To Barcode or not to Barcode? That is the question.

Since every record surely contains something offensive to someone, sticker them all. Make this as meaningless as the bar code. ~Michael Stipe, R.E.M.

Barcode labels and scanning is one of the most common topics we are asked about during an engagement. Unfortunately, we usually defer to the typical consultant answer, “depends”. (Seriously, that’s the short answer)

So what does it depend on? I’m so glad you asked! First off, barcode labels are an expense. They can range from a few cents a label to a few dollars a label for RFID (Radio Frequency ID) tags. The tags themselves cost money, and it costs time to put them on. Secondly, a large majority of equipment comes with barcode labels for the serial number of the device.

Maybe the question for you is “what’s the deal with barcodes in the first place?”. Well, barcodes give you a secondary numbering system beyond the serial number to track the equipment. And it gives you the option to put the barcode label where it’s easily visible. I have a Lenovo laptop and in order to get to the serial number and it’s corresponding barcode, I need to take out my battery. Think about walking around and asking people to scan their equipment and running into a laptop like mine!

Barcode scanning is a good way to create and update asset/CI records for equipment that is not in a running state or discoverable “on the wire”. This means the laptops hidden in desk drawers, the pallets of equipment delivered by your vendor, and the closet full of old equipment waiting for the disposal vendor.

The alternative to barcode scanning is to use Advanced Ship Notices (ASN) for new equipment, and to tighten up the policies, processes, and procedures that deal with updating asset/CI status. If every piece of equipment is updated as it is touched, it minimizes the need to have a fancy (or not) barcode scanner.

So back to the original question…Should I use barcode stickers and/or a barcode scanner? Depends. Weigh out your current policy and process structure and find out if your vendors can send you ASN documentation. (Most vendors will be able to provide this if you ask).

As we’ve posted before, if you’d like us to answer a question for you, send it to us on Twitter @ITS_ITAMTeam with the hashtag #BlogQuestion and we may write a blog post about it!

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