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How NFL Teams Could Benefit From Asset Management

America football player on the field during the game Another NFL season is kicking into gear, and as always, we the fans are worried about just one thing: How our teams are doing. Will we win this Sunday? Make the playoffs? Claim the Super Bowl trophy? [Tweet "Will we win this Sunday? Make the playoffs? Claim the Super Bowl trophy?"] That’s the nice thing about being a football fan: Your issues are limited to the outcome of the games, and maybe where to order pizza and wings from. The teams themselves, however, have a lot to worry about. Take their performance on the field: It involves a lot of practice, watching hours of tape, extensive medical evaluations, and game-day execution. But there are many behind-the-scenes aspects to running a successful football team that even the players and coaches themselves rarely think about. Small business owners, so far removed from the billion-dollar machinations of NFL franchises, know the feeling: It’s one thing for the front-of-house aspects of the business to go well, but behind-the-scenes is really where a company is made or broken. And that’s why many companies are turning to asset management to help boost the bottom line. The use of asset management is on the rise, however slightly, according to the Wasp Barcode State of Small Business Report. This year’s edition says 45 percent of small businesses track their fixed assets with some kind of automated process, be that a dedicated asset management system or accounting software.
Asset Management Software - City of Dallas

What does tracking assets do for small businesses? It helps keep track of commonly shared assets, such as laptop computers, vehicles, and tools. It automatically adjusts for depreciation and keeps the staff notified of upcoming maintenance or scheduled disposal. It reduces the loss of assets through increased accountability. And it makes tax season a relative breeze.

Meanwhile, in the NFL, more teams would benefit from such a system. Though football teams don’t have “fixed assets” in the same sense that regular businesses do (fixed assets, as opposed to inventory, are the long-term pieces of investment used in the production of income), they do have equipment and other investments that need to last from game-to-game, week-to-week, and even season-to-season.


Consider this rundown of the equipment management systems of three different NFL teams from the LA Times a few years ago. This paragraph is chock full of sentiments that most HR teams and accounting firms will find familiar:

Nor, outside the locker room, is there much appreciation for what Romanski and the NFL's 31 other equipment managers do. Yet their job is among the most complex in professional sports, requiring the precision to attend to the smallest details and the planning skills necessary to oversee weekly shipments of up to 11 tons of gear.

That’s the thing about fixed assets, or equipment—you won’t hear a word about them if everything goes right, if each item is where it should be, performing correctly. But you’ll hear all about it if something is off.

There are many Wasp Barcode case studies that showcase this exact issue: Accounting teams being run ragged by needing to devote hundreds of hours a year towards making sure every asset is accounted for, that there isn’t a ghost or zombie asset lurking around, that the accounting ledgers are accurate, and so on.


The profile of each team’s equipment management crew—the Raiders’, 49ers’ and Chargers’—manages to capture one piece of the massive, complex puzzle that is getting a team ready for its practices and games. For example:

Romanski and his four-man crew begin filling hampers with sweat-soaked shoulder pads, battled-scarred helmets and uniforms stained with blood, grass and dirt while the players are still showering. Next come eight heavy steel trunks packed with tools, video equipment and medical supplies, and 30 equipment bags.

A wide angle panoramic image of a outdoor american football stadium full of spectators under blue sky. The image has depth of field with the focus on the foreground part of the pitch. The view from back line of the field.

No doubt Romanski and his crew have a system for ensuring every pad, helmet, uniform, took, piece of equipment and medical supply is accounted for. But what is that system? The 49ers provide a clue:

"I've got check sheets and we've got it down to an exact science," says Urbaniak, whose department's annual budget of nearly $1 million is similar to those of other equipment managers. "I can open a trunk and just look at it and see 'OK, I'm missing four pairs of socks and a pair of shoes.'

There you have it: Check sheets. Otherwise known as pieces of paper. Also, Urbaniak, who clearly has years of experience in this field, appears to use his memory and senses to see when he’s short a pair of shoes.

To have someone with that kind of knowledge on staff—that’s great. But what happens with Urbaniak leaves, or is out sick for a week, or makes a simple mental mistake that any human being might make? Of course, that might just be one missing pair of shoes or a few pairs of socks, but what happens when it’s a camera or microphone or otherwise less replaceable items? And what happens when that mistake is made over and over again, adding up over time?

What if, instead of using checklists and leaning on people who have a “feel” for this kind of thing, NFL teams assigned barcodes to the helmets, pads, and other equipment to be loaded onto the trucks? Scan these items once with a barcode scanner, and you have a system that backs up to the cloud, which can be accessed from almost anywhere, telling you exactly what the teams have in stock.

It seems like keeping track of highly prized jerseys and pads—which can fetch thousands of dollars if they fall into the wrong hands—would be imperative for NFL teams. (Ditto small businesses that rely on computers or transportation vehicles to keep their operations running.)

While the equipment team managers no doubt love their jobs and don’t mind pulling the “80-hour weeks” their responsibility demands, wouldn’t it be preferable to let them work a little less frantically, with the occasional “off day,” in order to keep them happy?

That’s something small businesses could also keep in mind: Just because a system is “working” doesn’t mean it’s optimal or even right for the business. Employees end up working themselves to illness or stress, reducing their overall effectiveness, and inevitably make mistakes that end up costing the company anyway.

The Arizona Cardinals are an example of one team that already understands the importance of an asset management system. They reportedly saved 1,000 labor hours each year after switching to a MobileAsset system. The entire University of Phoenix Stadium is now better equipped to handle the rigors of preparing for a game, concert, or other event.

It’s ironic that NFL teams, which are cutthroat and brutally efficient with their rosters and resources by nature—watch the latest, or any, season of HBO’s Hard Knocks if you don’t believe that—often allow their support staff to work with inefficient tools. NFL teams and small businesses alike should reexamine their current management systems and decide how they could be improved.