Asset tracking is an essential business process for many businesses today, spanning companies of all sizes from small businesses to enterprises and an array of industries from manufacturing to education, warehouse, healthcare, and many others. Asset tracking systems are multi-faceted, relying on a combination of asset tags, barcode readers, and software to centralize and manage data.
The whole system falls apart with asset tags that lose readability over time due to deterioration from exposure to outdoor elements, chemicals, cleaners, and other environmental conditions. That’s why choosing the right asset tags for your applications is crucial for the longevity of your system – and your investments.
With many different types of asset tags, materials, and durability considerations, selecting the right asset tags for your business needs can be challenging. This guide will help you understand the various types of asset tags, materials used in the most durable asset tags, what assets you should be tracking within your company, and everything you need to know to configure an asset tracking system that meets your business requirements and integrates with your overall asset management framework.
Benefits of Asset Tags and Asset Tracking Solutions
Asset tags serve as the foundation for an asset tracking process, enabling organizations to monitor equipment usage, plan regular maintenance and repairs, maintain compliance, streamline reporting and re-ordering, and optimize overall operations.
- Speeding documentation and improving accuracy by reducing human error resulting from manual documentation
- Minimizing loss with greater visibility into company assets
- Improved productivity
- Deep analysis capabilities for identifying your most productive assets, maintaining service delivery standards, and more
- Increasing profits through better planning, forecasting, and reporting, in addition to reducing unnecessary purchases, unplanned outages, and unexpected repairs
Applications for Asset Tags: How are Asset Tags Used?
Many companies think that only movable assets should be tracked. After all, fixed assets are always in the same place, so it seems unnecessary to utilize an asset tag to keep tabs on its location. But tracking fixed assets is an equally important component of your overall asset management process, because asset tags allow you to track much more than just the location of your company’s assets.
There are a wide variety of use cases for asset tags, even among companies in the same industry. As asset tags are used across a spectrum of verticals, it’s difficult to estimate the precise number of possible use cases, particularly as enterprises are making use of legacy tools like asset tags in increasingly innovative ways.
A few common use case examples for asset tags (used in conjunction with an asset management software application) include:
- Monitoring equipment scheduling between departments, through check-in, check-out processes that generate alerts when an item has not been checked in by its due date.
- Keeping up with warranty service contracts, which helps to maintain your most expensive operating equipment in good working order. This reduces the number of workflow interruptions and delays you’d experience due to unanticipated equipment malfunctions. In some industries, this creates unexpected outages and interrupts service delivery, impacting customer satisfaction.
- Streamlining accounting, compliance, and tax reporting by facilitating easy calculation of asset depreciation, accurate asset valuation, and easy reporting for compliance purposes.
- Overall improved inventory control, including prompts for scheduling maintenance and alerts for low inventory counts for streamlined re-ordering. Unexpected equipment malfunctions can turn into extended delays when necessary parts are out of stock.
What Types of Assets Should You Be Tracking?
The first step in determining which types of asset tags to consider is identifying the assets that your organization should be tracking. Assets fall into two primary categories: fixed assets and movable assets, as discussed above.
Examples of Fixed Assets:
- Office furniture, such as desks and database servers
- Machinery, such as tractors and manufacturing conveyor belts
- Equipment, such as heavy construction equipment or hospital equipment (x-ray or CT scan equipment, etc.)
- Signs, such as road signs, facility or building signs
- Buildings, factories, and fixtures
- HVAC equipment
Intangible assets are also considered fixed assets. This would include things like goodwill, patents, or trademarks. For the purposes of this guide, fixed assets refers only to tangible assets which are trackable using asset tags and barcode labels.
Examples of Moveable Assets:
- Audio-visual equipment, such as projectors shared across departments
- Computers, printers, and other electronics
- Filing cabinets and storage cabinets (some classify these types of assets under the furniture umbrella of fixed assets)
Essentially, anything that is not affixed to land or a building that cannot be easily moved could be considered a fixed asset; however, there is some flexibility in how you choose to classify your assets. In fact, some companies use a variety of different labels to classify their assets, including:
- Long-term assets
- Liquid assets
- Current assets
- Tangible assets
- Intangible assets
- Value appreciating assets
- Value depreciating assets
This is not an exhaustive list of possible categorization options for company assets, but helps to illustrate the many options businesses may use to classify assets in a manner that makes sense for the company. Asset classification is influenced by your accounting methods, so your accounting firm can offer insight into the best classification system for your business.
So how do you determine which assets you should be tracking? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer that applies to every business; the assets that one company chooses to track could differ substantially from the assets tracked by another organization. Generally, you should track any assets that require ongoing maintenance and repair, all high-value assets that are depreciated, and assets that are shared between departments or locations. Some companies use asset tags to streamline inventory management, and others use asset tags to perform compliance audits, reduce loss, and for many other purposes.
Questions to Ask When Configuring an Asset Management System
When implementing an asset management system, there are several key questions to consider in order to help you select the right asset tags, software, and barcode readers for your needs:
- What volume of assets will you be tracking? Will you be tracking a few dozen high-value assets or thousands of assets across your company?
- What types of assets are you tracking? Fixed assets, movable assets, or a combination of both? You should also consider whether you’re tracking assets prone to theft or loss, assets for which you need to monitor maintenance schedules, and other use case considerations.
- Are you tracking assets across multiple locations or job sites? If so, how many locations will you need to track assets across on a regular basis?
- What types of reports will you need to generate? This impacts the type of data that you’ll need to collect using asset tags.
- How many users do you have? What key roles will be managing assets or tracking assets to document use, relocation, maintenance, and other activities?
Asset Tag Materials, Durability, and Environmental Considerations
Asset tags are constructed of various materials; the materials used play a role in the durability of an asset tag in different environments. For indoor use such as general office use, asset tags are commonly printed on polyester, polypropylene, or vinyl. A clear polyester film overlay adds greater protection and enables asset tags to resist exposure to things like oil and water, general purpose cleaners, and mild acids.
For applications requiring greater durability, such as manufacturing or chemical processing environments, Metalphoto® anodized aluminum is the material of choice. These labels are created with a unique manufacturing process, where the label’s image is below the surface for superior resistance to extreme heat and cold, UV, and chemicals and solvents, as well as abrasion. While these materials offer superior durability, they can be used for many different applications from laptops to machinery, and they’re suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. Both rigid Metalphoto and foil asset tags (.003″ Metalphoto anodized aluminum) have an expected exterior lifespan of 20+ years.
In specialty applications such as warehouse settings, asset tags are printed on a variety of different materials depending on the application specifications. For instance, asset tags for warehouse applications may be printed on polyester with reflective-film coating for long-range scanning distances of up to 50 feet. Other asset tags and labels for warehouse use may be printed on Metalphoto, polyester, or polypropylene, as well as rigid plastic backers for custom warehouse signs, anodized aluminum, and other materials.
For applications requiring resistance to harsh processes such as repeated cleaning, painting, e-coat or powder coating, Teflon® coating may be used on aluminum asset tags for superior durability. These asset tags, such as Camcode’s Metalphoto Bar Code Label with Teflon, are often used in industrial applications. Stainless steel asset tags, made of 304 or 316 Alloy Stainless Steel, are a good choice when you need durable asset tags that offer robust performance in highly caustic environments, such as food processing, medical, laboratory, chemical, petroleum, or textile environments. In these applications, asset tags must be able to withstand frequent cleaning and exposure to strong caustics.
Understanding the Types of Asset Tags
Because asset tags are used in a variety of applications, asset tags are not a one-size-fits-all purchase. To accommodate various use cases, there are a multitude of asset tag types and designs that are suitable for different purposes.
Durable Asset Tags for Indoor and Outdoor Use
Foil Asset Tags: These asset tags are also known as foil asset labels. A durable asset tag suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, Camcode’s Metalphoto Foil Labels remain readable throughout the life of your assets. These labels are designed for exceptional durability offering excellent resistance to extreme cold, heat, and UV. The expected exterior life for Camcode’s Metalphoto Foil Labels exceeds 20 years when treated with Camcode’s image intensification process.
Constructed of a .003″ anodized aluminum face stock (.005″ optional) with a high-performance permanent pressure-sensitive adhesive designed to permanently bond to high surface energy metals and plastics as well as textured and contoured surfaces, Camcode’s foil asset tags are an ideal choice for many general use applications where assets may be exposed to outdoor elements, chemicals, abrasion, or solvents. These asset tags also double as security asset tags, as they will fracture with attempted removal.
Rigid Aluminum Asset Tags: For applications requiring top-notch durability, Camcode’s Rigid Metalphoto Aluminum Asset Tags offer superior durability for use in the harshest environments. Rigid aluminum asset tags are often used in the manufacturing, telecom, and cable industries, as well as in healthcare, industrial, and chemical processing applications.
Camcode’s Rigid Metalphoto Aluminum Asset Tags are constructed of .020″ anodized aluminum face stock (optional thicknesses from .008″ to .063″), with the image sealed beneath an anodic layer of the aluminum for enhanced resistance to extreme cold, heat, and UV, as well as chemicals, abrasion, and solvents. For your harshest applications, rigid aluminum asset tags are a durable, reliable option.
Durable Asset Tags for Indoor Use
Premium Polyester Asset Labels: Typically marked with your company name, asset number, and barcode, Camcode’s Premium Polyester Bar Code Labels are constructed of 2.0 mil gloss white polyester face stock over-laminated with a 1.0 mil clear polyester film. An 0.8 mil general purpose permanent pressure-sensitive adhesive offers high initial tack for permanent bonding to both high and low surface energy plastics as well as surfaces that are slightly textured or contoured.
The over-laminate shields polyester asset labels against abrasion and chemicals. These asset labels offer good resistance to general purpose cleaners, oil and water, and mild acids. While premium polyester asset labels are most often used for indoor applications without exposure to harsh chemicals and other environmental hazards, Camcode’s Premium Polyester Bar Code Labels do have an expected exterior life span of about two years.
Asset Tags with Security Features
Tamper-Evident Asset Tags: Designed for moveable assets that are prone to theft or loss, Camcode’s Tamper-Evident Asset Tag protects against tampering and unauthorized transfer by leaving a clear “VOID” mark on both the label material and the mating surface when the label is removed.
Tamper-evident asset tags are constructed of 2.0 mil gloss white polyester face stock. They’re over-laminated with a 1.0 mil clear polyester film which provides good resistance to chemicals and abrasion. A 0.7 mil high-performance permanent pressure-sensitive adhesive bonds permanently to various surfaces, such as high and low surface energy plastics, stainless steel, glass, and nylon.
Destructible Vinyl Asset Tags: Another asset tag option that deters theft, tampering, and unauthorized transfer, Camcode’s Destructible Vinyl Asset Tags break apart if someone attempts to remove a label from its surface. Constructed of a 2.0 mil white cast vinyl face stock with a 0.8 mil pressure-sensitive adhesive to permanently bond to a variety of surfaces, these labels are impossible to remove in one piece.
Camcode’s Destructible Vinyl Asset Tags offer good resistance to oil and water, mild acids, and general purpose cleaners, making them best suited for indoor use. For your high-value assets that are easily moveable and subject to possible theft or unauthorized transfer, these destructible vinyl asset tags provide a clear deterrent for added security.
Foil Asset Tags: Described above under Durable Asset Tags for Indoor and Outdoor Use, Camcode’s Metalphoto Foil Labels offer a useful security feature in that they will fracture should someone attempt to remove the label.
Asset Tags for Easy Re-Ordering
Two-Part Asset Tags: Do you have assets that require frequent re-ordering? This use case is common in the healthcare industry, where providers may use essential supplies in rushed situations and don’t have time to locate a barcode scanner to document the use of the asset. Two-part asset labels are the easy solution, allowing workers to simply pull the second label from the asset and adhere it to a patient chart or other documentation. For inventory-based assets, two-part asset tags streamline the process of re-ordering and record keeping.
Camcode’s Two-Part Asset Tags clearly mark and identify assets with your company name, the asset number, and a barcode. The second removable tab contains identical information, offering the ability to quickly remove and attach the label to your records for greater accuracy and efficiency. These labels are constructed with a 2.0 mil gloss white polyester face stock that is over-laminated with a 1.0 mil clear polyester film to protect the barcode and improve readability over the life of your assets, offering resistance to oil and water, mild acids, and general purpose cleaners. An 0.8 mil high-performance permanent pressure-sensitive adhesive offers high initial tack for permanent bonding to slightly textured or contoured surfaces as well as high and low energy plastics.
Removable Asset Tags for Short-Term Asset Tracking
Removable Asset Labels: Not every asset requires lifetime tracking. You may also have assets that must be tracked as they move through your company, but eventually exit the organization. It doesn’t make sense to invest in permanent asset tags that may not integrate with the tracking system for the company acquiring the asset after it leaves your premises, nor does it make sense to make the investment in durable, permanent asset tags for assets that will be maintained by your company for only a short time.
Camcode’s Removable Asset Labels are the solution for this challenge, offering the durability you come to expect from Camcode coupled with the ability to easily and cleanly remove or reposition the asset tag. These removable asset tags are often used for applications such as chemical drums, parts inventory, shelf marking on storage racks, or shipping containers, though there are many possible uses for removable asset tags. Constructed of 3.5 mil biaxially-oriented polypropylene with a .85 mil adhesive that’s specifically formulated for clean removal, Camcode’s removable asset tags offer good resistance to general purpose cleaners, mild acids, oil and water.
Specialty Asset Tags Designed for Industry-Specific Applications
While by no means an exhaustive list, the types of asset tags described above represent the asset tags and labels designed for general purposes, and these different types of asset tags often find use cases spanning every industry. But for industries with precise application specifications, there are many other types of asset tags capable of meeting those requirements.
These categories include:
- UID Labels for MIL-STD-130
- Warehouse Bar Code Labels (including Warehouse Rack Labels, Retro-Reflective Labels, Hanging Warehouse Signs, and more)
- Stainless Steel Asset Tags (for robust performance in caustic environments)
- LDAR Tags & Steam Trap Tags for Leak Detection and Repair Programs
- Durable Work In Process Bar Code Labels for Harsh Environments
- Traffic Sign Asset Tags for Municipal RRF Compliance
- Utility Meter Tags, Pole Tags & Bar Code Labels
- and others
With so many highly specialized asset tags to choose from, companies often need assistance configuring the best asset tagging system for the various applications within their organization. Asset tag manufacturers like Camcode offer consultations with industry asset tracking experts to help you configure the most cost-effective and efficient asset tags for the many applications within your company.
Other Helpful Resources: Learn More About Choosing the Best Barcode Scanner, Asset Management Tools, and More from the Resources Below
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- 48 Top Inventory and Asset Management Resources for Schools and Educators
- Asset Management Software for Utility Companies: A Buyer’s Guide
- Top Asset Tracking and Asset Management Conferences 2016: 50 Events to Learn the Latest Trends, Techniques in Asset Management
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