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How to Properly Format Asset Tags: Regulatory Standards and Other Considerations

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    Asset tags are a crucial tool for businesses that track and manage costly assets. While there are a variety of formatting options for asset tags, the specific format for asset tags that’s best for one company may not be the most suitable for another. The best format depends on several factors, such as the type of assets being tracked, the numbering sequence and/or barcode symbologies used for tracking other company assets (if other assets are already being tracked), and other considerations. Formatting Asset Tags

    Regulatory Standards

    Additionally, some industries have standards that regulate how assets and physical inventory must be labeled to ensure consistency and streamline the process of transitioning assets or data between organizations. For instance, GS1 issues standards for the retail industry, as well as manufacturers and suppliers, including both general standards and specific standards focused on identification, data capture, sharing, and use in order to improve global collaboration.
    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) identifies the Health Industry Bar Code Supplier Labeling Standard (HIBC SLS) as the data standard for Unique Device Identification (UDI), a standard developed by the Health Industry Business Communications Council (HIBCC). The FDA regulation requires that devices are labeled with a product identifier as well as a labeler identifier, such as the HIBC LIC. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG), and a variety of other entities also issue industry-specific standards that address the required formatting and identification procedures for various types of industry assets.
    So, the first step in determining the appropriate formatting for your asset tags is to familiarize yourself with all applicable industry standards, specifically standards that stipulate required asset identification procedures or label formats.
    Aside from any applicable industry requirements, there are several formatting options to consider for asset tags:

    Read on to learn about these various formatting options below.

    Caption (Headline or Title)

    Many asset tags use a headline or caption that states “Property of,” although in many cases, this is an unnecessary element, particularly if the company’s name or logo is printed elsewhere on the label. However, there are other captions often used for asset tags, such as:

    • Do Not Remove
    • Danger!
    • Leased By
    • Installed By
    • Warranty Label
    • For Service Call
    • For Sales Call
    • Registration #
    • Lot #
    • Service Date

    For high-value assets that may be lost or stolen, captions such as “Reward If Found” or “If Found Call” can be useful, as well as captions such as “Do Not Remove.” Captions such as “Installed By” and “For Service Call” can be helpful information for assets that require periodic maintenance, making it easier for employees to contact the right company with the right information to arrange for service and get assets back in working order as quickly as possible.

    Text Character Limit Barcodes and Asset Tag Elements

    Most asset tags have a text character limit of about 24 characters, which is due to the restricted space available. Asset tags commonly come in standard sizes of 1.5 by 0.75 inches up to 2 inches by 1 inch. If you require additional characters, this may be possible by reducing font size; however, a smaller font can hinder readability. Alternatively, you may consider a larger, custom asset tag to allow for adequate space.


    Readability is an important consideration when formatting asset tags. In addition to the size of the font, the font style can have a major impact on readability. Most asset tags use Arial or Helvetica fonts, although other font options are available if a custom design is needed.

    Sequential Numbering

    Asset tags are used to identify and track assets, meaning each asset should have a unique identification number. There are a variety of numbering system options, ranging from a simple numeric, sequential numbering system to a more complex formula that includes prefixes to identify the company, department, manufacturer, or even the date of manufacture or type of asset.

    Color Coding

    Additional asset tag customization is possible using color coding. Color coding can be used in place of a prefix to identify a department or type of asset, or to otherwise denote any variable that is useful to the organization for identifying and tracking assets.


    Many asset tags include barcode labels, which allow for scanning asset tags rather than reading labels and documenting information manually. This can cut down significantly on documentation mistakes resulting from human error, and can also speed processes dramatically. There are several symbologies that may be used for barcoding, including both 1D and 2D barcode symbologies. Barcodes may be numeric-only or alpha-numeric, depending on the company’s existing barcoding system and requirements. For heavily regulated industries, specific barcode symbologies may be required per industry standards.

    Company Logo

    Printing the company logo on asset tags allows for instant recognition of ownership, and as a result, assets equipped with these tags are less likely to be stolen or tampered with, enhancing security. As mentioned, printing the company logo on asset tags also eliminates the need to use the caption or headline space to identify the company as the asset’s owner or lessee, freeing up that valuable space for other important asset information.
    While there are a variety of options to consider, there is no single right or wrong way to format asset tags, but there are some best practices that, when followed, make asset tags more useful and practical, even reducing the risk of theft and enhancing security. The exception to this rule is when a company is subject to industry regulations and standards, which may stipulate specific required formats and elements that must be present on asset tags. The best course of action is to consult with an experienced provider of asset tracking solutions with the expertise to guide you in designing a custom asset tag solution that’s in line with all applicable standards and regulations, while also utilizing established best practices to ensure that you get the most possible mileage from your investment.

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