Friday, July 30, 2010
Most businesses today have some sort of assets to keep track of, whether it be physical inventory, displays and samples, raw materials, or simply office supplies. Maintaining these assets is essential to many companies and failing to do so could be disastrous. Traditionally, companies do annual or semi-annual audits in which staff members or third party personnel manually count all assets and compare that to the counts they have recorded. Without proper management of inventory on a daily basis, these audits can be a nightmare. Using barcodes on all assets can be instrumental in successful inventory management.
First and foremost everything should have a barcode label attached somewhere for tracking purposes. When choosing which type of labels to use, asset quantities and varieties, turnover, and environmental factors must all be considered. Suppose you have a small number of assets, all of which are rather large and have to be stored outdoors. In this case, a pre-printed or fabricated label would most likely be necessary. A metal plate with the information stamped or etched onto the surface could be glued or riveted onto the asset, or pre-printed weatherproof labels with adhesive backing would be sufficient.
If you have a large number of assets, and your levels change frequently, investing in a label printer and printing your own would probably be the most affordable solution. This option allows a business to produce their own labels as needed, printing the barcode onto either paper or polypropylene labels. Keep in mind that harsh environmental conditions would make this option less useful, as relabeling assets repeatedly takes time and costs more money.
Regardless of which labeling medium is used, the next step is scanning all of those assets. Typically this is done with a portable barcode scanner, which is a device with a keypad, display screen, and built in scanner. This process records information on each item, such as quantity, location, etc into the scanner. From there the information can be sent either by wireless connection or more commonly the unit's docking station. The data is uploaded to either a database, spreadsheet, or other asset management software.
Another method that is becoming increasingly popular is recording the information on a Portable Data Assistant (PDA). These devices are like miniature computers, enabling the user to access a multitude of software applications to enhance the data collection process. These can often provide an extension of a PC or Unix based inventory control program in which the data is captured and the system is updated through either Bluetooth or WiFi wireless connections. Due to the variety of functions these units can offer, they are quickly becoming the preferred method of asset management for business professionals. Regardless of which method you use, barcoding your assets is the best way to keep track of everything, saving time and money by dramatically reducing inventory discrepancies and ensuring a more accurate count every time.