A guide to asset tracking

Asset tracking

By Aimee Bradshaw | Writer and researcher

Which asset tracking system should you purchase for your business?


Are you looking to invest in asset tracking software, but keen to learn more before you buy? In this article, we answer all the questions you may have about asset tracking, including how it works, the different elements of an asset tracking system, and how much it costs.


What is asset tracking? 

Asset tracking is an inventory management system that keeps tabs on the whereabouts, condition, and maintenance of your assets. It does this by combining the use of barcode, RFID, GPS, and software technology.

You may be thinking that you can keep track of your assets by inputting data into a spreadsheet – and you can. But manually auditing your assets can take weeks, and with spreadsheet errors mounting up to millions of dollars in wasted expenses, investing in an official asset tracking system is pretty much a no-brainer.

Asset tracking

Asset tracking is ideal for medical equipment, tools, machinery, gadgets, and vehicles


How does asset tracking work?

Asset tracking is part of a network called the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things is a multi-billion dollar concept that’s based on the idea that all devices and systems can be linked via the internet. 

In the case of asset tracking, this could be a barcode scanner or RFID tracking device. Thanks to the IoT connection, data is automatically fed back to a server, which stores all the information on the cloud. The cloud is connected to a software system, installed on your smartphone or desktop, which then displays this information to you in a usable format.

A device connected to the internet can also work in tandem with other devices and software to collect and display an abundance of information – in this case, the condition and whereabouts of an asset. Examples include fleet management systems and field service software. 

We’ve created a diagram to show how data travels through the asset tracking journey: 

how does asset tracking work

So, how does asset tracking actually work?

Thanks to the cloud, the data can be shared across any device that has the asset tracking software on it. Many asset tracking software products are available to download from the Google Play Store and the Apple Store, which means you’ll have all the information you need on your phone and your desktop computer. 

Your employees can also input data into the software using the app on their mobile phone. They’ll be able to log into the software using their account, and report information such as asset condition before and after use.


What is asset tracking software?

We’ve talked about the hardware. Now let’s have a look at the software. Asset tracking software is a system that collects and stores all of your asset tracking data and displays it in an easy to use format. There are usually several tabs, and these direct you to different areas of information, such as your inventory, reports, customer details, tax information, and workflow. 

The majority of asset tracking software will list your assets a bit like this: 

Asset tracking software

See all of your tools in one place

You’ll then be able to click on each asset to access more information, including its movement history and depreciation percentage

Most asset tracking software is intuitive to use, although you’ll need to allow a few days to become familiar with it. This means that you may need to factor in downtime, especially when you’re training your staff on how to use the asset tracking software. 

You’ll also be able to delve deeper into asset data, input maintenance reports, detail the condition of assets, and mark down any faults. This information is then stored and auto generated into downloadable reports, making auditing a comparative breeze.


What are the benefits of asset tracking?

You’ve learnt how the different types of asset tracking can help you keep track of your tools and equipment. But investing in asset tracking also comes with some great knock-on effects that’ll have you seeing a return on your investment in no time. 

These include:

Increased workplace productivity

Investing in asset tracking is just one of the ways that you can increase workplace productivity. Say your team of 20 engineers each spend half an hour a day looking for lost or ‘ghost’ tools – that’s 10 hours a day of wasted time. With asset tracking, your team will be able to look up tools and equipment with just a scan of a barcode. 

Improved customer service

Asset tracking isn’t just about tracking your in-house tools. If you’re running a tool or equipment hire business, you’ll want to know exactly which assets you have available, and have a solid record of exactly what condition they’re in. With an asset tracking system, there’s no danger of promising assets that you don’t have, or accidentally handing over dodgy equipment. 

Much easier audits

There’s nothing like an audit to up the stress levels, but when your asset tracking software has carefully curated all of your data, you can download full reports with a click of a button. You’ll have all the information and data you need to match each asset with each file.

Peace of mind

If you fail to report a fault and the faulty asset is used, there could be some damage liability coming your way. With an asset tracking system, you’ll have all of your asset information stored in one place. Just a few clicks, and you’ll have maintenance reports, service reports, current status, and any other additional notes right in front of you. 

And now, finding out which asset tracking system you should be investing in is easier than ever. Just take a minute to fill out our short webform, and our system will match you with the best asset tracking suppliers for your requirements! Suppliers will then get in touch with quotes and more information.


What are the different types of asset tracking?

There are three common types of asset tracking – barcode asset tracking, RFID asset tracking, and GPS asset tracking. The type of asset tracking you require will depend on the kind of assets you own. You may even need more than one type of asset tracking system. 

Most asset tracking systems collect data in multiple ways, with all the information then collated by your asset tracking software. Take a look at how the systems differ from each other below. 

What is barcode asset tracking?

barcode asset tracking

Use your mobile phone as a barcode scanner

Barcode scanning is the cheapest system to implement, as all you need to do is stick barcodes onto your assets, then scan them in and out using a barcode scanner. But best of all, you don’t even need to invest in barcode scanning hardware. This is because you can turn your mobile phone into a barcode scanner, just by downloading an app. 

Best for Smaller assets
PriceLess than £1,000
Easy to implement? Yes
Longevity Low

The pros and cons of barcode asset tracking

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Easy to implement
  • Helps you to quickly look up tools
  • You can use your mobile phone as a barcode scanner

X Cons:

  • Barcodes stickers can rub off
  • Some barcode apps have trouble recognising barcodes

What kind of assets can be tracked using barcode asset tracking?

Barcode asset tracking is suitable for:

Gadgets – business phones and laptops

Tools – drills, hammers, saws etc.

Medical supplies


What is RFID asset tracking?

rfid asset tracking

RFID asset tracking is a robust, versatile solution

RFID, also known as radio frequency identification, involves the use of radio waves to locate objects – in this case, assets. It works when a remote sensor picks up the presence of the radio waves emitted by a tracker. A classic example of an RFID tracker is a clothing tag – if you go out of the shop with the tracker still attached, you’ll set off the alarm. The same goes for an RFID tag – you take a tool out of the room, and the sensor will register that it’s been taken out. 

There are two main types of RFID tracking: active RFID asset tracking and passive RFID asset tracking.

But how do they differ? 

Suitable forEmits radio wavesPricepointLongevityRange
Active RFIDMedium to large assetsHigh2-5 years20ft
Passive RFIDSmall to medium assetsLow20 years1-2ft

Active RFID asset tracking

An active RFID asset tracker is battery powered, which means it produces its own radio frequency waves. Because it’s a gadget in itself, it also has the ability to store other information, such as engine run time and idle time. This makes active RFID asset trackers ideal for large to medium assets.

The pros and cons of RFID asset tracking

Pros:

  • Solutions for medium and large assets
  • Active RFID trackers can store additional information
  • Hardwearing and weather resistant

X Cons:

  • You’ll need to replace the batteries after two years
  • Can get expensive

Exporta – An RFID asset tracking case study

Exporta is a leading product handling business. One of its clients, Reach Printing Services Ltd, reached out to Exporta because it needed a system that would both keep track of its crates, and reduce the number that would go missing once out on distribution. 

Exporta suggested a two step solution. One: change the design of the crates so they stand out more, and two: introduce an RFID asset tracking system. 

Exporta attached barcode stickers with built-in RFID asset tracking tags to each of the new bright yellow crates, so every time a crate was scanned, it would be flagged up on asset tracking software. 

Now, Reach Printing Services knows exactly where its crates are at any time. 

Don Marshall, Head of E-Commerce & Fulfilment at Exporta, says:

“In this process, we added value for the customer by not only supplying a suitable pallet, but also working closely with them to create a unique solution that was fully trackable and traceable.”

What assets can be tracked using passive RFID asset tracking?

Passive RFID asset tracking is suitable for:

Office equipment

Smaller construction equipment

Warehouse stock and equipment


What is GPS asset tracking?

GPS asset tracking

See where all of your vehicle assets are on one interface with GPS asset tracking

A GPS asset tracking system is made for vehicular assets, such as trucks, vans, and diggers. A GPS asset tracker can attach to the engine’s diagnostics and collect information such as run time and idle time, in addition to GPS location data

GPS asset trackers send location data using the 3G or 4G network, so as long as the area has signal, you’ll know exactly where your assets are at any time. You’ll even be able to follow them on your software interface, thanks to almost real-time GPS updates. 

With a GPS asset tracking system, you’ll be able to set up geo-fencing – a system that warns you each time an asset passes a virtual barrier. This can help you keep remote building sites secure. 

It’s also worth bearing in mind that GPS asset tracking can work in tandem with vehicle tracking and field service software – handy if you’re looking to unify all of your systems. 


How much does asset tracking cost? 

It’s impossible to estimate how much an asset tracking system costs. This is because the solution you get will be completely unique to your business’ requirements. 

The cost of an asset tracking system depends on how many assets you own, the type of assets you own, and the number of logins you require for the software. 

You’ll then need to consider the cost of setting up an asset tracking system, and allow for the fact that you’ll need to take time out of the business day to train your staff on how to use the system. 

To find out how much an asset tracking system will cost your business, you’ll need to talk to suppliers. Thankfully, we’ve come up with a system that saves you from hours of browsing the net for the best asset tracking suppliers.

Just take five minutes to give us a few details about your business’ requirements, and our system will automatically match you with the best asset tracking suppliers for your needs. 

They’ll soon be in touch to discuss your requirements in more detail, and provide you with quotes and more information. 

Aimee Bradshaw Writer and researcher

Aimee is Expert Market’s resident telephone systems, point of sale, and field service software go-to. If she’s not writing about business products, you’ll find her daydreaming about Dorset beaches.