Labels that last a lifetime. That is a key component of the Item Unique Identification system, or IUID, developed by the U.S. Department of Defense. The idea is to mark each piece of DoD equipment with a Unique Identifier (UID) so the department can track the asset throughout its life cycle. The identifier is contained within a 2-D Data Matrix symbol that is applied to the asset. |
The identifier is entered into the DoD’s IUID registry, a database that also contains information about each item, such as its date of purchase, location, maintenance history and other details. The system allows the DoD to better manage a massive inventory of equipment that is spread across the globe, thereby improving safety for military personnel. It also may save taxpayer money; in the past, the department sometimes ordered duplicate equipment unnecessarily because it lost track of assets.
For defense department suppliers, the IUID program means another step in fulfilling DoD contracts. Equipment valued at more than $5,000 must be marked with UID labels. The DoD’s MIL-STD-130 spells out requirements for the labeling process. A good resource for learning more is id-integration.com.
A variety of labeling methods exist. Importantly, the 2-D data matrix symbol must remain readable throughout the expected life of the asset. It must be able to endure environmental conditions the equipment will encounter during normal operation.
The Data Matrix symbol can be applied directly to the equipment through methods such as dot peening, laser marking, or etching. These methods are considered “intrusive,” and the contractor must ensure that the labeling does not adversely impact performance of the equipment.
Indirect methods involve applying the Data Matrix to a label, which is then attached to the equipment. Contractors might already be placing nameplates or tags on equipment; in many cases the data matrix can be added as another label element. UID labels are available in a variety of materials, including stainless steel, aluminum, acrylic or polyester.
In general, larger Data Matrix labels can better withstand damage and are preferred. For example, a scratch that renders a small symbol unreadable might have little or no impact on a larger symbol. But depending on the item to be labeled, the available marking area may be limited.
Another step in the marking process is IUID verification. Specialized hardware and software is used to ensure that the data matrix is readable. IUID verification involves assigning a grade to the symbol based on a number of parameters, such as contrast and uniformity. The staff at ID Integration Inc. and Jet City Laser Inc. is well versed on UID labels and IUID verification and is available to help contractors who have questions on the DoD requirements.
Edward Brewer lives in Dallas, Texas and works as an operations manager at a local company. He enjoys playing basketball and cards with his friends in his free time, but his greatest interest involves new technology and software, such as those created by ID Integration (id-integration.com). He is a top resource for individuals in need of information about UID related technology. Follow me on Google+
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