The Difference Between Asset Tracking and Inventory Tracking

Customers looking for barcode tracking software often use the terms asset tracking and inventory tracking interchangeably. And while there are similarities between the two, they actually refer to very different things.

Both asset tracking and inventory tracking software can leverage barcode and RFID technology to speed up error-prone manual processes. And both are used to determine where things are and to conduct physical inventories.

The big differences lie in what’s being tracked, the information generated, and who uses it.

Asset Tracking
Asset tracking refers to tracking unique items of value. They are often called physical assets or fixed assets, and include an organization’s computers, furniture, and equipment. Tracking these assets involves assigning each asset a unique Asset ID. Durable asset tags are placed on the assets and they’re added to an asset tracking system.

When adding new assets to the asset tracking database, you can capture additional useful information. Some common examples include:

Serial Number
Whenever a change is made, the information can be easily updated. Also, physical inventories can be conducted to ensure that the information in the system is accurate and up to date.

Asset tracking activities are often coordinated or performed by a property manager. The visibility provided gives management a clear picture of available resources. Perhaps more importantly, it gives the accounting department of an organization the information they need to avoid overpaying taxes and insurance on assets have been lost, stolen or disposed of.

Inventory Tracking
Inventory tracking refers to tracking non-unique items of value. These are often called stock or consumable items and include things such as parts or supplies. Tracking these items involves assigning each part a stock keeping unit or SKU. The manufacturer usually assigns the SKUs and prints them directly on the product packaging.

These SKUs are added to the inventory tracking software and are used to associate transactions and item levels.

To add inventory, the SKUs are scanned, a shelf, row or bin location is selected and the quantities received are entered into the system. To issue inventory, SKUs are scanned, the location is selected, and the quantities issued are entered into the system. These receive/issue transactions keep your inventory levels accurate, and tell you what you have on hand and where it’s located. Also, physical inventories or cycle counts can be conducted to ensure that your inventory counts are accurate.

These activities are often coordinated or performed by a stockroom or warehouse manager and the visibility provided gives them the information they need to know what they have on the shelf and when to order more.

Why is it important to know the difference between the two?
When you’re searching for a software solution to streamline either one of these processes, you’ll save a lot of time and effort if you know what you’re looking for. If you’re a property manager or someone responsible for managing your organization’s fixed assets you’ll want to look at asset tracking software. If you’re in charge of supplies or stockroom inventory, you’ll want to look at inventory tracking software.

Some independent software vendors (ISVs) sell one type of system or the other. Some sell both. Knowing what type of tracking software you need will bring you one step closer to the right solution for your organization.