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Updated Oct 20, 2023

Asset-Tracking Best Practices

Tracking reusable, vital assets is key to a successful business.

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Matt D'Angelo, Business Operations Insider and Senior Writer
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This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

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Staying on top of your company’s assets is a critical business practice, particularly for entrepreneurs and small business owners whose livelihoods often hinge on using business assets as efficiently as possible. 

Implementing an asset-tracking system gives you greater control over your assets, along with increased operational visibility. We’ll explore asset-tracking technology and methods and explain why such solutions are an essential component of any growing small business. 

What is asset tracking?

Logging and tracking data is a critical aspect of running a small business. For example, as a business owner, logging and tracking inventory, employee hours, accounts receivable, wages and overall business expenses are regular tasks. Additionally, marketing professionals routinely track audience engagement. Tracking vital business assets is another component of running an efficient, successful business. 

Technology makes asset tracking manageable via software and hardware solutions that help you monitor critical business assets across the community, state, country or even the world. 

Asset-tracking technology can boost your ability to see all aspects of your operations. This increased visibility can lead to enhanced efficiency and a better bottom line. 

Asset tracking is a crucial yet often overlooked aspect of running a business. Investing in asset-tracking technology can help you create a stronger, more efficient organization.

Did You Know?Did you know
GPS fleet management is an asset-tracking type that makes sure vehicles operate efficiently and drivers are safe and responsible. Read our reviews of the best GPS fleet management solutions if your business needs this type of transportation tracking.

What types of assets do businesses track?

If your business has any physical assets, you might benefit from asset tracking. These are some trackable assets:

  • Heavy vehicle equipment, like cranes, bulldozers and tractors
  • Fuel storage tanks
  • Propane tanks
  • Chemical totes
  • Beer kegs
  • Shipping containers
  • Rental equipment
  • Forklifts
  • Medical equipment
  • Laboratory equipment
  • Expensive tools

As the market for returnable assets increases, asset tracking will continue to grow as an essential small business function. 

You can track almost anything related to your business. Brainstorm with partners and your leadership team to determine which physical assets are essential for your business’s operation. Identifying these assets is the first step toward tracking them and, ultimately, saving your business money.

FYIDid you know
Not all business assets are physical. While you can’t track them, intangible assets, including patents and intellectual property, are crucial to your business.

How does asset tracking work?

Before committing to an asset-tracking solution, you should understand how such things work. In the past, companies would track assets in analog form with pen and paper. However, this method was inefficient and didn’t provide many insights. 

As technology developed, many businesses adopted enterprise resource planning (ERP) as an asset-tracking method. While ERP is an excellent way to automate the tracking process, one of its shortcomings is the inability to track individual assets efficiently. Today, smartphones with high-resolution cameras are slowly updating the ERP process to incorporate scanning, tracking and identifying business assets more efficiently. 

While your business should explore various asset-tracking methods, asset tracking boils down to two main components: software and hardware. 

  • Hardware-based asset tracking: Some companies will provide you with hardware to install in specific types of assets. These devices will feed information back to a software platform that allows you to identify and monitor your assets. 
  • Software-based asset tracking: Other companies provide software-first tracking programs. This type of asset tracking handles the scanning and logging of critical company assets. 

Communicate with your sales representative to find the asset-tracking method that works best for your business. The right one for your company depends on your business, the assets you need to track and the information you want to gather in the tracking process. 

In addition to tracking your assets, protect them with the right small business insurance policies.

What are some common asset-tracking methods? 

Identify your company’s needs before signing up for an asset-tracking solution. Ask a sales representative for information and costs about the following asset-tracking methods: 

  • Barcodes
  • RFID
  • Active GPS tags
  • Geofencing

How do barcodes work in asset tracking? 

One of the most common methods of tracking assets is by scanning barcodes. Barcodes are ubiquitous in modern business, so it should be no surprise that they’re a common and effective way to track vital business assets. 

Here are some upsides to barcode-based asset tracking: 

  • It’s inexpensive. Barcode scanning is a low-cost, versatile option for tracking business assets. 
  • You get excellent asset data capture. With barcode-based asset tracking, you can capture a great deal of information. 
  • It’s immediate. You have immediate access to each asset’s location.

While its simple, fast approach can make barcode-based asset tracking ideal for many businesses, barcode scanning also has disadvantages:

  • It’s a manual process. The barcode-scanning process is usually manual, so you won’t see the advantages of an automated process. 
  • There’s a risk of damage. Barcodes can also become damaged, affecting how and when you can scan your assets.

If you use barcode asset tracking, you’ll also have to invest in hardware. Scanners can be part of a smartphone suite, or you can buy individual scanners for your asset-tracking process. 

How does RFID work in asset tracking?

RFID technology uses radio frequencies and chips to transmit information to a receiver. While RFID-based asset tracking is more automated than barcode scanning, it’s also less versatile. 

These are some of the benefits of RFID-based asset tracking: 

  • It works well for remote asset scanning. RFID technology’s remote-scanning feature is ideal for assets that aren’t easily accessible, especially larger assets that exist within containers. 
  • It’s excellent for scanning multiple assets. RFID-based asset tracking is ideal for business owners who need to scan multiple items simultaneously. 
  • It allows data storage and transmission from each asset. Because you can access data for each individual asset, RFID is ideal for highly valuable assets. 

Here are some of the downsides of RFID-based asset tracking: 

  • It’s expensive. One of the biggest cons of RFID-based asset tracking is its high cost compared to barcode scanning. 
  • It has inherent issues. Users also have to deal with potential RFID problems, including radio interference and missed scans. 

How do active GPS tags work in asset tracking?

GPS tag-based asset-tracking technology involves installing hardware in assets and tracking them via a software platform. Unlike barcode scanning and RFID, no human intervention is required for tracking these assets. The device within the asset sends location data back to the central platform on a per-minute basis (or hourly, depending on your package). 

GPS tag-based asset-tracking is ideal for tracking larger assets, but it’s likely the most expensive asset-tracking method you’ll encounter. 

How does geofencing work in asset tracking?

Geofencing is another asset-tracking method to keep in mind. With geofencing, you can create predetermined areas where assets must remain. If the assets exit these areas, you’ll be alerted and can begin the recovery process. 

Geofencing can be particularly advantageous to businesses renting equipment within a defined area. Geofencing provides invisible boundaries that ensure your equipment, tools or other assets remain where they’re supposed to be. 

Geofencing is also an excellent option for government contracting businesses that lease specialized equipment within offices or other predetermined areas of business operation.

What are the best practices for tracking assets?

Below are some best practices for implementing asset-tracking within your business.

Create different tags for each asset.

One of the most obvious but important parts of effectively tracking your assets is creating tags for each of them. QR codes can be useful tags, as you can scan them with a mobile device and view all the data stored for each asset. This way, you can easily assess information about all your assets without worrying about duplicating serial numbers or recording errors.

Organize your data.

Once you’ve created a network of assets with tags and recorded information, it’s important to ensure that this data is stored in a central location. This way, all the details you need are at your fingertips. You can use this information to identify trends, generate reports and make informed decisions based on the data you’ve gathered and analyzed over time.

Set benchmarks.

It’s important to know your assets’ current performance level along with how well you need your assets to perform. Benchmarks are your starting point for assessing this performance. For example, you might determine that you need a certain product to generate 100 units every day. In this case, you know your benchmark is 100 units, so any production amount below this number calls for attention.

Create – and iterate on – an implementation plan.

Once you’ve identified which assets you want to track and how, you’ll need to create a strategic plan for implementing asset tracking within your company. To start, train your employees to use the software involved in your asset-tracking process. As they learn and work through your process, get their feedback. This way, you can regularly adjust your procedure to make asset tracking work equally well for your capital and your team.

Tracking the foundations of your business

There are many assets involved in your business, and keeping up with them involves more than making a list and logging new additions. Instead, putting a strategic implementation process in place can help you closely monitor some of the most important parts of your business. It can even improve asset performance and output. It’s a great way to get more bang for your buck – with the resources you already have.

Shayna Waltower contributed to this article. 

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Matt D'Angelo, Business Operations Insider and Senior Writer
Matt D'Angelo has spent several years reviewing business software products for small businesses, such as GPS fleet management systems. He has also spent significant time evaluating financing solutions, including business loan providers. He has a firm grasp of the business lifecycle and uses his years of research to give business owners actionable insights. With a journalism degree from James Madison University, D'Angelo specializes in distilling complex business topics into easy-to-read guides filled with expertise and practical applications. In addition, D'Angelo has profiled notable small businesses and the people behind them.
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