The United States Department of Defense (DoD) requires a particular marking system for all equipment and parts. This unique identification code is required for tracking products and is known throughout the military industry as UID marking. Military 130 (MIL-STD-130) sets guidelines for individuals and companies for UID marking. Additionally, MIL-STD-130N Change 1 defines UID as “a system of establishing globally unique and unambiguous identifiers within the Department of Defense, which serve to distinguish a discrete entity or relationship from other like and unlike entities or relationships.”
Specifically, MIL-STD-130 requires military contractors and subcontractors to place unique identification (UID) labels on their equipment. The UID program requires that unique numbers be assigned to government-owned and government-purchased tangible equipment as set forth by the rules and guidelines in the military standard. The number must be applied to or directly marked on the asset for its lifecycle. This number is the unique item identifier (UII), and it is designed to be globally unique.
UID tags must satisfy a broad range of applications, and there are several rules that must be met for UID compliance. We highlight three of those key rules:
- Know Which Items Require UID
- Become Familiar with UID Label Requirements
- Know How to Keep UID Labels Readable
Continue reading to learn more about the key rules for UID compliance.
1. Know Which Items Require UID
The best way to achieve UID compliance is to know which items require UID marking.
- UID is required by the DoD for all equipment with an acquisition cost above $5,000
- UID is required for equipment that is mission-critical, controlled, serially-controlled, or consumable
- All contractors to the US DoD must apply a UID label to any tangible items sold to the US military
For vendors to the US DoD with a contract clause referring to DFARS 252.211-70003 and item identification and valuation, there are other specific requirements. First, a UID label must be placed on products that cost $5,000 or more. UID labels also are required on items that are managed by a serial number, are considered mission-critical, are part of a controlled inventory, and are a material or consumable that require permanent identification.
2. Become Familiar with UID Label Requirements
MIL-STD-130 requires that all UID labels feature a UII encoded in a 2D Data Matrix barcode in addition to human-readable product tracking information. The matrix contains data that is scanned and interpreted into three parts: commercial and government entity (CAGE) Code, serial number, and part number. Together, these three parts create the unique serialized UID that the DoD uses for lifecycle management of its items. The required technology used in marking items to make them machine-readable, or scanned, is 2D Data Matrix ECC 200 Symbol. It’s worth noting that items, labels, and data plates may be directly marked with the 2D data matrix code for UID compliance, and the matrix can be encoded by laser mark, chemical etch, dot peen, or inkjet.
All finished products sold to the US DoD must meet this requirement, as do all embedded assets within the products. The UII on each UID label must be capable of being scanned and having its information stored in the IUID Registry, a central data bank maintained by the DoD. Moreover, all UID labels must remain permanently attached to these products throughout their lifetime.
To help you become familiar with the UID label requirements, we highlight some of the general requirements of MIL-STD-130N:
4.1 Methods of applying – The required marking shall be applied to an identification plate, identification band, identification tag, or identification label securely fastened to the item, or shall be applied directly to the surface of the item and comply with 4.2, 4.3, 4.5., and 4.7.
4.2 Location, size, and content – Whenever possible, the location of the marking on items shall ensure its readability during normal use. Marking size must satisfy the legibility requirements of 4.3.
4.3 Permanency and Legibility – Legibility is as required for human readability. Recommended minimum character height for human-readable text is 0.2 cm, 0.08 inches, or 5.76 pts.
4.4 Identification plates, identification tags, and identification bands – Metal and stiff plastic ID plates, tags, and bands, and their attaching provisions must conform to the requirements of MIL-DTL-15024, MIL-DTL-19834, or GG-P-455 as applicable.
4.7 Type of lettering – Letters must be capitals in sans-serif font, and numerals shall be Arabic except when Roman numerals are used for type designation per applicable specifications or standards. Generating characters by automated processes is preferred.
3. Know How to Keep UID Labels Readable
To remain compliant, your UID labels and marks must remain readable throughout the asset’s lifecycle. MIL-STD-130N General Requirement 4.3, Permanency and Legibility:
Direct part marking and identification plates, identification bands, identification tags, or identification labels used shall be as permanent as the normal life expectancy of the item and be capable of withstanding the environmental tests and cleaning procedures specified for the item to which it is affixed. The appropriate marking method shall be selected to ensure the mark will withstand the specified rebuild processes (see 4.3.a for exception).
When purchasing your UID labels, ensure they are durable and the appropriate type for the conditions in which your asset will be used. The right durable labels will remain readable and help you remain compliant. Options include, but are not limited to, anodized photosensitize aluminum UID tags, flexible foil UID labels, tactical UID labels, labels designed to withstand extreme sand or gravel abrasion, and labels that resist paint or contact with strong acids or caustics.
The defense industry must concern itself with the unique identification code system for all equipment and parts. UID marking can be confusing, and companies want to remain in compliance. Thus, you should know which items require UID, familiarize yourself with UID label requirements, and keep UID labels readable throughout the asset’s lifecycle.