Introduction to Fixed Asset Management
There are obvious benefits from implementing and maintaining a record and control over assets. Savings can be obtained from being able to both see current asset deployment and thereby maximizing their use. Monitoring assets will reduce unauthorized use or misappropriation and insure employees leaving a firm return assets under their control. In some cases a system is mandated by government regulations, terms of lending, public grant terms, insurance terms etc. One person can maintain and manage all fixed assets of a business if they have software to assist them. Computer systems and software available reduce complexity, save time and prevent mistakes. Why use an asset management software program?
While paper and pencil methods can be used, software programs assist in the recording, maintenance and auditing of assets. This saves time and gives a clearer picture of assets since sorting and viewing in different ways is quick and easy.
The most basic ‘solution’ would be using a spreadsheet program such as excel. Even after migrating to software specifically designed for asset management there are times that a spreadsheet program may continue to be useful.
What is an Asset?
What you call an asset often depends upon your business activities. The first thing that comes to mind is fixed assets such as computers, production equipment, office furnishings etc. You might even wish to consider employees as assets or even service and maintenance contracts. A flexible asset management software program can provide a way to track many things most of us would not consider to be assets.
What are my first steps in setting up a system or ‘solution’?
1: Decide what assets will be managed.
The more assets the more work in setting up your system. Limiting assets to only those over a certain dollar value is a good idea.
2: Deciding what characteristics of assets it is important to record within the software.
Your choices will not only have an effect upon the amount of work required but also the extent to which you can manipulate and view asset information by sorting on asset information field or combination of fields.
For example if you setup a field for ‘location’ then you can sort data to see what assets are in each location. If you also have a field for ‘type’ or ‘class’ then you could further sort and display to show only certain types of assets such as computers at one or more location.
As in every aspect of life one has to make tough choices between what is ideal and what is feasible. Your choices will have an effect upon data entry when new assets arrive as well as collecting information about existing assets. Choices you make will also have a bearing upon your choice of software since some may not handle everything you want. One such a limitation is found within the AssetTrakker Pro software program. TrackitSoftware does not provide a method of tracking depreciation because it was felt this added too much complexity requiring the collecting and maintaining of a lot more data. Additionally, they felt, handling depreciation requires superior knowledge of government rules and regulations beyond the expertise of the very people that stand to benefit most from asset management. Accounting departments already calculate and account for depreciation. *Some software does promote depreciation calculation but only offers limited functionality that in most cases is not the way regulations demand.
Below is a listing of Asset Attributes ‘fields’ for your consideration. You will not want to use all of them for your own ‘solution’ and may well have additional ones you need.
Asset #: The key identification reference used to track assets. They can be straight numbers or a number with an alphabetical prefix. (0001 or A001). This number is used for audit purposes and perhaps for cross-reference.
Model: Useful when arranging service or buying parts. Useful as allows grouping by model type.
Serial #: Specific asset identification. Needed when making warranty or insurance claims.
Cost to Repl.: Estimate of the cost of replacing an asset. Useful for planning, risk assessment and insurance.
Cross Ref. #: Reference other asset number or tie together group of assets.
Type: Can be used for a general grouping such as furniture, computer, shipping, etc.
Condition: Helpful to see what is likely to require replacement or decide on service needs.
Description: Other detail in addition to make, model, and serial number.
Memo: Additional information about the asset. If a computer you might want to list details of the hardware configuration or even the programs installed on it.
Department: This is helpful for sorting assets by department to assist in auditing.
Location: Good field to have so that a search/sort can give you a clear view of where assets are located.
Used by: Necessary if you have assets in the personal possession of an employee and/or assets off business premises.
Date Assigned: Useful if assets are moved around or for telling how long an asset has been at its current location.
Expected EOL: The anticipated date when the asset will no longer be useful.
Funded by: Source of funds if provided by Bond Issue, or outside funds (loan) or a grant.
Cost: Total cost of acquiring an asset.
Date Acquired: Helps give some idea when replacement might be required.
Disposed: Indicates an asset has been disposed of.
Disposed Date: Date asset was disposed of.
Business Use %: Used if an asset is not used full time by the business to break down asset use. Not for everyone, but a field that imagination might find an indispensable use for.
OUT: Used for Tool/Equipment Tracking,
Taken By/In From: Used for Tool/Equipment Tracking to indicate who is taking or returning item.
Date Due: Used for Tool/Equipment Tracking to show when an asset is due back.
Recovered Value: Net proceeds of the disposal of an asset.
Disposed Detail: Notes on how and where an asset was disposed of.
Warranty: Indicates if asset is covered by a warranty or could be used if covered by a service/maintenance contract.
Warranty Expiry: It is useful to see what expiries are approaching for tracking maintenance or service agreements. Helps prevent paying for service covered by warranty as well as prompting the repair of items before expiry.
Image: Can assist in asset identification or where ‘look’ is an important feature. Useful if insurance claim ever made.
Value: Could be amount the asset is insured for. Risk exposure control.
Leased: Helps keep track of Leased vs Owned assets.
Lease End: Used to warn when assets have to be replaced or the lease has to be renewed according to the terms of the lease.
Lease Start: Commencement date of lease on leased equipment.
Lease Co: The name of the company from which an asset is leased.
Audit Date: This column records the date the batch scans of assets were made for audit purposes.
Auditor: Record the name of the person who performed the audit.
By now you have a good idea of what asset information you want to track. Before looking at the various software packages available you should consider how many people will be entering data and how many will be accessing the data. For a smaller organization it is likely that just one person will be involved but in larger firms perhaps a number will wish to participate. Your situation could require purchasing more than one software license and the software must support multiple users.
Use a Barcode Scanner?
A barcode scanner can be used to speed data entry and auditing. This will add to the cost and most lower priced software packages offer limited support for barcode scanners. If properly incorporated into software a scanner can provide excellent value and save a lot of time, particularly for annual audit purposes.
Below are outlined the types of barcode scanners used with asset management software.
A ‘dumb’ tethered ccd scanner is cheapest and purchased for around $70. This can only be used when plugged into the computer and acts similarly to a keyboard in that you scan a barcode and it is put into whatever cell or space you are in.
A ‘laser’ tethered scanner is more money but will be able to scan smaller barcodes and perhaps have a deeper field of view (easier to scan a barcode quickly).
A ccd or laser scanner which has built in memory so scans can be made and then the scanner can be brought back and plugged into a computer, and those scans uploaded. This is extremely useful for audit purposes. For maximum utility your software should be optimized to take advantage of this ‘batch’ memory capability. A capable unit can be obtained for around $150.
A laser scanner with internal memory, as well as an input screen and keys, means that after scanning a barcode you can add additional information. These are more expensive and again their use has to be integrated into your management software. While prices are coming down you are looking at units in the pocket pc price range plus scanner cost. It is usual for software utilizing these units to also, for some reason, be priced higher.
Asset Management Software
The range of prices for asset management software is $200 to $10,000 and all require you to do the entry of existing asset data as well as some setting up for your requirements. Some offer telephone advice at additional cost but hands on assistance only comes with expensive packages (this level of software requires expensive sales force and marketing expense so perhaps their price, for the features provided, may seem high).
Purchasing Criteria a lot of people seem to use. You may have more.
1: Price 2: Ease of implementation of system 3: Ease of use 4: Ability to fit the business 5: Functionality 6: Potential to handle growth
What you can obtain for a reasonable price
A program with full relational database, such as MS SQL Server Express, or open source database. Today there is no reason to settle for less power or quality. Microsoft provides their SQL 2005 ‘Express’ DB version at no cost.
A program that allows you to attach images of assets. While not necessary for everyone it is something that someday you might want to use.
A program that integrates the use of inexpensive ‘batch’ memory barcode scanners because, if not now, at some point in the future such an accessory will save time and money. Used in auditing it assures an asset was actually seen as barcode had to be scanned.
A program that will permit the management of 10,000+ assets. With decent memory in your computer and a fast full relational database engine there isn’t much of a limitation anymore and while certain functions might slow down a bit even a low cost program should handle over 10,000 assets.
A program that is flexible so you can take advantage of features later instead of having to implement everything at once.
*If more than one person is to be given access to the database then you should ensure that different levels of access can be set for different users to prevent unauthorized changes to data.
What you can get but not cheaply.
A program that integrates directly into your current accounting system.
A program that has full professional depreciation calculations.
A program that runs directly off your company server (lower cost software runs off workstations and while a central database can be located on your server and accessed by individual workstations this is not the same as complete software being server based with applets on workstations.
Hand holding and in house training to get your system up and running. There are firms that will sit down with you and ask you all the right questions, set up your software, audit and list all your assets and then train your staff how to operate and maintain your ‘solution’. Most, to my knowledge, will recommend a mid to high priced software because it is easier to sell (commission higher as well) and easier for them to install due to their familiarity with it.
Nuts and Bolts
Gathering your Asset Information How you perform this step depends upon your situation. In our discussion below we assume you do not have existing asset information, in an existing excel spreadsheet or other format. If you do then you would save work by export/importing that data into your asset management software.
Starting your Asset Listing and Numbering from Scratch
This is an advantage because you are not limited by inherited constraints. Of course it is more work, as you cannot just load in existing asset information but have to collect everything yourself.
Collecting asset information is time consuming. Getting this information accurately, with as little work as possible is important. Thinking about how to do the job and planning will help make this big job easier.
The following is how I suggest doing this but you may have your own, perhaps better plan.
Create data entry sheets that you will have people write in information about assets under their control. Your asset management software may create these or you could make up an excel spreadsheet to obtain them.
Try and obtain some ‘buy in’ from the department or location manager with control over assets. The closer to the asset you can allocate some responsibility the better that asset will be controlled. ‘It’s my department’s asset’ is more powerful an incentive than ‘it’s I.T. Dept’s asset’.
After entering data, that your co-operative managers helped you obtain, it is time to work with that data within your asset management software. It should not take long to become familiar with how it can present information to you on screen and in reports.
Now sit back and enjoy how easy it is to administer your assets.