Your Definitive Guide to Asset Labeling

Cheqroom’s mission is all about helping you manage and keep track of your valuable assets with the best possible asset management software. A big part of doing that is knowing how to label your assets properly.

TL;DR? watch this video!


Here are all the right questions to ask, and we’ll help you understand the whole thing:

  • What is asset labeling?
  • Why is asset labeling important?
  • What to label and what not to label?
  • What information should you include?
  • What numbering system should you use?
  • What are the right barcodes for asset labels?
  • What’s the best place to put my asset labels?
  • Which material to use?
What is an asset tag

What is asset labeling?

Let’s start with what is an asset tag. Now, what is asset labeling? To be brief asset labeling is the process of giving a unique digital identity to each piece of your equipment by assigning it a specific code or number. This is done by affixing a label to the equipment that bears the number, being an asset tag.

“Asset labeling is the process of giving a unique digital identity to each piece of your equipment”

This helps your operations and allows you to locate the right equipment at the right time in the easiest way possible, especially if they’re all indexed in an asset management system.

Why is asset labeling important?

There are a number of reasons why you would put asset tags on your equipment.

  • Make assets easier to identify, quickly and easily
  • Indicate that the equipment belongs to you and your organization
  • Make it possible to run audits on equipment
  • Save countless hours by scanning asset tags with mobile apps or barcode scanners
  • Avoid confusion when communicating about equipment
  • It’s a key enabler of any asset management system

Asset labeling is crucial to maintaining your equipment and keeping it in good working order.

What to label and what not to label?

One decision you’ll need to make when doing labeling is considering which items really need it. You’ll probably not going to label everything, so you should start off with higher-value pieces.

What needs an asset label:

  • Movable assets: You should consider which items often get moved around a lot, or used by outside people, like freelancers. And it doesn’t stop with labeling individual pieces of equipment, it often makes sense to label kits or bags in which equipment travels, e.g. flight cases or camera bags.
    It really starts to get interesting when you add equipment check-out software that works on top of your asset labels to keep your team accountable when equipment doesn’t come back.
  • Fixed assets: While movable assets are the most prominent pieces to label, you may also want to label some immovable, or hard-to-move equipment, to help with inspection, maintenance, or repair schedules, too.
  • Prone to theft: Alternatively, which items might be more likely to be stolen? More expensive items are probably better candidates to be labeled, and your “Property of” asset label will help as a theft deterrent.

    Just think through the implications before you start labeling e.g. unencrypted hard drives with sensitive information.

    Sometimes, for security reasons, organizations choose to leave off information that might attract unwanted attention to the assets

What does NOT need an asset label:

  • Consumable items, since you typically don’t have any long-term plans for these.
  • Items that lose value due to the fact you placed an asset label, e.g. art or antiques. If you label these, be careful about the placement and material you use.

What information should you include on an asset label?
Deciding what information to include – and what to exclude – is an important decision for your labeling.

Asset labels have only so much space, so you’ll have to be selective in deciding what to fill your limited space with.

Of course, you’ll need one or more of these:

  • your numbering, in a human-readable way
    a scannable code, so you can use mobile apps or barcode scanners
  • the name of the item and maybe some basic specs
    and maybe also “Property of” with your organization’s name
  • But after this, you get into questions that are specific to your organization and your database system, so make sure you give it a good thought before filling up your asset labels!
Assetlabels img3

What numbering system should you use?

The most obvious way to number your assets is using a sequential numbering system, e.g. a simple “Plus One” list of numbers.

Avoid using leading zeroes (000001 for example) for your incremental numbering system, because a lot of spreadsheet software drops leading zeroes.

Some organizations like to make it a little more specific by including letters, and an alphanumeric structure, like A00123 or C00456. Of course these work, but remember that you can do whatever you want with your system – It’s yours!

So to help you identify and understand your assets more easily, you could assign maybe CA for cameras, and MI for Microphones, or something like that, followed by a numbering system. But if you’re using barcodes, remember that sometimes they may be totally unique, and different from your ideas, so you’ll have to reconcile them.

Watch out with certain fonts — Some fonts can be confusing, so be sure you choose a typeface that distinguishes between 0 (zero) and O (letter o), as well as l (lowercase L) and I (uppercase i)

Why it’s not a good idea to rely on the tags from the manufacturer?

It may seem like a simple, easy thing to do to use the labels a manufacturer provides. But this often has shortfalls.

For instance:

  • Uniqueness: They’re not guaranteed to be unique, either to the piece, or especially to you and your organization.
  • Scannability: They might not be readable to your barcode scanner, or compatible with your equipment management apps.
  • Placement: They can be put in places that might make sense when manufacturing something, but not while using or scanning it.

    Better not to risk it with the manufacturer’s labels.

What are the right barcodes for asset labels?

The barcode is usually the most useful part of an asset tag. The scannable part can be made up for different “symbologies” that decide how data is encoded and decoded in a scannable bar code.

The most common two kinds of barcode symbologies for asset management are called Code 39 and Code 128. These are different from the EAN or UPC barcodes on all retail products. Once you have everything labeled, you have the possibility to follow your equipment everywhere by using barcode tracking.

Apr 30, 2018 Written by Hana Belbecir