As businesses have become more mobile, so have their assets, to the point where it is no longer possible to retain visibility and control of assets solely through an annual audit. Instead, says Karen Conneely, you should
enable employees to track assets continuously with a simple smartphone app.
Society today is mobile in so many ways, but while organisations have developed any number of strategies to support a mobile workforce and customer base, few have implemented effective policies to control and track an increasingly mobile asset base that moves not just within, but also beyond, an organisation’s physical boundaries.
Keeping track of assets used to be a relatively straightforward process – albeit one that was boring and grudgingly undertaken. Someone in IT, finance or facilities management would perform a physical audit, typically using a barcode reader, perhaps once a year to gain an up-to-date view on asset status and location. This enabled Finance to update the balance sheet and the IT/facilities management teams to track asset damage or loss.
In today’s highly mobile society, when organisations manage assets on behalf of other people or allocate expensive assets to individuals for definite or indefinite periods, organisations need to change the way the asset base is managed.
From the school or college providing students with tablets and video equipment for art projects to the NHS Trust or GP surgery providing 24-hour blood pressure monitoring or walking frames to patients at home, or even the hotel looking to keep track of guests’ expensive luggage, assets are permanently on the move.
So just how are those assets going to be tracked? As the NHS increases its focus on delivering more care in the home, how are Trusts and GP surgeries going to retain visibility of equipment provided to individuals for home use? How will they ensure the equipment is in place, check for maintenance requirements and manage returns when the equipment is no longer required? Without an up-to-date view of asset location, there is a significant risk of loss and mismanagement.
So how can an organisation make asset audits a routine and simple day-to-day activity? With the latest generation of mobile apps, organisations have the chance to devolve responsibility for managing and auditing the asset estate away from IT and Finance and towards operational areas. The model is compelling: there is no additional hardware investment and the low cost software can be downloaded from the Apple store or Google Play. It works on any device and training requirements are minimal as most people know how to use a smartphone.
Armed with the mobile asset management app, staff can undertake physical audits using their smartphone camera to scan barcodes – in the same way that the laser scanner on a PDA has been used in the past. The difference is that with ubiquitous smartphone use, an organisation can move away from dedicated equipment and dedicated audit individuals and devolve responsibility across the organisation. A one-off or annual audit can be replaced by routine, even daily activity undertaken by those interacting directly with the assets.
Real Time Information
Simple, immediate access to up-to-date asset information transforms the way organisations can utilise and control a mobile asset base. For example, the art teacher allocating camera equipment to students will automatically scan the equipment as part of the process, ensuring a full and up-to-date record. Similarly, within the NHS, equipment can be scanned as it leaves and is returned to the hospital or GP surgery.
Meanwhile, the IT support person faced with a malfunctioning laptop can use the app to log on to the asset tracking software and view the asset’s history and maintenance status immediately. As part of the support process, the interaction with that asset will automatically update the asset register, ensuring that the laptop’s latest location is also accurate.
This model can even be used by hotels wanting to improve the tracking of guests’ luggage through the arrival, check-in, transfer-to-room and storage processes. Porters could use the mobile app to scan each guest’s luggage on arrival. Each bag would automatically be assigned to an individual or room and then be tracked throughout the guest’s stay. As well as minimising the risk of lost luggage, this approach could also improve security, as any untagged luggage left in the hotel building would immediately be deemed suspicious.
Organisations in every market are operating a far more complex and fluid asset base, and the traditional, once-a-year approach to tracking those assets is no longer good enough. Waiting for Christmas or Year End to undertake a one-off audit is not going to work in such a mobile environment.
By enabling diverse individuals to utilise the new generation of app-based asset tracking solutions, organisations can gain real-time visibility of asset location, value and status. This information empowers asset owners and budget holders to make critical asset management decisions, enabling them to impose control over their continually changing yet increasingly valuable property.
Karen Conneely is Group Commercial Manager of Real Asset Management.