The first question a defense contractor might ask when it comes to marking equipment produced for the military with a Unique Identifier(UID) is, what items need to be marked? In general, the equipment must be marked if the DoD’s acquisition cost is $5,000 or more for each item. But there are also some cases in which assets costing less than $5,000 must be marked.
The product’s buyer will look at the less costly items on a case-by-case basis to determine if they’re mission-essential, controlled inventory items for which life-cycle traceability is essential. Any requirement for UID marking will be included in the supplier’s contract.
The DoD provides guidance on item identification in various documents; these can be accessed through ID-Integration.com, a website that has a wealth of useful information on equipment marking.
The unique identifier is applied to the equipment in the form of a 2-D Data Matrix, a machine-readable bar code that contains information such as the issuing agency code, enterprise identifier, the serial number and in some cases, the lot or batch number. As its name implies, the unique identifier is unique to a single piece of equipment. No other item will have the same identifier. The identifier stays with the equipment throughout its life. The identifiers are uploaded into a database, where records can be kept of an item’s history and easily retrieved when needed.
DoD standards cover specifics including where the mark should be placed, how large it should be and where it should be placed on the item. Again, further information on these topics can be found at ID-Integration.com.
Also at ID-Integration.com are details of different methods that can be used to apply the data matrix symbol to the equipment. These range from direct-marking methods, such as chemical etching, to indirect marking using labels. A wide range of labeling material is available. The over-riding consideration should be whether the Data Matrix will last the life of the equipment and withstand environmental conditions the asset will experience.
Determining when in the production process the UID label should be applied is another decision that must be made. And finally, the data matrix symbol must be verified. Hardware and software are used to grade its readability to help ensure it will last the life of the asset. Working with experts in unique identification, such as those at ID Integration Inc., can make the process go much more smoothly and save time and money for a contractor.
Thomas Henderson is an applications engineer involved in MIL-STD-130 applications. His experience makes him a wonderful candidate to share helpful information about the challenges involved in item unique identification.
Determining what defense equipment needs a Unique Identifier