UID System

The DOD’s UID system combines permanent Unique Identification labeling/marking with a universal Registry database to give the Department of Defense a comprehensive view of its vast inventory of assets. Based on international standards, UID was adopted by DOD to improve asset management by monitoring defense related equipment during their lifecycle. Such equipment included operating materials, Government Furnished Property (GFP) and any personal property issued on or after January 2004. The use of this labeling technique has since extended beyond the Defense department as businesses are using it to keep track of their assets.

How it works:

The UID label or unique identifier contains a unique string of encoded data that is used to distinguish items. The identifier is assigned to a single item and is never reused or changed even when modifications are done on the item. It works more like the social security number that is used to identify US citizens. The UID label should be non-removable, fade, chemical resistant and scratch resistant as it is intended to last through the item’s lifetime. In addition, it needs to be clearly legible as it references detailed information about the labeled item. Some of the most common materials used for UID labeling include polyimide, polyester and aluminum foil. For equipment that are exposed to harsh climatic conditions, laser etching and dot peening can be applied for UID labeling. Permanent UID label readability is mandated by Mil-Std-130.

Requirements for UID labeling:

The Department of Defense has specified the kind of items that must have UID labels or direct part markings. Items that are worth $5000 or more, are mission essential, or serially managed generally require permanent unique identification.

The design and distribution of UID labels is assigned by the Federal Government material purchases. In order to facilitate easy identification of assets, the UID labels are required to carry information in two-dimensional data matrix symbols. When space allows, the data matrix symbol must be supplemented with plain text format and linear barcodes.

The two most popular UID label formats are Construct #1 and Construct #2. Both Constructs are Mil-Std-130 ATA 2000 compliant. Construct #1 is composed of only CAGE code and a serial number, generally used when the prime contractor does not control the item serial number, such as in the case of embedded items manufactured by a subcontractor.

The nature of the item, its features, environment of operation and maintenance procedure are some of the initial factors that determine UID labeling/marking method. Manufacturing requirements, technical knowledge about the equipment’s components and application also determine the labeling capability.

There are several advantages and benefits for the DoD and military to use the UID labeling system. Shipments, inventory and overall equipment availability are more easily monitored. Item acquisition standards, deployment and repair are improved through utilization of the UID system. Finally, the cost of managing assets is reduced by identification and prevention of acquisition of counterfeit parts. The adoption of Unique Identifiers has improved the overall operational productivity of the supply chain and tracking inventory has been greatly improved through utilitization of the UID system for asset labeling.