By Lauren Peterson

Asset tags are everywhere – from office computers and rental vehicles to vending machines and lamp posts – but have you ever stopped to consider why, and how your business could benefit from doing the same?

Identification labels are pivotal in keeping track of fixed and moveable company assets, with barcodes and serial numbers making it simple to create a log for items being damaged, repaired, upgraded or disposed of. They are an extremely easy way to track who is in possession of certain items, and prominent company branding also provides a deterrent to theft. Asset tagging can also prove invaluable when filing an insurance claim, as many firms will require some form of proof before making a settlement.

So, whether you’re sending electronics into the field or leasing heavy machinery as part of your business model, read on to find out how asset ID labels can help you monitor your equipment.

Why choose labels?

Where some companies will manually assign an identification number, etching or writing it straight onto the item, this process is difficult to scale and won’t provide the same security. Etching it time-intensive and inappropriate for some surfaces, while there are numerous ways of removing permanent marker.

An alternative is to use metal plates, but these too have several drawbacks; they are considerably more expensive than a plastic label, are over-specified for many applications, and do not offer the same long-term readability as a printed barcode.

Ultimately, a durable plastic label can be easily and inexpensively sourced in bulk, and will save hours in manual identification. A properly-specified label will stick to almost any surface (even if it’s textured, curved or made from high-energy plastic), and incorporating a barcode into your design will mean all you need to do is electronically scan the label to access asset details.

Label Construction

The sheer variety in durable label materials and adhesives can be overwhelming, which is why it’s recommended that you find a specialist supplier (at least in the first instance), to make sure you buy labels which are fit-for-purpose, without being over-specified.

It’s vital that you match the durability of your asset ID tags to the conditions that they will typically be exposed to. For example, an inventory barcode on a rental car window will need to withstand long-term UV exposure, while labels on hospital gurneys will need to withstand frequent handling and alcohol cleaning wipes.

Make a list of everything your label is likely to encounter, and check that the specified material and print method will keep your barcode or serial number easy to read. This might include extreme temperatures, chemicals, frequent handling, oil and grease, hydraulic fluids, weathering, etc.

Asset ID labels tend to have high-strength solvent acrylic adhesives, making them difficult for thieves or fraudsters to remove. Alternatives include “eggshell” adhesives that fragment upon attempted removal, or tamper-evident “VOID” labels.

Label Design

A specialist manufacturer will be able to produce labels in almost any size, shape and color, according to your specification. Do you simply want a white rectangle for an inventory barcode? Or would you like a branded design to impress external parties? The important thing is that your tagging method is easy for you to read and scan, whether it’s a serial code, linear barcode or QR data matrix, and will stay attached and usable over the lifetime of the product.

Label Printing

You can source labels with three kinds of printing; none at all, part-printed (usually with branding, corporate address etc.) or fully printed to include your variable data. Of course, each option will meet a different price point, so it’s worth taking the time to determine the most cost-effective option for your business.

This could be affected by several factors, such as whether you already have access to a label printer. Most workplaces have at least one laser printer (and if not then they are inexpensive to buy), while thermal transfer printers – capable of a much more durable print – are less common and a larger investment. If you don’t already own one of these, remember to offset this cost against the price of simply ordering ready-to-use labels.

Asset ID labelling can significantly reduce human error, speed up inventory checks and keep your system working smoothly. There are hundreds of variations available, so there’s no excuse for not finding a solution that sticks.