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Best Practices for Labeling Your Assets

What Are Asset or Property Tags?

Before we get into best practices, perhaps we should define our terms. Asset tags are permanent-adhesive labels that companies and individuals use to track equipment for easier management and quicker processing. The tags may contain barcodes, serial numbering, company contact information and the like.

Why Tag Your Equipment?

Asset labels, especially those with QR or barcodes, let you follow an item through it’s lifecycle, tracking when it comes in, who is using it, how old it is. This can be helpful is a wide variety of ways. Frequently, companies use tags as the foundation for inventory purposes. Property ID tags can also help with audit and accounting compliance. They can give management the full scope of current assets and future needs, and track high-end items that need a physical ID.

In addition, asset tags act as the first line fo defense against loss or theft of moveable assets. If you tag a laptop or other tool, you increase the chances of it being returned. We’ve heard two different stories from our customers about asset tags bringing a mobile device back to the owner after being lost in an airport!

According to a frequently-cited “10-80-10” rule of ethics, 80% of employees may take company assets if the situation is right. (10% will never steal, 10% will always do so if they can.) Obviously, this isn’t a hard and fast rule, but a general guideline. Tagging company property, among other actions, can help keep that 80% honest. Company property with an asset tag doesn’t “walk away” as easily as one without.

Asset Tag Pre-Order Decisions

When it comes to asset tags, the first “best practice” is to determine is what assets you will be tagging. Anything above a certain dollar value? Is it only tools, or computers, or other transferable assets, or do you need to tag fixed assets as well? Are you planning to use barcode scanners, or will employees be able to use their phones to check items out? In the second case, for instance, QR codes might be a better choice.  Do your accounting, IT, or facilities departments have specific requirements? These questions should be answered before you order a single asset tag.

Once you’ve determined what assets you’ll tag, you’ll want to look at the label options that are best for your particular items.

Different Asset Tags for Different Purposes

Most companies don’t have special property needs – the vast majority of asset tags that we sell are ones with a serial number, barcode, and company name and logo on indoor quality silver polyester. In fact, these are the ones we use in-house. They are the most popular choice, and also the most economical. You can request free samples of all our asset tag materials, in case you want to try them out for your particular set of circumstances. Just go to our asset tag page and click the large blue “Free Samples” button.

Consider Style

Asset Tracker property ID tag in burgundy
Rather than the standard design shape, however, we use our “Asset Tracker” version, which has three smaller barcodes separate from the main ID tag. These smaller trackers can go on accessories or related items.

In-house, once we’ve tagged and entered the item in our database, one of the small trackers always gets put on a copy of the order or packing slip and is given to our accountant for her records. That helps keep everyone up to date on inventory.

Some companies do have special needs, however, and these should be taken into consideration when you plan your order.

Need Security?

Expensive equipment has a greater risk of theft. Regular asset tags can help with this, especially for the 80% of employees who are generally honest. But most asset tags can be peeled off with enough time and tenacity. (There are reasons to remove them = we generally strip off all our asset tags before donating items to charity, for instance.) You can deter this sort of opportunistic theft by using security labels. We have two kinds of security labels in our asset tag program: VOID and destructible. Both extend the amount of time and effort required for removal.

VOID pattern

The security silver polyester labels have several layers, including separate text and security or “residue” layers. When someone attempts to remove the label, the weak adhesive between the layers breaks, allowing the top layer to be removed. The bottom layer remains and can be difficult and time-consuming to completely clean off. (This is also very good for showing when a computer or other equipment has been opened, possibly voiding a warranty.)

Destructible

We make our destructible labels from a very breakable material. While they are easy to remove from their backing and place on an item, once they’ve “cured” in place, they’re very difficult to remove. Property tags made from this material fragment when someone tries to peel them off, and because of the strength of the adhesive, all the tiny fragments that remain stick pretty tight to the surface. This means there is usually evidence left on the equipment, and the first or second break is usually enough to deter all but the most determined thief.

Assets Outdoors or in Harsh Environments?

What if you have heavy equipment that’s stored outside, or if you have assets that need to be cleaned with chemical abrasives? There are asset tags that will stand up to that kind of treatment. We have four types that are rated for outdoor use. If you need to tag outdoor items, you’ll want to order our anodized aluminum foil, anodized metal, destructible, or LexSaver®plus materials.

Most Rugged – our LexSaver®plus which we also recommend for harsh environments. This material isn’t fazed by heat, tearing, abrasion, chemicals, or physical stress. And the adhesive is good for Low Surface Energy (LSE) plastics and semi-oily metals. These are thick, tough, uv-resistant labels, best on flat surfaces.
Most Flexible – our 3-mil anodized aluminum foil asset tags. They’re highly durable, and best of all, the barcode and serial numbers are embedded in the anodized layer of the label. This means those elements may still be visible after 20 years outdoors.

Need Extra “Grippyness”?

Some applications require super-strong adhesive. Our anodized metal and anodized aluminum foil asset tags have the strongest adhesives. They can stand up to direct sun, salt, cleaning solvents, and will not crack, chip, or peel. They’re rated for up to 20 years outdoors, and their adhesive will keep them in place securely during that time.

Best Practices – Applying Your Asset Tags

  1. Start with a clean, dry surface. If the surface is dirty, use isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol or a lens cleaning wipe (not a hand-cleaning wipe) to remove oil and grime. Let it dry completely before putting the label on.
  2. Most asset tags are applied manually, as new equipment is received. Make sure your hands are clean and dry before removing the label from its liner.
  3. Pull up one corner of the label and edge your finger or fingernail under as small as portion of the corner as possible. Pull the rest of the label off the liner without touching any part of the adhesive except that one corner edge.
  4. Aligning asset tags on an item is not as important as it is for product labels, but you still want to use care. We recommend the back or side of moveable items, rather than the underside, for easier access. It’s good to standardize placement, too, to make inventory easier.
  5. Carefully place the far edge of the label down on the surface and slowly lower the entire label until you can remove your finger from the edge. Smooth the label out starting from the first edge you put down.
  6. Keep the item at room temperature for at least 24-48 hours after application. Destructible and security labels should cure for 48-72 hours, if possible.

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