Asset tagging is the process of applying labels or tags to your company’s equipment and furniture, allowing you to more effectively manage their maintenance and lifecycles.  But what kind of tagging is right for you?

Asset tagging has evolved rapidly in the last few years. Once it entailed applying simple sticky labels to equipment printed with ID numbers referring to physical asset registers.

Now scannable, NFC or RFID asset tags are being applied to furniture and equipment, linking in real time to digital asset registers that contain all the information that FMs and contractors need to track their history and maintain them effectively. Some businesses are using the most sophisticated GPS asset tags to monitor the exact physical location of assets in real time.

What are the different types of asset tag?

  • Bar code/QR codes
  • NFC tags
  • RFID tags
  • GPS trackers

Each method of tagging has various pros and cons. For example, different kinds of barcodes have different levels of ‘scannability’ and can require different hardware and software to scan effectively. Meanwhile RFID, NFC and GPS tags can bring more functionality to your asset tracking, but add more expense and complexity to your tagging process.

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The benefits of asset tagging

In general the key benefits you can expect from asset tagging with any kind of barcode or digital tag are around the streamlining of your maintenance, auditing and equipment tracking processes. With just one scan (or touch of a code/tag) engineers, contractors, auditors and, even equipment users themselves can

  • Create work requests for the asset
  • Locate, access and update work orders relating to the asset
  • Update asset property data such as Status, Condition, Location - particularly useful when performing audits
  • Instantly retrieve details that will speed up maintenance tasks and decision making:
    • View asset service history
    • View asset depreciation.
    • View warranty information,
    • View asset purchase costs, installation costs and total spend to date

What are the pros and cons of different tagging solutions

QR codes

Unique QR codes can be generated easily and quickly within CAFM systems ready for printing and applying to your assets. Once printed on labels and stuck to your asset you can easily scan them with mobile devices to gain access to their service history and other details.

You will have to consider where these stickers are placed on devices to ensure they remain intact and scannable, but they are remarkably resilient - only 30% of a QR code needs to be intact for a scan to be successful.

QR codes associated with specific equipment can open specific web pages and apps, updating systems about the current location of an asset (based on the phone’s location) and details of who last had sight of it.

NFC tags

NFC (Near field communication) chips are unpowered devices containing digital information that are small enough to be embedded in stickers and affixed to devices. As the name suggests, the tag can only work when in close proximity to the scanning device. When a mobile phone with NFC capabilities touches the tag, the chip is powered up and the data stored in the chip is transferred to the device. In a typical asset tagging scenario this usually means opening a URL that links the user to asset records on a website or app.

NFC tags are small and robust so they can be easily affixed to most kind of assets.

Unlike QR codes they don’t require line of sight or a particular level of light to be scanned effectively.

But, the NFC tag needs to be configured with the correct data to work and give the scanner the right information. Unlike a QR code they can’t be generated and ‘printed at will’ so it’s generally a more costly and time consuming asset management solution to implement.

Active RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags

While QR codes and NFC tags are passive containers of information, RFID’s active capabilities and longer transmission range mean they can be used in different ways in asset tracking systems.

Tags affixed to assets can be read by fixed scanners installed on doorways and other key points (or by staff using mobile phones or tablets). Every time a tag is read it can automatically update asset management software to tell the business when it has been taken from a location and when it has been returned.

Active RFID tags have built-in batteries allowing them to transmit the data stored on to it directly to the reader. Even though their batteries do have a limited lifetime, they still last for years. The RFID tags have to be programmed, which requires specific hardware and software, and taking considerable configuration to work effectively.

The 4 stages of the asset lifecycle & how to manage them

GPS trackers

GPS trackers can be affixed to high value equipment transmitting real time information about the location of assets direct to asset management systems. This mitigates asset theft and ensures you can account for everything under your control.

With sophisticated GPS asset tracking tools you can see an asset’s current locations overlaid on maps

GPS tags can allow for geofencing, so that if an asset leaves a specific location, you’ll get an alert.

GPS can be small, highly robust and come with long-life battery solutions exceeding 10 years and more.

Right now, GPS is an expensive solution and so it is typically only used for high value assets. But as technology advances and costs fall they could have much wider application in tracking all kinds of moveable assets across a wider range of businesses.

Conclusion

CAFM suppliers offer businesses a range of asset tagging and tracking options for use as part of their solutions, with different kinds of hardware/software and investment required to make them work.

GPS tracking and RFID tagging of equipment can add layers of control and visibility to monitor equipment movement, but can also add layers of complexity, time and expense to CAFM set ups. In the end, this complexity can stop businesses in their tracks as they try to get a grip on asset management.

For those businesses who want to introduce an asset tagging system that they can easily control and administer from a single platform, choosing a CAFM system that can generate unique QR codes for use as asset tags is a powerful and cost effective strategy.

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