What is Asset Tagging?
Asset tagging consists of identifying each asset throughout its useful life. It applies to both fixed and mobile assets, and its main advantage is allowing you to gather all the data about assets, from their location to maintenance history. Did we get your attention? Let’s dive deeper.
As you might expect, asset tagging is an important process for all facilities and industries that benefit from a maintenance software (CMMS), such as shopping centres, hospitals, hotels, schools and universities, warehouses, and factories. In this article, we’ll explain how to tag assets step by step, and what technologies are at your disposal.
What Are The Benefits Of Asset Tagging?
Asset tagging has many benefits, such as:
- It’s easier to track usage, repair, and maintenance actions;
- Saves time on looking for equipment data and history;
- Simplifies precise data collection, to determine which its lifetime stage, evaluate the condition and criticality;
- Because the data is so reliable, it helps make accurate and better-informed decisions;
- When it’s part of an integrated maintenance strategy, it promotes timely preventive maintenance actions;
- Because all pieces of equipment are identified and some technologies work remotely, it can help prevent theft.
Asset Tagging Step by Step
1. Identify the asset type and category
The first step in asset tagging is to identify the asset type and category. If you already have a system for classifying equipment, and a well-organised inventory, then this step will be a breeze. Otherwise, you will need to implement a system to sort your assets.
There’s more than one way to categorise assets. You can sort them according to their department (i.e., assets in the finance department, R&D department), role (i.e., HVAC, electrical system, alarms), or usage (i.e., furniture, IT, audio-visual equipment), depending on what’s more convenient.
Important: doing inventory doesn’t mean that all assets need an ID number or tag. Set a minimum asset value that justifies your time investment and what you’re spending on labels. Beware not to focus only on the cost of replacing the asset. A computer or an external disk, besides their physical value, can also contain valuable information that is worth protecting.
Here’s an idea of where to start. Prioritise mobile assets that can be easily lost and that are in high demand (i.e., blood pressure or ultrasound machines in a hospital, a complete tool kit in a factory, or a projector in a school).
2. Assign a Unique ID Number
Each asset must have a unique identification number that sets it apart from other assets of the same type and category. This ID should be consistent for maintenance, organisational and accounting purposes, among others. According to the type of categorisation you choose, you can also assign meaning to certain pieces of code.
For example, 001 might designate equipment located on the 1st floor, 002 assets located on the 2nd floor, and so on; 011 may specify catering and kitchen assets, 012 to electrical equipment, 013 to alarms and security systems, etc. As a result, you’ll instantly know that asset 001013044 is an alarm located on the first floor.
Tip: while it may be tempting to adopt the serial number as an ID, please remember that serial numbers follow an inconsistent format, and vary from brand to brand. So, although it seems to simplify the process, it’s not a good option in the long run, nor does it allow immediate identification of assets.
3. Choose The Appropriate Tag Type
Every asset’s ID needs to be in the respective tag. That leads us to step number 3: choosing the appropriate tag type.
Why is this important? Because tags must remain legible throughout the useful life of the asset. There are many types of tags, each with advantages and downsides, and it’s important you choose a durable one. Here are some examples:
- manual paper tags – these are the most low-cost option, but also the least durable. It’s manual, inaccurate, and unverified task;
- simple barcodes – a simple and quick option, but one that requires a stand-alone database. This makes access to information more difficult;
- RFID barcodes – slightly more complex than simple barcodes, these codes are linked to a radio signal, which makes them work as a “chip”, and can be integrated with GPS technology. This allows data collection in real-time, and makes them safer and more reliable. RFID barcodes can be read at longer distances, so they are ideal for less accessible assets. However, they require investing in barcode readers;
- NFC tags – like RFID barcodes, NFC tags let you register data in real-time, and access information quickly (tags can contain only the ID, but usually redirect to a website or are linked to a cloud-based software). NFC tags have the advantage of not requiring new devices: you can read NFC tags with a smartphone. However, they only work in relatively short distances (a few centimetres), and you need to purchase tags with specific features for outdoor use;
- QR codes – just like NFC tags, you can read them with a smartphone. They need to be completely visible, which can be a disadvantage with certain assets.
4. Enter basic information about the asset
When creating the tag, take note of some essential information: the serial number, the manufacturer or provider, the date of purchase, the location of the asset, the department to which it belongs, its condition, and value.
5. Apply asset tags
After the tag is ready, there is only one thing left to do: placing the tag. Depending on the type and location of the asset, choose between an adhesive tag (less resistant to heat and humidity, but easier to apply and suitable for interiors) or a mechanical application (engraved plates, for example).
6. Implement quality and verification processes
The last step of asset tagging is implementing internal processes to tag future equipment. Determine who will make new tags, if necessary; train your team not to move assets without registering them first; avoid unauthorised changes and integrate the IDs across all of your organisation’s softwares, including the maintenance management software.