee List
Capture Details of Moves, Adds, and Changes
Perform Verification Inventory
Review Verification Reconciliation
Enjoy Improved Accuracy and Peace of Mind

Start Asset Tracking

The following are some ideas to help you get going with your asset tracking. Some of you may already be doing some or all of it so you can scan through this to see if there are any ideas that could help your organization. If you are not sure if you should take the effort to track assets look at the Return on Investment information.

Decide What to Track

1. Many customers review their biggest exposure and quickest return on investment and decide to focus their asset tracking efforts on their IT equipment.
2. After deciding what dollar value of assets and what type of assets you want to track, you need to determine a unique identifier for each asset.

Select Handheld

1. Our Asset Tracking System allows you to use handhelds with or without integrated scanners. Most people use devices with integrated scanners. Commonly the integrated scanners are also ruggedized which helps when the units get banged around while doing work.
2. Give us a call and we will listen to your budget and plans and give you recommendations. Many customers have handhelds from a different project that are no longer being used. Let us know what models they are and we will tell you if you can use them with our software. By not having to buy new handhelds, you will save as much as half of the total amount to implement our Asset Tracking System.

Determine Unique Asset Identifier

1. A barcode is the most common unique identifier for an asset.
2. The Serial Number is used by some as the unique identifier. Periodically a customer using Serial Number will find two different assets with the same serial number, but it is not very common. The fewer assets you are tracking, the less likely you are to run into this. One nice thing about this is that many assets have the serial number already barcoded as it comes from the manufacturer. If you plan on using this, know that different manufacturers sometimes barcode the serial number a little differently from each other (for example adding characters to the barcode on the outside of the box that are not included in the serial number barcode that is actually on the asset).
3. The most common unique identifier is a number that has no text included in the unique identifier. Someone may have the idea that it would make sense to include some letters in the unique identifier to indicate that it is part of the purchasing department, in the remote office building, or something else. Doing this does not usually end up being as big of a benefit as they initially hoped. Assets are transferred to different departments and are moved to new locations all the time. The easiest and simplest is to just assign a unique numeric identifier, have the barcode match that unique identifier, and when you scan that unique number the handhelds will find a match and pull up the correct asset record with all the related date fields.

Produce Barcodes

1. Using preprinted asset tags. The most common means of applying barcodes to assets it to have a preprinted sequential batch of barcodes. Apply these to the assets as they are received. Some customers have their vendors apply the barcodes for them before they ship.
2. Buying barcode printing hardware and supplies. If you have barcode printing objectives that do not go along with the sequential preprinted barcodes, then purchasing your own equipment makes sense. Some customers like to print barcodes of existing unique identifiers rather than a new sequential number. It requires much more labor to go this route than applying the sequential barcodes.
3. Another reason to buy your own equipment would be to print location barcodes. Although you would want a unique identifier for a location, you would also want to print the human readable text that is associated with the location such as “Central Building/2nd Floor”. The unique location barcode may actually be 5641976, but the human text also included on the tag would help the handheld user.
4. Inside a door frame is a common place to adhere the location barcode. As each new location is entered, the handheld user simply scans the location barcode and then begins scanning assets within that location.
5. If you want to try a few things out on your own before deciding to buy preprinted barcodes or printing hardware, you can download a 3 of 9 barcode font to your computer (just the same way that you would if you installed the font “Arial”) and print some barcodes to test with. Excel is easy to use. You just need to add an asterisk at the beginning and the end of each barcode value. The concatenate command is easy. Here is the format of the formula: =concatenate(“*”,[valuetobarcodegoeshereorreferenceanothercell],”*”). Call us if you have any questions on this.
6. Tamper Evident tags when pulled off make it evident that someone removed a tag. Metal tags or vinyl tags also make good choices depending on your environment and objectives. Call and discuss what you want to do and we will give you barcode suggestions. You can purchase barcodes from us if you like, but it is not necessary. The ATS application reads the common barcode formats.

Review Location Listing

1. Before beginning your asset tracking, review your locations and see if your master list of locations is complete. Sometimes the locations are not complete for new facilities or maybe they need to be a little more detailed.
2. Sub-locations are very useful. We find that using sub-locations is very useful when tracking assets. Rather than having a location that is good for an entire building, having sub-locations down to the sector, room, or cubicle always helps technicians doing the inventory and those who service the assets in one way or another.
3. When doing the verification inventory (where you edit values of the assets, assign users, change status, etc.), the smaller the area where they are supposed to be able to find an asset, the more efficient they will be as they look for the asset.

Perform Complete Inventory if you are Creating your Asset Database

1. If you do not have a database of your existing assets that you can start with, before doing a baseline inventory or a verification inventory, you will need to do a complete inventory to add all of your assets as new assets. To do this, use the handheld, go to each asset and capture all the relevant data such as location, barcode, serial number, category, brand, model, user, status, and anything else you need. Make sure your location list is in good shape before starting. Also, the better your models list, the easier it will be to add the category, brand, and model information for the new assets.
2. Some customers have an existing database of asset records, but they have very little confidence in the accuracy of the data so they begin their asset tracking efforts by adding all records as new so that they can have a high confidence level in the new asset database.

Perform Baseline Inventory

1. The first step is to make sure that you know which assets you have and where you can find them. Doing a baseline inventory is just going through and indicating the location you are in and then scanning every asset that you want to track. This marks each asset in the correct location and updates the date inventoried. If you do not want to preload the handheld with any asset data, you can use a QuickScan data capture module.
2. When you do a baseline inventory, you can do it by location, by user, by stockroom, by cost center, etc.  

Review Baseline Reconciliation

Once you do the baseline inventory for your entire organization, then you can run reports to find out which assets you did not find anywhere in your organization. The reason you wait until the end is because assets get moved from one place to another quite frequently.

Create Location Grouping Assignments

For each user, take the time to specify which locations of assets this user should have access to. For example, if you have a user in Miami, set the location grouping assignment to “Miami” so that they only get the assets for Miami and not the entire set of corporate assets from around the state, country, or globe.

Review List of Models

In preparation for your verification inventory, many give their users the ability to add new assets on the handhelds. In order to be able to add new assets on the handhelds and in the web interface, there needs to be a complete list of the models of assets you manage and are ordering. By making sure this list is ready and that the list includes the relationships between category, brand, and model of asset, you will get consistent data entry from the handheld users as they create new assets with the handhelds.

Review Employee List

1. Also in preparation for your verification inventory, you should review the employee records you are sending to the handhelds. In this verification phase of the inventory work, many companies assign individual users or department supervisors as the person responsible for an asset. If your handheld users need to be able to change and reassign users to assets as part of the moves, adds, and changes, then making the employee list as accurate as possible will help.
2. Make sure to only include active employees to minimize the amount of time necessary to send the employee records to the handheld.
3. Another way to make sure that your employee list is minimized to each handheld user is to review the locations assigned to each user. The Asset Tracking module only sends employee records to the handheld if the location for a given employee record fits within the location grouping assignments for the user profile. For example, if the location associated with an employee record is California, then no California employee records will be loaded to a handheld for a Florida user.

Capture Details of Moves, Adds, and Changes

The baseline inventory gives you the accurate location and an updated date inventoried. All the moving, adding, and changing of assets that goes on during the normal course of business affects the quality of your asset information. You should incorporate procedures that include updates for all these changes to locations, users, and other details of the assets. For example, new assets received need to be added to your database. Assets that are brought to a stock location for some reason need to be updated. All these types of regular updates will ensure the overall accuracy of your asset data. Any of this type of work can be accomplished using any of the CG4 module templates.

Perform Verification Inventory

1. Once the baseline inventory is complete, you may want to do a verification or audit inventory to review the asset information in a more detailed approach. This time when you scan the barcode, the handheld pulls up all the relevant asset information such as status, user, and many other potential fields of information that you have decided to send to the handheld users. As the CG4 administrator, you control which fields of information go to the handhelds, if they are read only, if a dropdown is used to edit, what the fields are labeled, the position of the field on the handheld screen, etc. You control which user gets access to which assets (you can define by location, by category of asset, or both of those, or some other criteria along with locations. You control whether a given user can edit an asset, create an asset, etc. with the handhelds.  You control which business rules are in place for each CG4 module.
2. All these tools are designed so that as you decide what you need your handheld technicians to do, you can control the data to achieve your objectives with as little risk as you desire. Some clients give only read access to handheld users (only location and date inventoried are updated) while others give full edit and creation access to all fields of asset information.  You have the tools to do what you need or to change your mind down the road if your objectives change.  Some customers put the rules in place before doing an initial baseline inventory and work to accomplish all requirements with a single inventory effort.
3. During the verification inventory, the user goes to the locations and scans all the assets in that location (that they are trained and allowed to do) and then makes any edits. Once they are done, they check to see if they have found everything by looking at the ‘Not Found’ function. The smaller the defined locations, the easier it is to find the assets not initially scanned. Every asset the handheld user finds is one less to worry about in the reconciliation function.
4. As each user completes a session, they can review their work with the ‘View Changes’ function on the handheld if they are scanning in offline mode. It shows all the Inventoried, Changed, and New assets that have been added in the current session. The user can delete mistakes and review all work before sending it to the CG4 Central server. This step helps the data coming from all of the handheld users to be as clean and accurate as possible to minimize the work required by you the manager or administrator.

Review Verification Reconciliation

After your verification inventory, run reports from your database to see which assets have not been inventoried or accounted for. Methodically begin to research the items. Send questions to the managers most recently assigned to those assets and get them to help you understand where the asset(s) went. If you assign individual users to your assets, then contacting the last user assigned to the asset also helps. Make changes to your database to match what you find from your results.

Enjoy Improved Accuracy and Peace of Mind

Many benefits will be achieved as you increase the percentage of accuracy in your asset data. The more accurate the information, the better the decisions and the more money you and your team have saved the company. See the Return on Investment ideas included in our website. Also refer to the Best Practices information.