4 Ways to Implement UID Tracking

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UID tracking is required by the Unique Identification (UID) program, also referred to as Item Unique Identification (IUID), which was created by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) in 2004 as a uniform way to track sensitive assets. Items that are ultimately owned by the U.S. military and meet certain requirements must be assigned a permanent and unique identifier that is not used for any other asset. Most of the specifications for designing, printing, applying, and managing these unique labels are defined in Military Standard 130 (MIL-STD-130).

This program has led to big changes for many military and defense suppliers as they modified their operations to remain compliant with the standards. Suppliers must create UIDs, register them in the government database, track these assets, and ensure compliance with any regulatory updates. Since all military suppliers must use the UID tracking system, it’s essential for suppliers to develop efficient processes for implementing UID tracking and ensuring compliance. In this post, we’ll take a look at four strategies that are used to implement UID tracking and why they are important for suppliers, military facilities, and supply-chain partners.

1. Vendor Applied-at-Source

This is the most effective way to implement UID tracking for new items and requires the most involvement from suppliers. If a particular item qualifies for UID tracking, each unit provided to the U.S. military must be assigned a unique identifier. Some of the key steps in this process include:

  • Printing and ensuring unique serialization
  • Marking with a 2D matrix barcode and properly formatted label
  • Registering the UID in the IUID Registry
  • Tracking assets and maintaining an audit trail
  • Scanning, receiving, and shipping assets

Vendors must mark each qualifying item with machine-readable information (MRI) and are responsible for ensuring that these tags are properly formatted and installed correctly. This vendor applied-at-source strategy should be optimized for efficiency to reduce production and shipping times. In most cases, improvements in equipment tracking capabilities by suppliers can benefit military and defense end-users and supplier partners by standardizing key steps.

2. Opportunity-Based Item Application

UID tracking decision flowchart

Screenshot via Office of the Under Secretary of Defense

This form of UID implementation requires the use of specific trigger events to initiate the placement of an appropriate label. Some examples are the movement of an item, a change in an item’s functional status, or the transfer of an item to a different owner or entity. This strategy is often used to ensure that items can be properly tagged at a time when it is convenient to access them and can be done at a manufacturing plant, warehouse, or in the field. Implementing this process can achieve some efficiency through batch applications, such as in cases when multiple units are fabricated and then tagged together at the time of the trigger event. If an item is being transferred to another party, then the tagging should be done by the party that is losing custody.

3. Seek-and-Apply

This strategy is often used to apply UID labels on items that are being held in a particular location and require tagging. In some cases, this is done when updating legacy items to UID status after a change in requirements or to repair or update tags on existing UID assets. Other instances include tagging that may be done after major maintenance activities or changes in hardware that facilitate the modification of UID labels. This strategy requires careful coordination of the tagging activities between all parties involved.

4. Gated Application

Flowchart for UID tracking for legacy secondary items in inventory or use

Screenshot via Office of the Under Secretary of Defense

Gated UID tag application is usually performed by distributors, suppliers, or end-users as a way to ensure UID compliance during the transit of relevant equipment or assets. It can be implemented at any point in the supply chain as a way to monitor the UID status of any asset as it moves from location to location. This is usually done with a series of procedural checks to review, confirm, and update any asset that does not have a required unique identifier.

The implementation of UID tags is a critical asset management step for any supplier, vendor, or end-user within the defense industry. Enterprise Identifiers that involve unique classifications, such as European Article Numbering (EAN), can be assigned as UID-compliant tags if they meet certain requirements. In addition, Commercial Identifiers, such as Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN), can also be used when criteria are met for UID-suitability. Ultimately, the supplier is the entity responsible for assigning an appropriate UID tag for any new item.

Suppliers can benefit from automating UID workflows to further reduce errors and ensure compliance with all relevant specifications. Also, the use of a cloud-based asset management platform can aid companies in maintaining a suitable digital record for all UID assets. Barcode labels and RFID tags can ensure real-time asset monitoring, help to reduce loss, and facilitate the appropriate transfer of assets between locations and entities.