Whether you work for a global advertising agency or a local interior design firm, your company needs to track physical assets. In this article, we’ll define asset tracking, and delve into some of the most frequently asked questions about asset tracking, from defining an asset to helping you choose the best asset management system for your business.
Let’s start with the basics.
1. What is an asset?
The definition of an asset is an item in your company’s inventory that you own or use. That could be a standing desk, a pair of curtains, a vehicle, or an espresso machine. Anything and everything your business uses that’s not intended to be sold or consumed.
Assets and inventory are two very different things, although you may hear those terms used interchangeably. Traditional inventory (think t-shirts or coffee mugs) are products that you sell to consumers. But assets are often used repeatedly or stored until a business needs them to provide a service or get something done. Assets are the items your business uses to operate—not what you sell to your customers.
Related: Asset vs. Inventory: What’s the Difference?
2. What is asset tracking?
A lot of businesses might think that because they don’t have traditional inventory, they don’t need to practice inventory management. But the truth is that just about every business needs an asset tracking solution.
Asset tracking allows companies to keep tabs on everything it owns, even as it moves from one place to the next. Asset tracking also helps businesses operate more smoothly, notice suspicious inventory loss, and conduct audits and file corporate taxes more efficiently.
Asset tracking is achieved through an asset tracking system—like a sheet of paper, a spreadsheet, or asset tracking software. We’ll touch on each type of asset management system in FAQ #5.
3. How does asset tracking work?
Asset tracking allows you to track an asset—for its entire lifecycle—as it moves through your business. A laptop, for example, might change hands two or three times before the end of its useful life. With asset tracking, your team will keep a record of where that asset is at any given time, plus its condition, who’s got it, when its warranty expires, and more.
Asset tracking begins like all other inventory management projects: with an exhaustive list of all the assets your business owns. Using an asset list, your company will write down asset information for each physical asset (or soft asset, like software license) that belongs to your business.
This is essentially an “inventory list,” but for assets. On this asset list, you’ll want to track every last detail that matters to you. This includes product name, SKU, purchase price, value, condition, location, product description, minimum quantity, quantity on hand, expiration date, warranty end date, and any other notes or special information you may need.
If you’re using modern asset management software (including an inventory app like Sortly), you can also attach high-resolution images, barcodes/QR codes, and necessary attachments—like product manuals, purchase orders, repair certifications, warranty registrations, and more.
4. What is asset management?
Asset management for inventory is all about monitoring what your business owns—and then tracking every last detail. This includes making a note every time an asset moves, changes hands, is counted or audited, or its condition, value, or any other detail about it changes.
Besides asset tracking, asset management also refers to:
- the safe-keeping of asset tracking records
- analyzing findings from those records
- ensuring assets are secure
- figuring out how much all those assets are worth (and whether there’s been any depreciation)
- ensuring no assets go missing—or are damaged or stolen.
When you practice airtight asset management, you’ll probably find your business runs smoother and saves time and money.
5. How do I create an asset tracking system?
To create an asset tracking system, first decide what kind of asset tracking solution works for you: a list, a spreadsheet, or cloud-based asset management software. All three of these systems will help you track assets throughout their life cycle, and each has its own set of pros and cons.
Pen-and-paper asset tracking system
Suppose you use Microsoft Word, the notes section of your phone, or even a sheet of paper to keep track of your physical assets. In that case, you’re using what’s called a manual asset management system—also known as pen-and-paper asset management. While cheap and straightforward, this system has a ton of downsides.
- Requires manual, time-consuming updating every time any asset changes, moves, etc.
- No way to generate reports
- No automation—including no photos, barcodes, QR codes, or alerts
- Subject to damage or loss
- Not always accessible from anywhere, at anytime
Spreadsheet asset tracking system
If you’re using Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, or something similar, you’re using a spreadsheet to track asset data. While not the most robust tracking solution, using a spreadsheet to track assets is a step up from a manual inventory management system.
With a spreadsheet, you are at least able to use some features, like sorting, tabs, and formulas, to sort assets by physical location, keep track of inventory over time, and understand the value of what you’ve got.
Unfortunately, unless you employ people who are Excel geniuses, chances are you’re not getting much out of your spreadsheet. Tracking assets via spreadsheet has a lot of downsides, including:
- Exceptionally prone to human error, especially during data entry
- Not intended to showcase photos
- Cannot sync with barcodes or QR codes
- Cannot include attachments
- Cannot share item histories
- Prone to corruption
Asset tracking software or app
Asset management software is almost always the best bet for businesses of every shape and size looking to keep track of physical assets. Even the smallest of companies find that the right inventory apps work for them—and offer them the ability to get organized and stay organized as they grow.
What is asset tracking software? Asset tracking software helps companies track the whereabouts, condition, and current value of all of their physical (and software) assets. Keeping accurate records helps companies feel confident, run better, and protect against costly inventory loss and theft.
Small businesses and larger businesses alike appreciate asset tracking software solutions like Sortly because they’re inexpensive, easy to customize, and intuitive. In fact, most users have Sortly up and running in minutes.
Further reading: How to choose asset management software
6. What are the benefits of asset tracking software?
Asset tracking software is one of the best ways to conduct effective inventory management. When you choose the right asset tracking software, you’ll find that a good chunk of your daily inventory work is done for you. Here are just a few of the benefits of asset tracking software:
See everything all in one place
With the right asset tracking system, you’ll be able to know exactly what assets you’ve got where, what they’re worth, and what condition they’re in—all with the touch of a button. The ability to truly visualize your assets is vital, especially if you’re tracking assets across multiple sites, locations, or units.
Secure, collaborative, and a cinch to use
What good is asset tracking software if your employees won’t use it? With the right asset tracking software, it’s easy to get your whole team sorting and scanning. With an asset tracking app like Sortly, everybody on the team can have their own account with their own just-right user permissions.
And, best of all, each employee can use their existing mobile device to track assets, which means the cost of getting started is really low. (That’s right, no clunky, expensive barcode scanners—your mobile device does the scanning for you, right in the app.)
Save time, money, and stress
Finally, by modernizing and digitizing your physical assets (and your software licenses, too), you’ll save yourself a ton of time, stress, and money. Because when employees aren’t chasing down misplaced assets, they can focus on everything else on their to-do list.
7. What features do I need in asset tracking software?
When selecting asset tracking software, pick a modern, intuitive, cloud-based management system that works on mobile devices, tablets, and regular computers, too. Here are the features to insist upon in asset tracking software:
Barcode and QR code scanning
One non-negotiable: asset tracking software that offers QR code and barcode scanning right from your mobile device. Barcode and QR code scanning saves tons of time, reduces workload, and can virtually eliminate a lot of the human error that comes with asset management. With Sortly, every time an employee needs to check an asset in or out or update information about that asset, all they have to do is point their phone’s camera at the barcodes, and voila!
Folders, categories, and tags
Next up, you’ll want to pick an app or software that lets you customize how you organize. Whether by folder, category, or tag, cloud-based software like Sortly makes it easy for you to make your inventory make sense to, well, you.
Important, time-sensitive alerts
Another fantastic (and bacon-saving) benefit of asset tracking software? Alerts and notifications. Find out every time you’re running too low on something, or an asset is approaching warranty end, expiration, or rental period end.
Collaborative, user-friendly experience
You’ll also want to pick asset tracking software that’s easy to use and perfect for teams. Because what good is an asset tracking system that nobody wants to use? Bonus points for a program that offers friendly customer service and on-demand support.
Finally, insist on software that helps you put all that data to good use. After all, if you’re going to modernize your inventory, you might as well reap the rewards. By creating customized reports, you can review insightful data an instant, and it’s easy to learn more about where your assets are, how much they’re worth, how much they’ve depreciated, and so much more.
Sortly is a top-rated inventory app designed to make tracking assets simple and streamlined. With key features like barcode and QR code scanning, warranty end alerts, and the ability to track assets across multiple locations, it’s the perfect way to organize your company’s long list of investments.
Ready to start tracking your assets with a modern inventory app? Start a free, two-week trial today.