What about those orange soccer balls? Where do they come from? Who do they belong to? For Steve Peters, his club’s orange soccer balls were crying to be better organized and identified to prevent loss. As part of his asset management process, Steve labeled his orange soccer balls with clear and yellow DuraLabel tape. At $100 or more per ball, even with wear and tear, soccer balls have substantial value.
As for Steve’s soccer balls, after 6 weeks of field abuse, the labels were still holding true and more balls were making it back to the storage area after the game.
Asset management is the formal process of operating, maintaining, upgrading, and disposing of goods and services cost effectively. Current assets are the inventory a company has, as well as the accounts receivable and any short term investments it has in place. The challenge in current asset management is keeping the proper flow of income and liability in balance. Managing current assets also takes into account the long-term investments of a company. Short-term assets, another name for current assets, are important in determining the liquidity of a company. The measure of liquidity is really the measure of how well and how fast a company can pay off its debts.
It’s easy to track our personal assets. Just make a list, record purchase prices, keep receipts and figure out when or if it’s time to sell old stuff, recycle or donate items we longer want or need. I’ve bought and sold several cars over the years. I usually refer to Kelly Blue Book to determine the worth of a used vehicle, post an ad on Craigslist, meet the prospective buyer, haggle on the price then move on.
Here at Graphic Products, we keep a fairly healthy inventory of labeling machines—mostly orange—and supplies available for our customers. Labeling supplies—orange, blue, black, green, red, and yellow—are consumed fairly quickly and it makes sense to have plenty of inventory available particularly when customers print thousands of pipe marking labels at the beginning of a project. The machines are our assets and our inventory.
Electronic assets—including computers, laptops, software, and projection systems—are notoriously challenging to manage. Remote access, mobile devices, contractors with network access, reorganizations, employee transfers, system and space redesign, new installations, and system retirements all contribute to the confusion. Devices appear and disappear on networks quickly. Real control of these assets may be the responsibility of IT teams who are also busy maintaining and upgrading all these properties. When it’s time to move outdated gear from the desktop to storage areas and beyond, color coding, alpha-numeric systems and barcode labeling helps provide a history of each item and its value.
But assets aren’t just pieces of equipment or financial vehicles. Two of the most important assets in an organization are the knowledge of how the business is run, and the people who execute their work every day using that knowledge. The saying “people are our greatest asset” may seem trite, but it’s true. And in most organizations, people are the most expensive asset to replace and their knowledge incredibly difficult to capture.
Robby Slaughter, a principal with the Indianapolis-based consulting firm AccelaWork, notes that asset management is much more difficult when you can’t put your hands on what’s valuable. “Experienced team members know how to solve obscure problems and how to conduct routine tasks,” he explains. “We usually don’t realize just how much someone knows about our business until they are gone.”
That’s why asset management is everyone’s responsibility. We need to take care of the equipment we have, maintaining it and keeping it running. We need to be good stewards of financial assets for our business, helping to confirm that customers are paying on time and that money we do spend is used wisely.
But most importantly, managing the crucial asset of people and their knowledge must not be dismissed. Ask others for their professional opinions. Get them to show you how they complete crucial tasks so you can help out. Document your job so that others can learn from your experience (and your mistakes!) And tell people that you appreciate them. That may be the most easily overlooked part of managing human capital. After all, the best way to stay engaged in your work is to be confident that others value your contribution.