Fixed assets are property your business expects to own and use for at least one year. Land, buildings, computer equipment and factory machinery can all be classed as fixed assets on your balance sheet. They're separate from current assets such as inventory, which you expect to turn into cash within the next 12 months. As your company grows, keeping track of all your fixed assets becomes challenging.
Keeping a record of your assets on your computer lets you update and change the list easily. With a spreadsheet, you can also record the depreciation and the book value — how much an asset is worth after you subtract for wear and tear over time. If you have a lot of assets, you may need to ditch the spreadsheet and use specialized software to keep track, such as Asset Aide, Sage Fixed Assets or Redbeam.
Having asset-tracking software doesn't guarantee your company will use it properly. Employees make mistakes, forget to update the inventory or decide to take equipment home with them to keep. A physical inventory every year or six months shows whether your company has all the necessary equipment and furniture. A number of asset-tracking software companies provide bar code stickers to place on your fixed assets. You then use a barcode scanner to confirm everything listed in your computer is still there.
If a lot of your assets are mobile, such as a fleet of trucks, or company laptops issued to employees, GPS can help you track them. If equipment spends a lot of time in storage between assignments, there are GPS trackers that will report location once a week when stationary, and every five minutes once in motion. You can also use GPS to create an invisible fence that alerts you if a truck or laptop crosses the boundary.
Depending on the size of your company and the number of assets, it may not be worth putting the same effort into tracking every asset. You need to monitor the condition and depreciation of any buildings you own, for instance, but you don't need to barcode them to know they're still there. California State University in Long Beach only tracks fixed assets worth more than $5,000 or important items worth $500 that can easily be stolen without anyone spotting the theft.
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.