Thursday, March 12, 2009

UID Labels and the Significance of its Design

UID Labels refer to the US Government Program of Uniquely Identifying items. These labels are mandatory for all items who want to be UID compliant.

Unique identification labels or UID labels are part of the US Department of Defense (DoD)’s serialization tracking programs (SNTs). These UID labels are the DoD’s marking methodology to identifying items uniquely. This UID labeling methodology will facilitate the DoD to keep track of all info about defense related and embedded items starting from their acquisition, repair, till the deployment phase.

All tangible assets issued on or after January 1, 2004, need to have UID labels, UID nameplates, and UID tags on them to be UID compliant. Contractors supplying government furnished items were instructed to complete the registration for UID labeling by May 2006. The DoD has set a target of completing UID label marking on all tangible as well as embedded items by Dec 31, 2010. In the initial stage, 80% of the markings will be on UID labels or nameplates and rest 20% will be direct part marked in the initial period.

As per the Department of Defense mandate, those items whose Unit acquisition cost is $5,000 or more, are serially managed, is mission essential or is a controlled inventory, DoD mandated serially managed embedded item or designated by the Program office for permanent identification require UID labels on them.

It might be pointed out that, all UID markings/labels/data plates must meet the conditions set forth in Mil-Std-130 standard. As per the Military Standard, the UID labels used should last the life of the part and preferably through any refurbishment or rebuild process. The conditions include how the data is formatted, what the minimum marking requirements are and what the quality of the data matrix MRI code must be in the UID labels.

Components of UID labels

The DoD has clearly instructed what should be included on the UID labels. They are discussed briefly in the following.

2-Dimenasional data matrix code

Product info of the particular item has been to be represented in a 2-D data matrix code. Regulated by Mil-Std-130 cell size, the info written on this code can be read multi-directionally. This code takes up less space but holds much more data and also has built-in error correction feature. Both square and rectangular shape of 2-D data matrix code is available.

Construct 1

UID labels design have a Construct 1 format which is required when UID marking is done using only an enterprise identifier (CAGE, Duns#) and a serial number.

Construct 2

When a part number must be included in the UID labels along with the enterprise identifier and serial number, this format is required. Usually These items have three data elements unlike the one required incase of Construct 1.

Additional text

Besides the code format, textual info about the item is also required to be included as per the Mil-Std –130 standard. This textual format is not encoded into the 2-D data matrix code, but it is allowable in part or whole.

It’s easy to keep a track of the item availability through the UID labels. Apart from easy acquisition and deployment, the repair standard is also improvised through the UID labels. Plus, counterfeiting of military items can be stopped and thus operational productivity is enhanced.

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