Trust but verify. That well-known phrase typically applies to U.S. foreign affairs. But it could also come to mind among defense contractors who are dealing with requirements for Item Unique Identification (IUID) of products they produce for the military.
IUID requires contractors to label each piece of equipment they make for the military with a Unique Identifier, or UID, that facilitates tracking of the item throughout its lifetime. The requirement is met by placing a 2-D Data Matrix symbol on the equipment, which contains the identifying information in a specific format. (ID Integration Inc. has much useful information on this topic on its website, www.id-integration.com.)
Another step in the process is IUID verification: The process of making sure the Data Matrix symbol is legible and of high enough quality to perform well in the field. An IUID verification system consists of both hardware and software components to evaluate each Data Matrix and assign it a grade.
For a defense contractor, one of the worst times to find out that UID labels are sub-standard is when an order is completed and sitting in the warehouse, about to be shipped. (Of course, an even worse case is that the equipment has been shipped to DoD but rejected because of problems with the UID labels.) To avoid these headaches — and possible loss of defense business — integrating an IUID verification system in the production process early on is ideal. Expert IUID integrators, such as those at ID Integration Inc., can help determine how verification can work best for a particular manufacturer. In general, the earlier the UID labels can be verified, the better. The Data Matrix symbol may get a failing grade due to a number of factors, including lack of contrast with its background or unevenness of the individual cells that make up the Data Matrix code. Identifying the problem and repairing the label-making equipment early on will prevent wasteful production of many more defective labels. The DoD requirements for IUID verification are found in MIL-STD-130, which is available through the ID Integration website.
If labels are purchased from an outside vendor, it’s still a good idea for contractors to spot-check their quality using their IUID verification system.
While IUID systems can be a substantial investment, their payoff can be significant. In addition to achieving compliance with DoD regulations, contractors can use an IUID system to track equipment while it’s going through the production process at their own facility.
Applications engineer Nancy Malone became fascinated at an early age with technology and software. The Stockton, California resident went on to earn a master’s degree in computer engineering and is now a sought-after expert. When she’s not playing or watching baseball, she writes for industry-leading websites including ID-Integration.com.
Make sure your UID labels pass the test