Businesses and other organizations sometimes mark their equipment, supplies and other assets with stickers imprinted with bar codes. These bar codes are usually composed of a series of lines readable by a special scanner. The stickers can then be used to inventory and track the marked assets. This process is called barcode asset management.
Barcode asset management is achieved using an interactive computerized database. Barcode asset management software works in conjunction with the barcode printer and scanner. Sometimes, when a new asset is shipped to a company, it comes with a bar code already affixed. When this is the case, often all that is needed to add the asset to the asset management database is to scan the sticker. In other instances, an employee will enter the product information into the database and print a new bar code sticker to affix to the asset.
To track the movement of inventory, each scanner is generally given a code to represent its location. Each piece is scanned as it is moved out of or into a different area. The last location in which the asset was scanned is listed as its current location in the database.
Employees can also be assigned barcodes, which are often affixed to their employee identification cards. These cards can be scanned when receiving or returning company property to the inventory. This gives a more exact record of the movements of each asset.
The small size and moderately low cost of most barcode stickers make it possible to track most business assets. Individual papers or files can be inventoried prior to filing to make document recovery easier. Larger tangible assets — such as laptop computers and audio-visual equipment that is often shared between departments — can be found more quickly. Barcode stickers have become rather unobtrusive, so even digital assets such as CDs and DVDs can be marked without interfering with their use.
Most people have experienced barcode asset management while grocery shopping. That is appropriate, because barcoding was first developed for the supermarket industry. Each time an item is scanned, the database lists the price for the cash register and deducts that item it from the inventory of the store. This has improved business productivity by making checkout quicker and reducing the time stores spend pricing and tracking items.
Barcode asset management has a number of applications across many industries. Police departments often use the technology to track evidence. Each piece of evidence is labeled with a sticker and scanned each time it changes hands. The date and time when the evidence is moved is automatically recorded when it is scanned, and the name of the person moving the evidence is often scanned from his or her identification card or entered manually into the system.
Hospitals often use asset management software to track patient files. Frequently, hospital identification bracelets are also barcoded. This helps ensure that the appropriate file is referenced with each patient. Mothers and newborns are given matching bracelets to avoid the accidental switching of babies.