Maximizing Asset Performance with Effective Asset Tracking Solutions

Explore asset tracking systems and how they optimize operations, enhance security, and drive cost savings for businesses across industries.

What is Asset Tracking?

Asset tracking is the process of monitoring physical assets throughout their lifecycle, from acquisition to disposal or decommissioning. It involves keeping tabs on the location, condition, and status of the organization’s equipment, vehicles, tools, machinery, and inventory items. Utilizing systematic methodologies and technology is crucial in this task, ensuring efficient operations across sectors.

Why is it Important?

Essential to various industries, a comprehensive asset-tracking system helps companies in numerous ways. Here are some of the top benefits of establishing a well-structured process:

  • Improved Asset Utilization – Companies can optimize asset usage through continuous monitoring. Data collected from the process provides actionable insights that help relevant personnel manage their assets better, such as scheduling inspections and timely maintenance work. This results in fewer downtimes, overstocking, and underutilization.
  • Enhanced Security – Asset theft costs businesses significant amounts of money annually, causing companies to spend more on risk and loss prevention. Because the system provides real-time data on the location and usage of various equipment, businesses can minimize these issues, even without investing in additional third-party security personnel.  
  • Ensured Regulatory Compliance – The system ensures that assets are maintained and operated within safety and environmental standards. And with the help of digital documentation and record-keeping, companies can improve transparency and accountability with regulatory agencies. 

How Does Asset Tracking Work?

Different organizations have various ways of tracking their machinery and gadgets, depending on the size of their company and the industry they belong to. Here is a simple yet effective five-step asset tracking system to try:    

Asset Identification and Tagging

The first step is to enumerate all assets and uniquely identify each asset using methods such as RFID tags, barcodes, or GPS sensors. These identifiers help users recognize and distinguish between different assets and locate them when needed. Here are some of the most common technologies utilized:

  • RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) – These use radio waves to transmit data wirelessly to readers, enabling automatic identification and tracking of assets. Retail giant Walmart has implemented RFID asset tracking to improve its inventory management.  
  • GPS (Global Positioning System) – This utilizes satellite navigation to track the precise location of assets in real-time, even when those are indoors. UPS optimizes its logistics operation with telematics and GPS asset tracking. These devices help managers monitor routes while customers receive accurate shipping information.
  • IoT (Internet of Things) – These interconnected devices are embedded with sensors, actuators, and connectivity features, collecting and exchanging data over the internet. Healthcare facilities often use IoT asset-tracking devices, such as wearable EKG monitors, pulse oximeters, and implantable organ chips. Aside from tracking the location of the gadgets, these also monitor the patient’s vital health signs. 
  • Barcode Scanning – Barcodes, as the name implies, have several parallel lines with varying widths. It corresponds to data that barcode scanners can read. Numerous companies in manufacturing and construction utilize RFIDs that connect to cloud-based asset-tracking software to help them better manage their equipment and tools.   
  • NFC (Near-Field Communication) – The technology enables short-range communication between devices by bringing them into close proximity. NFCs are one of the most convenient since these are scanned using smartphones. Many retail stores use these asset tracking tags to monitor the movement of their merchandise.

Data Capture

After providing the asset tracking labels to each equipment, vehicle, or tool, the next phase is to capture the data. Auxiliary asset tracking devices used are handheld scanners, mobile devices, and IoT sensors. Here are some details to take note of:

  • Specific asset type, including dimensions, manufacturer, model, and serial number
  • Precise location
  • Installation or procurement date with warranty and insurance details 
  • Status, mainly its condition and remaining useful life
  • Usage history, particularly the people handling it with specific dates and times
  • Maintenance records, including estimated costs and individuals or teams responsible for the maintenance

Centralized Data Management 

The next step is to store the collected asset data in a centralized database. It allows for easy access, retrieval, and analysis of asset information by authorized personnel, like operations or facilities managers.  

While basic spreadsheets are often used to record vital asset information, this is not sustainable, especially for large enterprises. Software solutions offer a wide range of functionalities on top of data management, such as maintenance alerts, depreciation information, and audit trails. 

Monitoring and Analysis

The fourth phase involves monitoring asset movements, usage patterns, and other relevant data. It helps managers determine the need for deterioration, failures, and other issues. 

Digital asset management platforms, with their built-in analytics, facilitate proactive monitoring since they can identify trends, patterns, and anomalies in real-time.  

Reporting for Continuous Improvement

Asset reports offer clarity on the company’s asset database. It helps managers understand the status, condition, and utilization of assets. Transparency enables companies to make strategic decisions to enhance asset performance and maximize their value.

Aside from driving continuous improvements, generating these reports also aids in efficient record-keeping for compliance purposes. Regulatory agencies often require comprehensive documentation on asset inspections, maintenance, and repairs to ensure that they are in optimal condition. 

Best Practices

Asset location tracking is a challenging feat, especially when done manually. Human errors lead to inaccuracies in data entry. Without real-time visibility, misplacement, loss, and possible theft occur. Inadequate monitoring causes maintenance problems, such as unexpected breakdowns and operational delays. 

Here are some examples of smart practices that companies should adhere to: 

  • Define Clear Objectives – Before developing the asset tracking system, facility managers should define clear objectives aligned with the company’s needs. Determine specific goals (e.g., improving operational efficiency, enhancing security, reducing costs) to prioritize efforts. 
  • Standardize the Process – Standardization ensures accuracy, consistency, and interoperability. For instance, utilizing digital templates based on systematic procedures ensures consistency during asset tagging, data capture, inspection, maintenance, and compliance documentation. 
  • Maintain and Evaluate Regularly – To ensure optimal performance, managers should review the system as often as possible. Conduct regular data updates, system checks, and tracking hardware maintenance to better refine tracking processes based on feedback and lessons learned.
  • Train and Educate Personnel – Everyone involved should receive comprehensive training about each step of the asset tracking process. Empowered and knowledgeable staff are essential for the successful implementation of any endeavor.
  • Invest in High-Quality Technology – Sticking to legacy systems because of cost considerations will prove to be an expensive mistake. Choose scalable solutions that can seamlessly integrate with existing systems instead. Aside from its extensive functionalities, state-of-the-art tech is scalable and, therefore, more reliable in the future
Eunice Arcilla Caburao
Article by

Eunice Arcilla Caburao

SafetyCulture Content Contributor
Eunice Caburao is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. A registered nurse, theater stage manager, Ultimate Frisbee athlete, and mother, she has written a wide range of topics for over a decade. Eunice draws upon her rich, multidisciplinary background to create informative articles about emerging topics on health, safety, and workplace efficiency.