From The Editor | October 24, 2007

Assets Everywhere

Few enterprises can claim they effectively manage all of their assets. This is changing as technology evolves and frustration mounts.

Integrated Solutions, November 2007

Location. Location. Location. It's a long-standing axiom in the real estate business that location is critical to the value of any property. The same holds true for the assets that exist within every enterprise. After all, if you can't locate an asset at the time it's needed, how much value does it really have to your enterprise? That piece of portable medical equipment was certainly expensive, but it might as well not exist if it can't be located when it needs to be used. You invest a lot of money in pallets and plastic totes; still, you seem to be cycling through them every year. There might be a shrinkage issue. Suppliers might be hanging onto them. They might simply be misplaced. It really doesn't matter.

If you can't locate your assets, it's impossible to realize their full value. In fact, this lack of asset visibility is likely to cost you significantly. Missing assets have to be replaced. When they turn up, suddenly you're overstocked. In some environments, these replacements occur in the form of rush orders that require a premium to be tacked onto the expenditure. And, these accounts don't even consider the resources that were exhausted by employees who search in vain to find assets that are strewn about an enterprise.

Locating your assets may be the end game, but you first need to identify them. You need to know that the asset you've just located is, indeed, the specific asset you were searching for. This serialized nature of asset identification allows you to track individual assets and not just classes of assets within your enterprise. It's obviously useful to know, for instance, that you have 500 laptops issued within your organization. But, you can make informed decisions when you know that this specific laptop was issued to this specific individual on this specific date.

This really gets to the heart of why you want to identify and locate your assets. Ultimately, you need to manage them. Remember those laptops? With the right identification and location data, you can perform upgrades and diagnostic checks on a regular basis. How about that medical equipment? Now you can monitor usage and schedule and conduct preventative maintenance as warranted. All of this data, of course, is critical to how you actually account for these assets from a general ledger standpoint.

There are a host of technologies and solutions providers that will enable your company to identify, locate, and manage its assets. Many of these technologies are complementary to one another, and enterprises should be prepared to deploy an integrated solution. RFID (radio frequency identification) may be one part of that solution. Bar coding technology, RTLS (real-time location system) technology, GPS (global positioning system) technology, and wireless networking may also be critical components of your overall asset management solution.

Very few enterprises can claim to manage their assets as effectively as they might want. But, this doesn't have to be the case. The technology exists to help enterprises overcome their asset tracking and management shortcomings. It's a question of how frustrated these companies are with the status quo. Given the end user interest in this application, it's fair to say that enterprises are ready to make changes.