It’s true that many operations are run entirely from spreadsheets; they are easy to setup and the data is simple to change. However, spreadsheets are simply not a viable option for the purposes of meeting government standards for asset data management.
The government requires that contractors have systems in place to track assets and shipments, particularly if managing government property. If a government representative calls for information on a specific asset, that data needs to be easily and quickly located. For organizations manually managing the data within a spreadsheet, the threat of inaccuracy is incredibly high. The more asset and production data they are tracking and reporting, the greater the risk becomes. A2B Tracking frequently sees spreadsheets with extraordinary amounts of precise manufacturing or property data; the data is always flawed because spreadsheets don’t have adequate controls to manage the business rules and data syntax required by government systems.
Spreadsheets have limitations outside of the dysfunctionality of manual data management for asset and production tracking, such as:
Incorrect data entry even if scanned
The scanning of any bar code into a spreadsheet runs a huge risk of capturing data into the wrong cell, or of having the spreadsheet try to interpret the data string into a formatted cell.
No capability for data entry rules
Spreadsheets can’t create rules for certain kinds of data which cannot be broken, like how a part number is formatting or eliminating the possibility of a serial number being duplicated. Excel is simply not adaptive enough to take in the ever-changing data rulesets. Specialized programming would be required to enable a spreadsheet for this level of control, and—even then—these rules are ever changing.
Unable to fully incorporate Auto ID
Spreadsheets present the enormous impediment of the inability to fully incorporate Auto ID. The particular formatting and interpretation required by an “intelligent” scanner that can handle and output the UII makes scanning an IUID barcode infinitely more challenging. Thus, these assets must be tracked and scanned manually.
All of these limitations come back to the 2D Data Matrix barcode: each code must have a precise syntax and the list of identifiers that specify how the UII string or machine readable information should be read. Because of the complexity, Microsoft Excel can’t be relied upon to create the strings for assets being submitted to the DoD.
These are serious rules that cannot be broken when submitting data to the DoD, so it’s critical that the contractor initiates the control before it’s too late and becomes expensive to clean up once recognized after shipment.