What to look for when buying an asset tag or asset label (Guide)

Asset tags and labels serve several purposes, but most importantly, they identify physical objects so that they can be easily tracked and monitored. Common uses of asset tags include inventory control in retail stores, property management, library book circulation, hospital patient care monitoring, supply chain management, IT hardware tracking, manufacturing process optimization, school student attendance, sports equipment rental, and agricultural product identification, among others.

What to look for when buying an asset tag or asset label (Guide)
Written by
Carlos Virreira
Published on
July 4, 2023

Asset tags and labels serve several purposes, but most importantly, they identify physical objects so that they can be easily tracked and monitored. Common uses of asset tags include inventory control in retail stores, property management, library book circulation, hospital patient care monitoring, supply chain management, IT hardware tracking, manufacturing process optimization, school student attendance, sports equipment rental, and agricultural product identification, among others.

With the broad application of these products, it becomes clear why businesses and organizations around the globe rely on these asset-tracking solutions every day.

Inside this guide, we will explore various aspects of asset tags and labels relevant to anyone interested in learning more about the subject. We start by discussing several categories of these items related to dimensions (width and height) commonly available online, then move on to their diverse material options and corresponding benefits and drawbacks, followed by crucial features and additional considerations when making choices regarding your asset tags & labels.

Last but certainly not least, our final section offers insights on implementing your chosen solution for your operations.

After reading this guide, you will possess a thorough understanding of what to look for and expect before investing in any type of asset tagging technology. So sit back, relax, and buckle up because we’re diving headfirst into the fascinating world of asset labels and tags today!

What Are Asset Tags and Their Purpose?

Now that you understand a little bit about asset labels and tags and why people find them useful, let us dive deeper into explaining exactly what these products entail and their significance for businesses and organizations.

Dimensions in this guide are both in inches (US standard units - imperial) as well as centimeters (European standard units - metric).

Now, let’s take a closer examination of this product category and unpack its critical components.

Defining Asset Tags

First, let’s define exactly what constitutes an "asset tag." An asset tag represents an item capable of being cataloged for organizational tracking purposes.

These labels help identify unique pieces of equipment, tools, or other tangible possessions. They often contain information that helps administrators quickly locate and manage said assets accordingly.

This includes serial numbers, barcodes, QR codes, RFID chips, contactless smart cards, digital watermarks, or even plain text descriptions.

Each method provides distinct advantages over traditional ID methods; however, some technologies remain far more practical than others due to limitations related to the environment, budget constraints, accessibility, or desired functionality.

We will touch on this topic later on during the discussion regarding material choices.

“shelf is an open source asset management software that relies heavily on QR codes, as they are widely supported by mobile phones without the need of acquiring additional hardware”

Throughout history, marking things came into existence as soon as ancient civilizations began leaving behind artifacts after settling down instead of continuously moving. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that label makers started producing products intended for commercial use.

Spotless co inc used to be a mail-order house with thousands of products, based in Richmond, VA. Mostly known for its car tires.

Since then, the market exploded thanks to growing demand from corporate America, fueled largely by improved mechanization and computerized database integration.

Today, nearly all industries utilize these identifying marks to streamline processes and protect investments.

From grocery store produce stickers to automobiles’ VIN decals, this modern-day necessity serves our society in countless ways.

No longer just the domain of mass-produced goods, these solutions expanded into the realm of tracking office equipment, expensive medical devices, transport vehicles, construction equipment, IT supplies, livestock, military assets, event tickets, museum relics, and much more. Companies seeking to minimize loss or enhance accountability employ asset tags.

Understanding Different Types of Asset Label Materials

Such a broad technology has also a broad availability of materials to pick from. The most popular materials for asset labels or asset tags are polypropylene, paper, PVC, vinyl, Tyvek®, aluminum, brass, stainless steel, and polyester film.

There are tradeoffs between durability, flexibility, cost, ease of printing, scanning, adhesives, and exposure conditions for each material.

Paper - Flexibility & Affordability

As a universal medium, paper's pliability makes it compatible with numerous die sizes, software programs, finishing equipment, and adhesives. Lower-cost hardware and supplies also promote its prevalence among businesses. Its versatility encompasses almost any type of printed content imaginable. However, this same adaptability means less specialized performance features must be sacrificed to support so many potential uses. Paper tags usually perform poorest overall for demanding industrial, food service, or hospital settings, whereas their affordability keeps them ideal for basic indoor office use, general merchandise identification, gift shop merchandising, event signage, party favors, home storage organization, or name badges. Paper cannot match the rigid, scuff-, crack-, scratch-, fade-, or water-resistance properties provided by harder substrates like other tag materials here.

If you are looking for assistance in producing paper-based asset tags or labels for your inventory. Reach out, we are happy to help. We have a broad production network that can deliver tags to your door in a reasonable time frame.

Polypropylene (“Poly”) - Strength & Cost Efficiency

High mechanical toughness helps poly survive rough treatment without breaking. Being relatively light yet robust delivers added benefits for those who want the best of both worlds – great functionality combined with minimal strain on adhered objects. When coupled with excellent cold crack/break resistance, its freeze-thaw stability grants additional winter outdoor operational capacity without degradation. Poly labels display better resistance to most solvents, acids, caustics, and bases, except concentrated sodas, red wine/coffee hot liquids, and certain alcohols, oils, etc. Because poly lacks sufficient heat fusion to enable use with a vast majority of toners and foils, only direct thermal

If you are looking for assistance in producing polypropylene-based asset tags or labels for your inventory. Reach out, we are happy to help. We have a broad production network that can deliver tags to your door in a reasonable time frame.

Tyvek® - Durability & Wide Temperature Range

Developed by DuPont, Tyvek® provides durability similar to but greater flexibility than ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE). As a synthetic material, Tyvek offers exceptional tear resistance and puncture resistance, even when subjected to sharp object impacts. Withstanding extreme cold down to around minus 70 degrees Fahrenheit and surviving exposure to higher temperatures beyond 300 degrees Fahrenheit during short periods, Tyvek excels where prolonged exposure isn't anticipated.

Greater moisture vapor transmission rates help reduce mold growth. While this branded spun-bonded olefin fiber does suffer some damage due to deteriorating effects from extended exposure to sunlight along with weaker oil/solvent resistance, it has broader applicability and remains popular. Tyvek serves well in construction sites, agricultural areas, manufacturing plants, warehouses, commercial kitchens, or anywhere exposure might occur amid extreme conditions. Uses vary between safety garments, wristbands, chart covers, envelopes, book covers, gaskets, banners, graphic displays, maps, and signs.

Aluminum - Longevity & Versatility

Metallic assets benefit from extended outside deployments, particularly those involving frequent contact with liquid chemicals or gasoline. These sturdier elements endure through cycles of high/low temperatures, which increases their value for rugged applications where plastic alternatives are insufficient. Customizable finishes allow incorporation into finished goods as part of the products themselves.

Besides traditional industries, aluminum works well for applications requiring exposure to salty ocean air (marine/water sports), salt spreading/melting agents, road salts, fertilizers/weed killers, pool/spa chemicals, chlorine bleach solutions, fruits, vegetables, and meat processing washdowns, insecticides/pesticides, ammonia/bleaches, animal hormones, plus pressure washing.

For decorative purposes or more formal occasions, painting, powder coating, milling, etching, ing, laser cutting, photo anodizing, polishing, brushing, embossing, engraving, screen printing, or electroplating expands metal's usefulness in artwork, promotional items, fine jewelry, or designer showcases. Unlike polyester, silver, gold, copper, bronze, or brass metals won't corrode over time thanks to natural oxidation or galvanic reactions occurring upon contact with dissimilar metals or humid environments containing sulfur compounds.

Anodized Aluminum - Weather Resistance & Customization Potential

Similar to regular aluminum, weather resistance is improved with anodization to create a ceramic layer that enhances hardening under electrical impulses to form a superficial film. This modification can increase protection against UV radiation while increasing color options through various dying methods. The tradeoff involves cost since adding this step raises production prices.

Typical applications include plaques/signage, door pulls/handles, architectural trim, lighting components, outdoor furniture, kitchen utensils, marine, automotive aftermarket accessories, firearms, and medical devices. Some users prefer not to use metallic alloys where continuous submergence will take place or where highly acidic substance exposures could degrade the base alloy or colored finishes. For harsh environment utilization, special coatings may be required.

Stainless Steel - Corrosion Resistance & Aesthetics

The iron–chromium alloy forms a passivation layer resistant to atmospheric attacks; however, it remains susceptible to microscopic cracks leading to localized corrosion if proper processing controls aren't maintained. Nickel-free grades provide more resistance to pitting caused by chloride ion stress corrosion. Stamping or machining stainless steel allows the creation of custom shapes based on product requirements.

This long-lasting material often sees use in the food/beverage industry, pharmaceuticals, breweries, dairy farming, winery operations, laboratory testing facilities, hospitals, sterile room settings, clean rooms, x-ray darkrooms, research labs, and many more.

Considerations When Choosing Asset Tags/Labels

Choosing asset tags/labels requires careful consideration of several factors to ensure their effectiveness in tracking assets throughout their lifecycle. In this chapter, we explore some key considerations when selecting your asset management solution provider.

Asset tag from early 1900s. The asset ID can be seen above (3929)

Material Selection

The first factor in determining the right tag or label for your assets is selecting a durable and suitable material. Different types of assets require different levels of resilience and visibility. Some common attributes to consider include:

  • Weight and thickness
  • Printing and marking capabilities
  • Adhesives and adhesion
  • Scratch resistance and impact absorption
  • Waterproof features and chemical stability
  • Interference with other materials


Tamper Evidence

To prevent unauthorized modifications and physical damage, tamper evidence features become essential in certain industries. Look for:

  • Holography or optical security features incorporated into the design
  • Destructive removal techniques requiring repair or replacement of damaged surfaces
  • Void indicators create a visible sign when removed or altered improperly

Size and Shape Flexibility

Asset tags must adapt to unique sizes and shapes of your goods to ensure efficient application during operation. You want providers offering:

  • Various dimensions accommodating different surface areas or curvature challenges
  • Multi-part configurations allow attachment around awkwardly placed or irregular objects
  • Adjustable lengths or expandable fasteners addressing versatile item sizes or growth scenarios

Data Integrity and Security Features

Avoid mistakes made by employees accidentally transcribing important information from one location to another. Purchase smart labels or RFID technology having embedded data storage capabilities, minimizing human error potential issues associated with manual record-keeping practices. Additionally, look for products incorporating advanced encoding schemes offering extra layers of security and encryption.

Environmental Resistance

Certain environments can pose severe challenges for even the toughest asset tags/labels. Make sure to choose products designed for harsh conditions, including extreme temperatures, moisture, chemical exposure, UV radiation, and physical abuse, depending on your operating circumstances. For instance, consider weather resistance if your assets spend time outdoors or protect against humidity/moisture in damp workplaces.

Compatibility Across Multiple Systems and Platforms

While focusing primarily on your current requirements, do not forget future expansion plans as well. Ensuring compatibility across multiple systems and platforms enables integration with new hardware, software components, databases, cloud services, and analytical tools. This flexibility allows your organization to scale operations smoothly without becoming locked into proprietary technologies that would force expensive upgrades or replacements down the road. Aim to find providers offering support for open standards, APIs, SDKs, middleware, or industry-specific interfaces to maintain long-term agility and reduce vendor lock-in risks.

Scalability and Adaptability Potential

As a business expands, changes arise, and evolving use cases emerge, the ability of your selected asset-tracking solution to grow alongside your company proves crucial. Identify suppliers willing to customize, modify, or create brand-new variations to suit new demands, ensuring extensibility and compatibility with future technological advancements. By fostering collaboration and partnerships with innovative vendors eager to meet your shifting needs, your enterprise remains poised for success as it continues to mature and diversify.

To summarize

The process of purchasing asset tags and labels involves multiple crucial aspects, from materials to connectivity protocols and integration compatibility.

Finally, it is worth noting that this field continues to evolve rapidly due to advancements in technology.

Asset tracking systems, hardware components, software solutions, and professional services are continually enhanced, introducing fresh innovations, added functionality, and even new players in the competitive landscape.

To stay updated on new developments in this area, bookmark our guide and revisit it regularly. We will keep updating this content while providing new articles, guides, and reviews to ensure you remain informed about industry trends, emerging products and services, and evolving customer needs. Don't hesitate to get in touch if you have questions or would like further guidance throughout your buying journey. Thank you for reading!

Article by
Carlos Virreira

Founder / Vision Lead at Shelf.nu

Table of contents
What to look for when buying an asset tag or asset label (Guide)
Carlos Virreira
Co-Founder Shelf

Founder / Vision Lead at Shelf.nu

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