Assets are the building blocks of business – everything from office supplies and
computers to inventory, vehicles and facilities. Assets change over time.
Some gain value while others depreciate. Some types of assets are fixed while
others are mobile. Asset tracking is a critical component
of sound accounting, yet many business owners struggle
with this task. Mistakes can be costly.
It’s not difficult to see why tracking is so difficult.
It’s not enough to capture when an asset was acquired
and its value at the time. To be tracked effectively,
the asset’s location, maintenance and usage need to
be recorded as well as its ever-changing value.
Traditional paper record keeping is not sufficient for
anything but the smallest businesses. For larger companies, there are
computer-based solutions specifically designed to track assets.
The challenge, however, is determining the solution that works best.
Benefits of asset-tracking solutions
Regardless of the specific solution, asset-tracking systems offer a number of
benefits over traditional methods. For instance, they store information in a
database that can be queried by fields such as name, address or value.
The value of assets also can be calculated very easily using formulas.
Similarly, any costs associated with an asset can be calculated quickly – even
Asset-tracking solutions also can generate a variety of reports on a particular asset
or class of assets. Most programs have easy-to-navigate screens that guide users
through creating reports detailing exactly the information they want to see.
Finally, an asset-tracking system saves time and money. Businesses that know
what assets they have are less likely to waste money on redundant purchases.
They’re also more likely to make use of what they have – and not forget about
Types of asset-tracking systems
There are several flavors of asset-tracking systems, and each uses its own set of tools.
Some rely on manual data entry via a handheld or a PC while others gather information
automatically via RFID tags, barcode scanners or GPS. Here’s a look at some of the
solutions available today:
- Barcodes: If your assets move around a lot, a barcode tracking system is a good fit. This solution involves affixing a barcode to every asset. With a scanner or even a PDA, employees can quickly pull up information on the item, note maintenance activities or location. All the information is stored in a central database for easy reporting.
- GPS: GPS tracking is another option for monitoring mobile assets, especially large ones such as cars, trucks and trailers. This solution involves attaching a GPS transceiver to the asset. It reports information on the asset’s whereabouts, as determined by global-positioning satellites, to a central database that can be queried for up-to-the-minute information.
- RFID/Proximity Tags: Proximity systems involve affixing a small tag to an asset and installing sensors that detect when the tagged item passes by. Major retailers, including Wal-Mart, use such solutions to monitor inventory movement in warehouses and at stores. Often, proximity solutions are linked to access-control systems as well as databases for generating reports on asset movements and other variables over time.
- Tracking Programs for Computer Assets: Software-based asset tracking involves installing a program on computers that are connected to a central-monitoring system and database. Each time the computer is used, its activities are stored in the central database from which reports can be pulled. These systems can store information about the computers, including when they’re used and how they’re used.
- Software Tracking: Programs that run on your PCs also need to be tracked, and there’s specialized software for monitoring license compliance. If a user tries to install unlicensed software, this tracking software will block the installation and/or notify IT managers. These programs will help your company avoid audits and costly fines for running unlicensed software.
What to consider in asset-tracking solutions?
An asset-tracking solution will be a major investment for your business. Here are some questions to think about before settling on a system:
- Ease of Use: Is the user interface simple to use or too complicated? Is It easy or difficult to navigate through the various options to update assets or generate reports?
- Management: How difficult is it to edit data such as splitting assets or changing the description of an asset? Is it easy to make changes to formulas, such as the one used to calculate depreciation? How well does the management software integrate with in-the-field tools such as a barcode scanner or RFID system?
- Integration: Does the asset-tracking system play well with other programs, such as accounting or tax applications? Does it easily export data for analysis in a spreadsheet?
- Reporting: How difficult is it to generate a report detailing the type of information you need? Does the system support templates for easier report creation? How easy to use are the standard schedules and forms?
If your business does not adequately track assets, it’s throwing money away. Asset-tracking solutions can greatly simplify this task. But it’s important to research all the solutions available and make sure the one you select is a good fit for your business. Most importantly, select a system that will grow with your business.