Four Ways Manufacturers Track Intellectual Property Assets During the Product Lifecycle

As we’ve discussed before, intellectual property theft can cost manufacturers billions in lost revenue, litigation and contract disputes. One surprising contributing factor to IP theft comes from “leaks” that occur when an IP sensitive asset is mishandled by the corporation. Most manufacturers have a system in place to mitigate these leaks and track these physical and digital samples/prototypes. However, that system may not be covering all the potential pitfalls, leaving your company vulnerable to IP theft. Let’s take a look at some of the common tracking systems we see being used in the market.

What Does An Effective Asset Management System Look Like?

If an asset management system is going to have a positive impact on IP theft prevention, it needs to track the following:

  • Follows the asset from its creation to disposal
  • Shows the ownership of the asset during each development stage
  • Enforces asset accountability and traceability
  • Scalable to meet the SKU demands of the manufacturer
  • Easy to use, to better ensure adoption by all vested parties

Let’s see how the four most common asset management systems stack up to these key needs.

The Four Types Of Asset Management Systems


System 1: Manual Tracking Via Spreadsheets

Perhaps the first system (and in some cases the only system) used by brands to tackle the tracking of samples and prototypes is the trusty spreadsheet. Whether it’s a single Microsoft Excel sheet, or a cloud-based Google Sheets document, spreadsheet tracking is common place across most manufacturers.

While certainly easy (and cheap) to implement, the spreadsheet system comes with a host of pitfalls including:

  • Inability to Scale: Spreadsheets tend to get bloated once your tracking hundreds (or even thousands) of distinct SKUs
  • Manual Entry: Spreadsheets rely on individuals to input the tracking data of each asset, which can lead to errors and missing information
  • No Redundancy: If a mistake occurs, and a document is deleted or reverted to an earlier state, it could mean the deletion of critical tracking information

System 2: Homegrown Asset Tracking System

A homegrown system is an asset management system that was built specific to the corporation (usually by that company’s IT department). It’s a manufacturer’s own private way to keep tabs on their assets. E-ISG works with many clients who have a homegrown system. While it is a more sophisticated solution than the spreadsheet system, it isn’t without its faults:

  • Costly: Most homegrown systems come with a hefty price tag as the cost needs to reflect the investment of IT resources
  • Rigid and Unadaptable: Depending on how the system is built, it may not be flexible enough to adapt to the ever-changing needs of asset development
  • Can Become Outdated: A high price tag combined with a non-flexible system means that the system can become outdated and no longer meet the full needs of team members
  • Vendor and 3rd Party Sharing Limitations: With homegrown systems, it can sometimes be hard to share tracking information with vendors and other 3rd parties that don’t have direct access to the software

System 3: An Appropriated System

When we talk about an appropriated system, what we mean is that a company is using a system to track their IP assets that wasn’t built for that task. t’s like using a beach cooler to keep your ice cream frozen. Sure you can do it, but there are way better tools out there for this task. While an appropriate system might be useful in the short term, as a long-term solution they fall short:

  • Not Meeting the Full Needs: An appropriated system, by definition, means that it wasn’t setup with asset lifecycle tracking in mind – there’s going to be some gaps in meeting the tracking needs
  • Too Much Bloat: An appropriated system might also contain bloat, unnecessary required data input steps that introduce friction into the tracking process (and limits internal adoption)

System 4: E-ISG Enterprise Asset Management Solutions

If you’ve experience any of the frustrations of the above system, you might want to take a closer look at E-ISG (excuse the shameless plug, but this is our blog). Our enterprise asset management software systems are developed to manage the life cycle information of assets. Specifically, where, what, and who, track the change of location and custody, change of asset status and condition.

Ready to learn more? See how E-ISG can help you fight Intellectual Property theft.

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