Losing Trust in Pen and Paper? Here’re Some Alternative Asset Management Approaches

Pen and Paper Asset Management: Ups, Downs & Alternatives

Summary: Using pen and paper to manage your assets is often frowned upon, but a surprising number of companies take this approach – and that’s okay. But there are several risks you should be wary of when doing so, which is why it’s encouraged to seek alternatives for your asset management activities – from spreadsheets and tablets to Asset Management Software.

In a market of digitalised buzzwords like automation, efficiency, productivity, and proactive – pen and paper asset management methods still exist.

30% of Comparesoft users monitor their unmanaged assets manually with methods such as pen and paper. While 62% use a more-computerised form of governance in spreadsheets – like Excel and Google Sheets.

Most popular asset management system alternatives

Of course, relying on pen and paper for your business operations has its risks – data backups, security, unsustainable – but you’ll have reasons for using this approach:

  1. It aligns with your budget
  2. You’re resistant to changing a working system (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!)
  3. It’s a process you and your team are comfortable with

But if – or when – the time comes to consider a change, there are alternatives. Ranging from hardware choices to implementing Asset Management Software.

First, though, it’s important to understand why your pen-and-paper method isn’t necessarily broken.

Yes, Pen and Paper Asset Management Is Okay

Pen and paper can be used for multiple purposes in a business, from maintenance activities to timekeeping. The main reason for this is that it is cost-effective and it’s easy to learn for new employees. The same goes for using pen and paper to manage assets.

Whereas others may highlight it as a resistance to change, your reasons for continuing to use pen and paper are justified:

  • It’s what you’re used to: Familiarity is underrated in business operations, particularly when it comes to asset management. As soon as you arrive at work, you have a repeatable routine for knowing how the process works.
  • It’s worked for years: Whether you’ve been manually managing your assets for 5, 10, or 20 years, using pen and paper has always worked. Essentially, if it’s worked for you this long, why can’t it keep working?
  • Employees are comfortable with it: If employees are comfortable with sticky notes on computers, data being passed on by word-of-mouth, and emails being sent out about the availability of spare parts, why change the way they work?

Why Managing Assets With Pen and Paper Poses Risks

Of course, there are generic risks when detailing the use of pen and paper for asset management tasks – less productivity, more human errors, fractures in team collaboration – but there are other risks that are more likely to affect your asset management directly.

You’re Relient on Memory

Marking a task as “complete”, updating an asset’s current location, and inputting stock levels are all reliant on the user’s memory. If a user fails to act right away, they’re more than likely to become distracted and forget.

There are a few instances where a lapse in memory can affect your asset management:

  • Forgetting to remove a recently disposed asset results in increased ghost assets
  • An urgent issue is not acted upon as information is diluted when passed through word of mouth
  • Forgetting to update the maintenance calendar to indicate an asset is down for repair

Paper Is Not Sustainable

As work orders, ledgers, and duplicate pads are filled up with ever-increasing asset data, the sustainability of a pen and paper system is questioned; where will you store your files? How much are spending on notepads? And how many pens, whiteboards, markers, ink, and printers do you go through? Businesses in the US waste $8 million a year on managing paper.

Ink Fades Away

No matter what colour ink you use or where you store your paperwork, ink fades. This is a real risk factor for businesses relying on historic asset data from their pen-and-paper system. If you need to find information on asset procurement and depreciation, looking at historical purchasing data is key.

Data Is Not Backed Up

Whether for insurance, tax, compliance, or purchasing purposes, your asset data needs to be stored and easily accessible. In a pen-and-paper system, this means filing paperwork and storing it in a safe environment – somewhere where natural distances can’t destroy it.

The risk of losing asset data is heightened when using pen and paper – important information can be accidentally thrown away or paperwork can be put down and lost as it is passed between employees.

Whereas, with other methods, data backup is as simple as saving a spreadsheet master file or using a cloud-based Asset Management Software with background backups.

3 Alternative Methods to Pen and Paper Asset Management

There are three main alternatives for managing your assets when it comes to replacing duplicate pads, notebooks, ledgers, and whiteboards.

1. Tablet/iPad

Using a tablet (iPad or similar) is a great way to start digitalising your asset management data. Even if it’s as simple as using the built-in Notes feature, having an email chain between employees, or using a dedicated app. A bonus for deploying tablets in the workplace is that you and your employees know how they work. Meaning no extra training or support is required.

2. Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are used throughout multiple businesses for asset management purposes. They appeal to asset managers and business owners for several reasons:

  • Easily back up data
  • Easy to use
  • Free to use
  • Automate calculations
  • Set up alerts and notifications

Be wary though, spreadsheets can be a breeding ground for human errors and security flaws.

3. Asset Management Software

Asset Management Software keeps all your data stored in one place. Including purchase dates, costs, real-time location, asset lifecycle stages, maintenance plans, and more. It helps to provide a detailed overview of the assets you own and encourages better decision-making when it comes to the procurement, operation, and disposal of assets.

The level of asset management tools available vary and can be tailored to different user needs. So keep in mind that when it comes to cost and ease of use, most sophisticated Asset Management Software is easier and more affordable than you might think.

Benefits of Using Asset Management Software Instead of Pen and Paper

Easily Pass Information Between Teams

Instead of leaving notes on desks or speaking to the maintenance team on the workshop floor, Asset Management Software lets you easily share information between teams digitally.

By having access to the system, field workers can see what spare parts are available, engineers know when machines are due for maintenance, and financial teams can budget for the latest asset purchase. This allows:

  • Reports and analytics to be shared
  • Relevant users to be alerted when data is edited
  • Users to be notified when assets are down
  • Stock alerts to be activated for low inventory thresholds

Be Less Reactive to Asset Failures

A key element of Asset Management Software is having combined data at your fingertips. Inside a pool of data is an asset’s operational and maintenance period. This data allows you to plan for regular maintenance and servicing, risking the chance of unexpected failure.

A proactive approach such as this will help to reduce reactive repairs and breakdowns, which can be costly in both money and downtime.

Know When to Get Rid of Costly Machines and Equipment

Having a holistic view of all your asset data in one place helps to plan more efficiently for disposals. Whether that means renewing, re-purchasing, or getting rid of assets at the end of their useful life.

Combined data gives you an overview of how much an asset costs to run and how much output it gives towards operations. Effectively giving you the answer to the question; is it worth keeping?

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