Monday, November 23, 2009

MIL-STD-130 and UID Compliance

MIL-STD-130 is the Department of Defense's standard that any tangible item must be provided with Unique Identification (UID). The UID symbol can be a number, a sequence of bits or a character string as is physically marked on the item. Technologies utilized for marking of the UID can include name plates and labels.

The UID system was developed by the DOD as a means of identifying tangible assets and distinguishing them from other similar and dissimilar assets. The UID consists of a encoded bar code that is assigned to one singular item. These unique codes are never reused, and once a tangible asset has been assigned a UID, it never changes, even if the asset is re-engineered or modified. In some instances, a UID may also be placed on a lot or batch of similar tangible assets contained together. In this instance, the entire container of items is treated as a single unit. Once the items are separated from the container, the UID is no longer of use and the individual items are not given their own UID.

To meet the MIL-STD-130 standard, the UID is physically marked on the asset by using a two-dimensional data matrix symbol, with IS0-5434 formatting. The data is formatted per the specified standards and is known as the item's Unique Item Identifier (UII). The bar code symbol is a representation of the UII, that can be machine-read. This encoding is then identified using text element, data, or application identifiers. Normal industry practices determine which identifier is used for each type of assets, as determined by the organization assigning the UID.

There are a variety of technologies that are used for the marking of the UID bar code. Durable polyester labels and identification plates are twp of the more common applications used for UID marking. In addition, direct printing onto the asset using ink jet, dot peen, chemical etch, or laser etch are also used. No matter how the UID is applied to the tangible asset, the MIL-STD-130 standard has strict marking and printing specifications that must be met, in order to be compliant.

The MIL-STD-130 standard, and the UID compliance requirement, is a complicated manner. In order to ensure compliance, turn to the experts at ID-Integration for more information.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The easiest way to decipher the MIL-STD-130N UID standards

Inventory and inventory tracking are a serious matter to any business, and the Department of Defense (DoD) is no different. The MIL-STD-130N is, essentially, a set of DoD standards that determine requirements and methods used for marking, identification and tracking of military property. Each item being tracked must carry a Unique Identification or UID. These standards apply to any property that is produced, issued or stored by or for the Department of Defense.

All items must carry some form of UID, whether it is an applied mark or an existing UID such as an electronic serial number or Vehicle Identification Number on a car. Whenever possible, Machine Readable Identification (MRI) or “barcodes” are the preferred form of UID. Regardless of the method used, numerous specifications cover the specifics of the type of UID, placement and information contained. Some of these standard specified criteria are:

• The type of material that the UID mark is applied to
• The method used to secure the UID marking to the item
• The location of the UID mark
• The visibility of the UID mark
• Permanency of the UID mark throughout the life expectancy of the item
• Ability of the UID mark to withstand environmental conditions
• The ability of the UID mark to withstand maintenance

The regulations regarding UID markings are also extremely specific. For instance the text size for a human readable marking must be 0.2 centimeters or 0.08 inches. All of the letters of the text must be in a sans-serif font and numbers should be in Arabic. The exception to this rule is the usage of Roman numerals, in which case you must turn to other documentation to determine what type of font to use. Text markings are also limited to 50 characters and should use the Data Matrix EEC 200 symbol using ISO/IEC 15418 semantics and ISO/IEC 15434 syntax, unless they are subject to DFARS mandated markings.

To cover all of the standards and regulations here would be an exhaustive process for both reader and writer. Suffice it to say that for the uninitiated, digging through the specifications of the MIL-STD-130N and its attached documentation to determine the correct marking for a product is a nightmare.

This is where ID-Integration steps in to save the day. Fortunately for us, the experts there live and breathe the MIL-STD-130N each day. Let them handle the tedious task of digging through the MIL-STD-130N to determine the nomenclature used, how tall it should be, whether it should be on metal or plastic and whether or not it should be a tag, label, band or plate. They’ll do what they do well and give you the opportunity to get on with doing what you do well.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

How IUID Simplifies Inventory Management

How would you keep track of your possessions if they were spread across the Earth? The US Department of Defense (DoD) deals with this problem every day, and thus developed a set of standards for tracking their massive inventory. MIL-STD-130N, released on December 17, 2007, takes advantage of recent advances in barcode technology to ensure that their entire inventory uses Item Unique Identification (IUID).

IUID allows for better inventory control because each individual product is accounted for. Even individual parts used to assemble a finished product are accounted for during manufacturing, greatly minimizing the risk of loss. Though many products need tagging to fulfill IUID requirements, several industries already utilize IUID concepts. For example, every automobile has a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), and thus a unique identifier, already. Products ranging from cellphones to firearms come with the idea of IUID built right into their serial numbers.

However, several products lack such careful cataloging. These require tagging with a method that will remain durable throughout the life-cycle of the item. Metal or stiff plastic plates take precedence over flimsier label materials. Stamping or etching the tag directly onto the item offers an even more durable solution. Some items, such as ball bearings, elude any of these methods. In these cases, it's acceptable to tag the item's packaging with the IUID instead. In the past, humans would need to read this tag, but these days computers have taken over much of the information processing responsibility.

Machine Readable Information (MRI) used to be encoded in linear barcodes, like the kind found on everyday consumer goods. Though still acceptable under MIL-STD-130N, linear barcodes have fallen into disuse in favor of two-dimensional barcodes. 1s and 0s are represented by black and white squares, which are then arranged into a larger square. This method offers numerous advantages, chiefly that large amounts of data can be packed into an incredibly small space. Currently, up to 50 characters will fit in the space of 3 square millimeters. This comes in handy since an item's tag grows with its history.

In addition to its IUID, each item's tag tells its story, identifying who has designed, manufactured, and repaired the item throughout its lifetime. Even items not requiring an IUID require this tracking information. In a way, these life stories become an IUID in and of themselves as items journey down their own unique paths. Still, giving each item an IUID right as it rolls off the line, like giving each baby born in the US a social security number, allows for easy cataloging before such life stories develop.

IUID concerns are far more complicated than the brief summary given here. For more information visit ID-Integration at

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The facts about MIL-STD-130: Understanding UID Labels

The December update of MIL-STD-130 outlines the essentials of marking military property. While there are many technical aspects of this standard, it is important to first understand the basics of this important mandate. There are a few key aspects of the standard, and understanding the basics is essential to complying with the standard. These simple questions and answers below will give you a comprehensive introduction to using unique identification, or UID labels, for military use.

Who needs to be able to read these UID labels?
Either machines or humans need to be able to read the UID label. The easiest way to determine which should be used is the lifespan of the item. If a machine readable information, or MRI, label can be used that will last as long as the item it labels, then an MRI should be used. If not, a durable marking of lasting material should be used.

What should be on these UID labels, and where should they be located?
Ideally, all of the required information should be listed on a UID label, but there are a few essential pieces of information that must be on each label. First, the label requires an Enterprise Identifier, or a code that identifies the organization of the manufacturer or supplier. Second, the part must be identifiable through a Part or Identification code, or PIN.

For MRI, more information can be encoded in smaller space, so more information is required for these kinds of labels. In addition to the above requirements, an MRI should contain information about an item's history like UID label changes. Consult the standard to be sure the MRI is complete.

The label should be easy to read in normal operation, but should also be in a location that is not subject to wear during the life of the item. If absolutely necessary, a UID label can be put on the packaging of an item.

What should these UID labels look like?
For labels readable by humans, there are specific guidelines to maintain a standard of readability. First, the text of the UID labels must be at least 0.2 cm/ 0.08 in/ 5.76 points. This text should be in a simple sans-serif font, or font with no terminators (for example, there should be no lines at the base of a capital letter A), and numbers should be Arabic.

For MRI labels, MIL-STD-130 references specific standards for linear bar codes and data matrix labels. The International Organization for Standardization and International Electrotechnical Commission reference these two formats in ISO/IEC 15416 and 15415, respectively. Consult these two standards to be sure the MRI meets the appropriate description.

As you can see, MIL-STD-130 is both simple and complicated. There are basics that are essential for any UID label, but there are also important details to ensure compliance with this standard. The experts at ID-Integration have proven experience in UID labels and can answer any questions you have about MIL-STD-130. Be sure to understand these basics and consult the experts at ID-Integration.