What is asset tracking?
Asset tracking is the process of monitoring and managing physical assets, such as equipment, vehicles, or inventory, throughout their lifecycle.
It involves using technology, such as barcode scanners, RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), GPS (Global Positioning System), or IoT (Internet of Things) devices, to keep track of the location, status, and other relevant information about the assets.
Asset tracking systems typically involve a combination of software and hardware components:
- The software allows users to input and update asset data, track their movement and utilization, schedule maintenance, and generate reports.
- The hardware components, such as tags, labels, or sensors, are used to collect and transmit data about the assets.
Asset tracking has various applications across different industries:
- In logistics and supply chain management, asset tracking helps optimize inventory management, improve efficiency, and reduce costs.
- In fleet management, it enables tracking and monitoring of vehicles to improve route planning, enhance driver safety, and prevent theft.
In industries like manufacturing, healthcare, and construction, it aids in tracking equipment, tools, or medical devices, ensuring their availability and preventing loss or misplacement.
What kind of information gets tracked?
There is a variety of information you can track for each asset. Commonly tracked details include:
- Standard information about the asset (asset description, model, vendor)
- Usage history (to identify where, when, and who used the asset)
- Asset location
- Asset identification items (serial numbers, RFID/barcode, etc.)
- Date of purchase and years in operation
- Maintenance history
- Asset depreciation
This will be different for every business. You and your team can decide which information is most important to track for your organization.
9 asset tracking best practices to maximize data accuracy
Here are nine asset tracking best practices you should stick to if you’re looking to optimize your asset management efforts:
- Use unique asset identifier: Assign a unique identification number or code to each asset to ensure accurate and efficient tracking. This helps eliminate confusion and enables easy retrieval of asset information.
- Regularly update asset information: Maintain up-to-date records of asset details, including its location, status, maintenance history, and any other relevant information that has to be updated manually.
- Utilize technology: Embrace asset tracking technologies such as barcode labels, RFID tags, or GPS tracking devices to automate data collection and streamline the tracking process.
- Conduct regular audits: Perform periodic asset audits to verify the physical presence and condition of assets against the recorded information.
- Implement asset movement control: Establish proper protocols and approval processes for asset movements within the organization. This includes recording asset transfers, tracking custodians, and ensuring accountability to minimize the risk of unauthorized use or loss.
- Train employees: Make sure all employees understand and use established tracking procedures.
- Integrate asset tracking with asset management solutions: Integrate asset tracking technology with other relevant systems, such as your ERP or CMMS software. It’s the best way to ensure seamless data flow, eliminate duplicate data entry, and get a holistic view of asset-related information.
- Implement security measures: Protect assets from theft or unauthorized access by implementing security measures like access controls, surveillance systems, or anti-theft devices.
Continuously improve and optimize: Regularly evaluate the asset tracking process, identify areas for improvement, and implement necessary changes. This includes analyzing data, seeking employee feedback, and leveraging technology advancements to enhance asset tracking efficiency and accuracy.
The most common technologies used for asset tracking
Here is a quick comparison between all of the different methods we plan to cover:
Comparison between different asset tracking methods. Source: CK BIRLA GROUP
Let’s shine more light on each listed method so you get a better feel for their use cases.
RFID tags provide a quick way to uniquely mark/identify an asset you want to track.
RFID uses near-field technology to capture encoded data in smart labels or RFID tags affixed to an asset. It can:
- Read and update information about your assets
- Allow access to information from a few feet of distance, rather than inches
- Use a unique identifier for each individual asset
- Allow you to scan multiple RFID tags at once
Barcodes are simpler and cheaper than RFID tags but also less powerful. They can:
- Read data, but cannot update data
- Scan items only from a few inches of distance, with a clear line of sight
- Allow you to scan only one label at a time
The main advantage of barcode scanning technology is that it is cheap to implement, as barcode labels are inexpensive to design and print. Similarly, barcode scanners are readily available and straightforward to use.
Same as with RFID, scanning the tag with a mobile device allows you immediately access information about that particular asset.
Near Field Communication (NFC)
Similar to RFID, NFC lets you use your Android or iOS smartphone to track assets. Unlike RFID, NFC-enabled devices must be close to the asset to get a reading.
NFC has been around for quite some time. If you’ve used a key card to access a building or room, you’ve used NFC.
The advantage of NFC is that you don’t need a highly specialized scanner to keep your system working. However, you must be very close to the asset (within inches) to scan it.
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
Bluetooth technology is everywhere these days, and if you want to track devices from a further distance, BLE is a good alternative.
Like NFC, it uses your smartphone but relies on Bluetooth to connect to tags attached to your assets. Once the tag is paired with your device, it can monitor signals as it moves. You can install a Bluetooth beacon to boost the accuracy of the tracking.
When it comes to asset tracking, this is a low-cost, low-energy solution that is highly scalable.
You can attach Wi-Fi tags or beacons to the assets you want to track. These tiny devices emit Wi-Fi signals at regular intervals, which nearby Wi-Fi access points can detect.
You can leverage an existing Wi-Fi infrastructure, reducing the need for additional hardware installations. Additionally, Wi-Fi signals can penetrate walls and obstacles, simplifying asset tracking in indoor environments.
That said, the accuracy of Wi-Fi-based positioning will vary depending on signal strength, interference, and the density of access points. In other words, it is limited to the areas covered by Wi-Fi network infrastructure, making it unsuitable for tracking assets in outdoor or large-scale environments.
GPS asset tracking
Time, speed, and historical location data can be gathered through GPS asset tracking. The technology works by installing a tracking device on an asset followed by a satellite.
GPS tracking visualized. Source: 360 Connect
GPS is a great option for industries where equipment theft is a concern (such as the construction industry). It is also an essential part of many fleet management programs where it is used to track all types of vehicles.
Feeding data into an asset tracking software
Besides storing maintenance-related information about your equipment, your maintenance software can connect to a tracking device installed on a vehicle that enables you to track the asset’s location at all times (alongside other user-defined information like fuel levels, usage, temperature, etc.).
The bonus of using CMMS software for asset tracking is that it automatically tracks maintenance history so you can know the status and health of a particular asset in just a few clicks. And it is scalable to more advanced monitoring: if you use condition-monitoring sensors, you can connect them with your CMMS and have real-time data about the health of your most precious assets.
This way, you can have all asset-related information in one place.
Asset tracking made easy with Limble CMMS
From a centralized asset database to real-time location and condition tracking to asset performance analytics, Limble CMMS provides a range of features that enable effective tracking, maintenance, and optimization of your physical assets.
You get a comprehensive asset tracking solution that enhances efficiency, reduces downtime, and optimizes asset utilization.
If you’re ready to take your asset management to the next level, contact the Limble team and let’s figure out what will work best for you.