Asset tracking and inventory management, while both crucial to an operation’s success, share commonalities. In a nutshell: asset tracking via auto ID technology such as barcode and RFID technology will inherently manage inventory, but inventory management is a broad practice that encompasses many facets of a successful operations. Rather, it is simply one of many functions of asset tracking.
Defining Inventory Management
Inventory management, whether performed manually by means of a pen and a clipboard, or performed electronically through a computer or mobile device, verifies the existence of inventory. Do I have this product, and–if so–how much of it do I have? Is that enough? Do I need to replenish?
The ability to account for the availability of inventory is necessary in retail situations, as they deal with this need as a critical part of their day-to-day operations. Barcode technology has streamlined inventory management, enabling triggered notifications that new stock must be made available (whether that means ordering, building, or electing to remove from the inventory list entirely.)
With credit to the improved the accuracy and efficiency of digital inventory management technology, it is merely one aspect of what is referred to as “asset tracking.”
Barcode or RFID Technology for Asset Tracking
Asset tracking via barcode or RFID technology allows an organization to not only account for an item, it will provide information regarding:
- Exactly where it is
- Where it has been
- Who has performed maintenance on it
- What kind of maintenance was performed
- How it is being/has been used
- The current status in regard to readiness/functionality
Information for Decision Makers
The obvious entities that benefit from asset tracking and its expanded benefits are those with assets being used in critical, time-sensitive situations.
A disaster response unit, for example, needs to know that–when a disaster hits–not only do have the items needed to perform their jobs, those items are at the ready. Assets like medication or defibrillators must certainly be accounted for, but possessing that information won’t verify that those assets are functioning and capable of being reliably used in critical situations.
RFID technology is used in military operations because it allows them to only send fully functioning assets into the field, and–then–immediately know if something is in the field and functioning incorrectly (or not at all.)
These are potentially life-or-death situations. These organizations and others like them also see extensive efficiency and monetary benefits; factors that are also incredibly valuable for commercial businesses.
Retail stores can use RFID technology by implementing choke points, notifying security if a tagged item passes through it. The store manager’s ability to know when an item needs to be re-ordered relies directly on the visibility of the stock and the ability to detect shrinkage from that stock.
Asset tracking technology can eliminate, in some cases, the need for human involvement, whereas even the most advanced inventory management requires manually performed scanning.
Asset tracking and inventory management don’t satisfy the same needs differently. Rather, inventory management is simply one of the needs filled when an organization implements barcode or RFID technology. When deciding between standard inventory management and asset tracking, start by evaluating the needs of your organization.