Keep track of your valuable equipment with simplicity
MAY 2018 | 6 MIN READ
Managing all your inventory can be a daunting task. Inventory for the showroom, the warehouse, some for sale, some for demos and trials, some for sales orders, inventory that’s on hold, product orders, and more. It’s easy to get lost in all the chaos that comes with keeping track of your inventory.
One of the key pieces to keeping track of your inventory is properly labeling your inventory.
To understand home medical equipment labeling you’ll have to understand the following questions:
- What is equipment labeling?
- Why is equipment labeling important?
- What to label and what not to label?
- What information should you include?
- What system should you use?
- What are the right barcodes for equipment labels?
- What’s the best place to put my equipment labels?
- Which material to use?
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What is equipment labeling?
The first thing to understanding labeling is knowing what an equipment label is.
Equipment labeling is the process of giving a unique tagged identity to each piece of your inventory through assigning a specific label that can encompass several pieces of information about the product such as an item number, barcode, SKU number, company logo, and more. This label is then attached to the product through a tag or a sticker.
Whether it be streamlining your operation by allowing staff to easily process products through point of sales, keeping track of historical records tied to the item, or being able to find the exact product and information tied to the product immediately when the label is scanned make for a great inventory management system.
Why is equipment labeling important?
Anyone of the following reasons could be the reason you start placing equipment tags on your products today.
- Quickly identify what equipment belongs to your company.
- Save a large amount of time by scanning equipment tags with wireless barcode scanners.
- Run audits on equipment.
- Attributes linked to the inventory management system.
- Ability to pull up relevant information related to the product.
- Crucial to maintaining equipment.
What to label?
Consider all the items that are in your inventory and include the products could potentially be purchased from vendors. That could encompass hundreds of thousands of products as most wheelchairs have multiple configurations of attributes.
Often products that are rented, trialed, or higher valued items such as wheelchair bodies, hospital beds and scooters could be labeled. Let’s take a look at a few examples below.
Needs a label
While movable assets are the most obvious pieces to label, you may also want to label some immovable, or hard-to-move equipment, to help with inspection, maintenance or repair schedules, too. Hospital beds and chairs would be great products to start with.
High theft and lost items
Any items that often are misplaced or not returned, such as rental items, should be labeled. Expensive items are great items to label as it may help with deterring theft.
Items that move around or used by third parties such as wheelchairs and mobility aids on long-term loans and contracts to health authorities, home care centers and hospitals.
Labeling tools with a company sticker can help loss prevention when multiple contractors and service technicians are working on the same worksite. It may also help if an employee forgets a tool on a job site, a bystander would be able to track down the company the tool belongs to.
Highly Visible Assets
Ramps and lifts are a great place to attach a product label that includes your company logo, and contact information such as the phone number of your company. Highly visible assets also possess the ability for free marketing, can’t beat that!
With equipment labels that include barcodes, the point of sales scanning or quote building can work in unison with your equipment labels to drive efficient sales, track the right data, and keep your team up to date with equipment in the field.
Does not need an equipment label
- Non-durable items and consumables. Their lifespan is short and cannot be reused.
- Items such as incontinence, compression or lifestyle aids
What information should you include on an equipment label?
You don’t want equipment labels to be massive, but rather quite discrete. With the limited amount of space, you’ll have to choose what needs to go on the label.
Select from one or more of these:
- scannable barcode
- item number
- serial number
- company logo
- product specifications
What numbering system should you use?
Using a sequential numbering system is a simple way to list your products. Sequential numbering refers to printing numbers in order in either ascending or descending numerical order.
Use letters to adjust the label to the coordinating category or department might allow for faster retrieval of information when looking at the label but more upfront time creating the label. Think of using the sequential numbering sequence while differentiating any departments or categories that have the same leading letters. See the following below:
Departments / Category / Item #
- PWFWD001 = Power Wheelchair / Front Wheel Drive / Item #001
- MWLFW210 = Manual Wheelchair / Lightweight Folding Wheelchair / Item #210
- MAC441 = Mobility Aid / Canes / Item #441
Don’t forget to use a font that supports differentiation between 0 and the letter O, as well as the letter l and uppercase I.
Don’t rely on tags from the manufacturer
Sure you can use the label from the manufacturer but it doesn’t take into account for:
- Different manufactures might have the same barcode.
- Not all labels are compatible with your barcode scanner.
- Manufacturer labels can be put in places that made sense when placing all the pieces of the item together but is now covered or in a hard to reach area when scanning.
What are the right barcodes for equipment labels?
The barcode is usually the most useful part of an equipment label. The scannable part can be made up of different symbols and bars that decide how data is encoded and decoded in a scannable bar code.
The most common two kinds of barcode symbologies for equipment management are called Code 39 and Code 128. These are different from the EAN or UPC barcodes you’ll on all retail products.
One-dimensional, or 1-D barcodes, represent data by varying the widths and spacings of parallel lines, and may be referred to as linear or one-dimensional. The plain old black and white barcode everyone knows is an example of this.
The most common industrial symbology system is Code 39 Barcodes. This system uses uppercase alphanumeric characters, and the seven special characters.
Code 128 supports all 128 ASCII characters. It’s more concise and space-efficient, and less subject to problems when scanned. However, it uses four different widths, so requires a good quality printer to get right
Two-dimensional, or 2-D barcodes, systematically represent data using two-dimensional symbols and shapes. They are similar to a linear (1-dimensional) barcode but can represent more data per unit area. QR codes are the most popular form of 2-D barcodes.
The 3 main advantages of 2D barcodes are:
- their compact size
- can store more data
- can be read from any direction
These are the most common 2D barcodes used for asset labeling:
QR codes (abbreviated from Quick Response Code) are the most common form of 2-D barcodes. They consist of black and white modules arranged across a square space, and can carry far more information than a 1-D barcode. They can also be scanned easily using the camera on an ordinary smartphone, although in recent years apps for 1-D scanning have been created.
Data Matrix codes
These are similar to QR codes, using black and while “cells” across a small square area. One Data Matrix code can store as many as 2,335 alphanumeric characters.
Other types of tags
If you want to try more “advanced” equipment labels and tags then the traditional 1-D and 2-D barcodes, there are some options for you.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
These labels transmit their information using an electromagnetic field, so they can be scanned even when they can’t be seen, or if mounted inside a piece of equipment, if that makes more sense for the piece.
Near-Field Communication (NFC)
NFC tags can be read by applications on both Android and iOS. Although technically a specialized subcategory within RFID tags, NFC operates at a slightly different frequency and at a higher security level.
Bluetooth LE (BTLE)
On the market since 2011, these tags send out a beacon to announce themselves, and can be automatically scanned when placed back in storage if set up properly, saving you lots of time.
Global Positioning System (GPS)
GPS tags are probably the most advanced asset tagging, as they can keep track of an asset’s location in real time. This gives you the most possible oversight on your equipment, but can also be expensive and complicated to set up. So you’ll need to consider where and how you might need to employ it. This might be a beneficial way of tagging equipment that is high value and often gets misplaced or stolen.
What’s the best place to put my asset labels?
Choosing where to put your asset labels is no easy task. You need to make sure not stop the natural function and movement of the equipment, but also make it easy to reach for scanning. Mark the spot the most equipment in each category or department would allow for the proper fitting of a label. Keeping consistency will help employees easily find the equipment tag.
Take a look at this style and placement guide from HP to see some ideas about placement of labels.
Which material to use?
Which material to use for the label depends on how the equipment gets used, and where it gets used. If it’s outdoors and in the field a lot, you’ll need something more durable.
Paper is obviously the easiest and cheapest but works only under very controlled situations. Manufacturers like Avery or Dymo even have some more durable paper-based labels. Adding a clear cover such as gorilla tape can help keep the quality of the label over time
Polypropylene or vinyl
Often more durable while working well indoors or outdoors under moderate conditions. These labels tend to have an average outdoor durability of around 2 years.
These asset labels are designed with extreme durability in mind and are aimed to withstand the harshest environments. For some use cases, they are riveted to the equipment instead of attached via adhesives.
Again, as with all labeling decisions, you’ll need to consider the equipment being labeled and the situations it will be in.
It’s also a good idea, whenever possible, to use tamper-evident labels. These can add some upfront cost to acquisition and in affixing, but you will save it over time in greater equipment security and theft prevention. If you don’t want to spend the cost up front, search for non-discrete areas to stick the labels onto.
The bottom line
Although barcodes are small they can pack a lot of information and speed up your equipment tracking process. If you need ideas about how to use barcode labeling to your advantage, just contact us, we are more than happy to help!
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