Creating Asset ID’s


In developing an asset inventory, it is critical to develop a unique asset identification number (Asset ID) for each asset in the inventory. This ID number can be anything, as long as it is unique The Asset ID allows for easier asset identification, allows systems to search and query data more effectively, and makes valuable data more readily available. Some software programs may limit the number of characters allowed in a given data field. The system should be aware of these limitations when selecting software and/or determining how to number assets.  The numbering system should be consistent throughout the system and should be easily and quickly recognized by all personnel.

There are several approaches to developing an asset numbering system.  Each has advantages and disadvantages.

Sequential Number
Description Advantages Disadvantages
Numbering system that adds a sequential number to each new asset
  • Simplest and most common way to identify assets
  • Numbers can overlap/be duplicated
  • Hard to merge with other systems
  • Adding additional numbers can be difficult if not well planned originally
  • Easier to enter incorrectly
Existing Internal Numbering System
Description Advantages Disadvantages
If part of the organization already has an asset numbering system, such as accounting, you may choose to use it
  • Easy to Implement
  • Improved Communication: A single naming system leads to better cross-departmental communication
  • May Not Meet Requirements
  • Possibility of Change: It is possible that the base naming convention may change, creating a mismatch between your asset records and data in other systems.
Existing External Numbering System
Description Advantages Disadvantages
One example is the US DOD’s National Stock Number (NSN)
  • Trustworthy: Other organizations have used the naming system with great success
  • Easy to Use: Well-established naming systems provide a template from which you can easily assign names and numbers to your assets.
  • Best Practices established
  • Complexity: Some naming conventions consist of many separate coding systems, making it tedious to follow or apply.
  • Too Large of a Scope: Naming systems such as the NSN tracks millions of assets. You may not require the same level of detail if managing a small number of assets. A simpler naming strategy may be more appropriate.
Create a Number System
Description Advantages Disadvantages

Build meaning into asset numbers by incorporating information such as location, asset type, asset function, manufacturer, model, building number, and more.

Learn more about creating a number system

  • Flexibility
  • Meets Your Specific Requirements:
  • Time to Develop: It takes careful planning, time, and effort to devise the rules and requirements that must be adhered to when naming assets.
  • Longevity: Custom naming conventions that aren’t built with enough flexibility break down over time, creating the need to change the system.
  • Difficult to use if assets are moved from one location to another.
Random Numbering System Created by Software
Description Advantages Disadvantages

Software programs, such as GIS or a CMMS system, can create random asset ID numbers for each asset 

  • Very easy to implement
  • No need to develop a naming convention
  • Assets that are moved from location to location are unaffected
  • No connection to asset attributes, such as location or type
  • Can be a long series of numbers

There are a few things to keep in mind when creating the Asset ID.  The Asset IDs should: be logical, be consistent, be unique, avoid duplications, allow room for growth, allow for drilling down by using a hierarchical structure. Thinking ahead about the Asset ID may allow for an asset management software to create it automatically for any new assets added to the inventory. If the system plans to use (or already uses) a geospatial software, the Asset ID number can be a random number as the software will allow the system to look for assets by location. If the system creates Asset ID numbers, it can be helpful if the ID Number provides information on asset class or category, asset location, asset size, asset ownership or other unique identifiers such as its watershed location. When deciding on which type of numbering system to use, consider the time it will take to bring system personnel up to speed on the naming convention and weigh that against, the benefits of a smart numbering system.

An example of a potential numbering scheme is shown below.   

Example 1:




A = Water (W) or Wastewater (WW)

BCD = facility name (i.e., abbreviation for pump station, well house, treatment building)

EFG = Equipment name (i.e., abbreviation for name of equipment)

1 = Equipment number (i.e., number for that particular piece of equipment)

For Example:


WMPSPMP1 = Water System Main Street Pump Station Pump 1


W = Water System

MPS = Main Street Pump Station

PMP = Pump

1 = Number 1 Pump


Any numbering system can work. The system chosen should be one that best fits the system. It is worthwhile to examine approaches used by other systems in selecting a numbering scheme, and then modify them to suit the individual needs of the system.

The system should consider putting Asset ID numbers on tags, especially tags that use either QR codes that can be read with phones or tablets or UPC codes that can be scanned by electronic devices and attaching the tag to the asset whenever the assets are visible and accessible. The tags should be durable and attached in a semi-permanent way. If tags become worn or knocked off the equipment, they should be replaced.

Asset ID system – Stacy Gallick, Asset Management Director, Johnson County Wastewater, Olathe, KS

Numbering system for hydrants – Bill Boulanger, Superintendent –Public Works and Utilities, Community Service Division, City of Dover, NH