Mobile Computing is Everywhere
With the constant advances in ever smaller processors and low-cost memory, you’ll find mobile computing devices in every type of business today. Long gone are the days of collecting inventory or tracking orders with pen and paper. Now you can complete tasks in real-time that once took several people hours to do. Even your mobile phone has become “smart” and resembles your PC more each day.
The increased efficiency that mobile computing provides can allow your business to do more with the same (or fewer) resources. Putting capable computing tools in the hands of your employees will drastically increase the speed and number of tasks they can complete in a workday.
Mobile computers are an indispensable technology and they are becoming more and more embedded into every aspect of a business.
Maximizing your Mobile Computer Investment
Many businesses start using mobile computers for just a single specific function, like inventory management in a warehouse. However, many don’t realize that the same mobile computing tools can be used throughout a business for a variety of tasks.
At the most basic level, mobile computers allow a user to collect and call up information on the move. This could be scanning inventory levels, looking up a service record, capturing a signature in the field, or getting delivery route directions. The possible uses for a mobile computer are only limited by the software running on it.
One of the most common and easiest applications to implement for mobile computers is asset tracking. If you already have a mobile device, all you need is the right software running on it to be able to perform asset tracking. If you already have the tools in place and the need for asset management, can you afford to not put your investment to work?
Asset Tracking Basics
The first step in any kind of asset management is understanding what an “asset” actually is. Many times, people will confuse “assets” with “inventory”. “Assets” are permanent items that a business uses internally while “inventory” is a cycling stock that is regularly replenished.
|Objects used internally, such as computers, tools, and educational materials||•|
|Track depreciation of company property||•|
|Track maintenance of company equipment||•|
|Objects are for sale or resale||•|
|Ability to track/monitor reorder levels||•|
|Objects are “temporary” and/or often replaced||•|
|Employees may check objects in and out||•||•|
Computers, files, tools, and furniture are some of the most common assets, but anything that is used by a business with track-able value and features can be considered an asset. Even if you have ten of the same laptop, you would want to track each one uniquely. In contrast, inventory management would treat the laptops as a single item with a specific stock level only.
Asset tracking is ultimately concerned with the state of each individual asset. This ensures you always have accurate information on various features like location, condition, purchase date, value, custodian, last maintenance, etc. A well-implemented system will allow you to maximize the use of your assets by making sure they are available when needed and are in working order.
Having access to the right assets at the right time can be the difference between satisfied customers and lost opportunities. Stop wasting time and money looking for or replacing lost assets!
Asset Tracking with a Mobile Computer
Every business has a collection of assets that are located throughout their facility and may even span across several buildings. In the days of paper and pen, when you went out to manage your assets, you’d only have a history of where things should be and would then record where they currently are. Historical information on a specific asset was accessible on a desktop PC but not at the asset location. Knowing who the last user was or when it was last serviced was not possible. Likewise, all the changes made during asset counting would then have to be re-inputted into the system later by hand. The overall process was slow, limited and open to a lot of errors.
Luckily, we now have mobile computers to remove all the hurdles of the past and even expand on what is possible with asset management.
In a system using mobile computers, you’ll have all the information you’ll ever need on every asset all in the palm of your hand. What was once only available on the PC is now accessible through the mobile computer wherever the asset may be. You can easily call up a location to see everything that is supposed to be there. You can scan anything, and then immediately have a record of what is missing or misplaced. For misplaced items, you would even know where those items should be.
Scan a specific asset and you can see every attribute you have recorded for it. If any item is damaged or misplaced, you can see who last used it. As you conduct maintenance or updates on assets, everything is recorded immediately. Make changes in the field, dock the mobile computer, and sync to your desktop system. You’ll never have to double enter data ever again!
With a mobile computer, asset management takes less time and is significantly more accurate. This asset information, in turn, enforces personal responsibility and accountability for company property. You’ll also have a historical record of all assets and can easily run reports on usage and depreciation, meet audit requirements, and reduce the amount of paperwork involved.
If you already have a mobile computer, can you really afford to not put it to use for asset tracking?
Building an Asset Tracking System
Putting an asset tracking system together is actually very easy. You might even have most of the pieces of a system in place already! Every system consists of three core components:
• Asset labels
• Management software
• Mobile computers
In order to track them, all of your assets need to be labeled with a unique identifier. This is best done with a barcode label for quick scanning and recognition. Depending on the type of asset and how it’s used, you may want to use a plastic label that will last the entire life of the asset. If you already have a barcode printer, it is a simple swap of labels to start creating asset labels. Once everything has a unique barcode label on it, it’s time to start managing them!
The asset management software is the backbone of any system. This software is essentially a database of every asset attribute that you can quickly search. A copy of the software will be on a desktop PC to host your entire database, print labels, and conduct various reports. The mobile computers will have a version of the software as well with all the information you’d need while performing asset counts. Some systems allow you to update asset information over a wireless network in real-time, while others work in a batch collection mode. In the batch collection mode, you make changes on your mobile computer and then sync back with your desktop to update the entire system.
The last piece of the system is the one you probably already have, the mobile computer. As long as the asset management software is compatible with your mobile computer’s operating system and the device has a scanner, you’ll have everything you need.
Now it’s time to start managing assets!
Getting the Most Out of you Mobile Computer
As every business tries to find new ways to reduce operating costs through greater efficiency, it’s a wise choice to use existing resources you have as much as possible. Many times, a simple change of software or supplies can put the technology you already have to completely new uses.
If you have mobile computers, there’s a long list of applications they can be used for beyond what you may have originally intended it for. Asset tracking is one of the easiest ones to get started with and is something every business should already be doing. With some labels and tracking software, you’ll be reaping the benefits of well-managed assets in no time.