Tricks Of The Trade: The Ins And Outs Of Asset Management

By James C. Elledge, IFMA Fellow, CFM, FMA, RPA, RIAQM
Published in the May 2011 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Q I have been tasked with finding and implementing a solid, yet flexible and functional asset/inventory tracking system for all of the company assets. Computers and other hardware are the big items, of course, but there is also a ton of furniture we need to track.

It seems there are a lot of companies that will print the tags for you (instead of you having your own tag machine to print for yourself), but my boss seems to think we should have our own equipment. I don’t know what I should do.

What are the advantages and/or disadvantages of doing it yourself instead of farming out this function? Also, if I do end up purchasing the software and equipment to do it myself, how should I evaluate my options? Do you have an opinion on best practices for inventory systems of late?

Walt Long
Facilities Manager
Kingstowne, VA

A I found a short white paper, “Fixed Asset Inventory Best Practices” from Asset Systems Incorporated, which has some great tips to use to set up your asset inventory tracking system. I suggest you read it and then consider my feedback, which appears below.

Labeling. I prefer to use the imprinted metallic labels offered by companies such as Metalcraft since they are more durable than the majority of the self printed ones. The bar coding options offered also make it easy to incorporate automated equipment to assist in the tracking. RFID incorporated labels support even greater flexibility in asset tracking.

D-I-Y Options. I am a very strong supporter of using Office Suite based applications to assist in database tracking of many facility related functions. Microsoft Access has a very helpful asset inventory template which can be used to create a customized asset system. The benefit of using Access is you can easily add features and tables as needed.

For instance, maybe you want to take a photo of the asset and attach the image to the record for future reference. You could also scan in the invoice and attach it to the record for a more complete inventory file.

Access will also work with Visio, allowing you to place the asset on a floorplan and track it visually. Another advantage is you can track many different types of assets, such as computers, printers, software licenses, phones (desk and wireless), desks, file cabinets, and other types of furniture.

As your company grows, you can upgrade Access to SQL or export the information to a third-party software solution. This allows you to implement a system and start managing your assets. As you find out the different types of data needed, this will assist you in fine-tuning the database and learning what features are really needed and used.

Elledge, facility/office services manager for Dallas, TX-based Summit Alliance Companies, is the recipient of the Distinguished Author Award from the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), is an IFMA Fellow, and is a member of TFM’s Editorial Advisory Board.

All questions have been submitted via the “Ask The Expert” portion of the magazine’s Web site. To pose a question, visit this link.