Asset Management can provide major gains in productivity while decreasing operation costs. All by simply knowing more about the equipment you already have. These benefits come from improved maintenance, decreased asset requirements and even finding stuff that’s gone missing.
What solution is right for your organization?
Asset Management solutions can vary depending on the size and complexity of the organization. Small single location facilities will have much different requirements from a large multinational corporation. Below we offer some best practices and guidance on Asset Tracking.
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AB&R has developed a set of best practices when it comes to the process of encoding RFID tags, printing bar code labels, assigning tags and labels (identifying assets), performing inventories (tracking assets) and managing the data (managing assets) that we recommend be considered for any asset management project. Following these recommendations helps ease implementations and provides a marked boost to the ROI of the project.
Preparing the data that will populate the asset management database is probably the most important step in the process because when done right it can save countless hours of work. By extracting asset information from an existing system and then importing it into the asset database, staff will be saved from having to manually enter it again, or gathering it on the fly in the field.
Microsoft Excel is the tool of choice for compiling, analyzing and reformatting extracted data so that it can be imported into an asset management program. As such, the preferred exported file types are .xls or .csv - tab, pipe, or other types of delimited files are also acceptable.
Most asset management programs provide default system fields used for tracking tagged assets and additional fields that can be user defined upon configuration of the software to track any relevant data to the assets such as manufacturer, serial number, etc. The default fields usually are used to identify the Asset Number, the existing Asset ID, an asset description, and the asset location. It is important to define the titles for any optional fields before the installation so that the installation team can correctly configure the import of data.
RFID tag encoding, bar code label printing, and assignment are generally the most time consuming and difficult processes of the entire implementation. Having a good plan and the proper tools will make the difference between a smooth, organized deployment and a tedious challenge for the implementation team.
The first thing to consider when deciding on how to encode RFID tags is the format and existence of an existing asset identification system. If assets are currently tracked in a software system and have labels affixed with a bar-coded asset ID number, this can provide a great benefit, but can also turn into a challenge for large asset populations.
The general strategy involved when integrating existing asset numbers is to use a common prefix that is necessary for the RFID software to recognize the tags and combine this with the existing Asset ID’s which function as a unique suffix. Once combined, the prefix and suffix result in a unique 24 character HEX value that is encoded on the RFID tags. A label is also generated for application to the tag that contains both a 2D barcode containing the entire 24 character ID as well as a human readable portion that contains the original 8 character ID number. Using this method, a tag is easily identified and matched visually as well as verified with a 2D barcode scanner easing data entry and minimizing errors.
The exact implementation of this concatenated ID will depend on the exact composition of the asset population (metal vs. non-metal) and the asset density per location. The printing and encoding of tags can be a one-step process utilizing an RFID enabled label printer and barcode label software linked to the eventual list of ID numbers for both metal and non-metal tags. Since metal assets will utilize a different tag from the non-metal assets, the existing asset numbers for these assets need to be segregated before the combination with the prefix discussed above. This way, changing the printer setup from metal to non-metal tags can be minimized.
Asset density (number of assets in a given location) is the biggest factor in deciding on a certain RFID tag and barcode label placement strategy. If each location has a high asset density (greater than 25-50) this makes it difficult to take all the printed labels and encoded tags for that location at a time and match the tag to the asset. While not impossible to do with highly dense locations, it takes very careful organization of the tags to keep the search time at a minimum once an asset is located.
In any case, the best practice is to print labels and encode tags by location and keep them segregated from the remaining population of tags. Using this methodology it is much easier to take only the tags you need to the location you plan to tag at any given time. To aid in the organization of encoded tags it is helpful to use carefully labeled containers such as Ziploc bags, fishing tackle containers, or Tupperware containers to keep tags separated after encoding.
With all the asset information loaded into an asset management program and the assets assigned RFID tags and barcode labels, the system is now ready to provide the efficient management of asset data. It is recommended that existing location information not be imported with the rest of the asset data, but rather that an inventory of all assets is taken after tagging is complete in order to assign the most up to date location information to all assets. This information may then be exported for analysis and reporting or imported back into the main business system.
As new assets are purchased and brought into the asset population, they will need to follow a similar RFID tag encoding, barcode label printing and assignment process as the one described above. This information for new assets will then need to be transferred to your asset management program in some manner. It can either happen through a manual process, or through custom database stored-procedures and triggers.
Asset inventories can now be periodically performed using the mobile RFID reader to update and validate the asset population’s locations and supplemental information. Prior to the inventory, synchronization of the handheld to one of the workstation installations is required in order to place the most recent asset information on the handheld.
Call 1-800-281-3056to speak with an Asset Management specialist