ODYSSEY: The Leader in Defense Commerce Solutions Blog

How Odyssey’s Transaction Services Is a Game Changer

Posted by James Lusk on Wed, Feb 26, 2020 @ 11:02 AM

Transaction Services

Contracts with the Department of Defense offer excellent opportunities for businesses. The chance to support members of the United States Armed Forces in their missions, coupled with a steady and consistent demand for supplies contribute to a rewarding and profitable arrangement. In addition, as part of its strategic goals and mission, the DoD actively seeks out opportunities to award contracts to small businesses. In fact, according to its small business procurement scorecard, over 24 percent of the DoD contracts awarded in 2018, an estimated $72 billion, were to small businesses.

But for small businesses who have recently landed a DoD contract without any prior experience, learning and complying with the stringent and numerous specifications required to successfully fulfill each shipment can make or break that business’s future. Specifications for packaging, labeling, tracking and shipping must be followed to the letter to avoid rejected shipments or delayed payments that could put the business in jeopardy.

Odyssey is changing the game for new and existing DoD suppliers with its new Transaction Services. Odyssey’s Transaction Services is a one-off service where Odyssey provides all the required MIL-STD 129 R and (if required) MIL-STD 130 N labels, and loads all required documents into the Defense Logistics Agency’s online invoice and tracking system, iRAPT/ WAWF, on the customer’s behalf. 

Odyssey Transaction Services act as an incubator to help companies that are new to DoD contract work and trying to build their business. The service can also offer support to companies that don’t do a lot of business with the government, perhaps only sending a handful of shipments per year, and simply don’t have the infrastructure in place to ensure compliance. Lastly, Transaction Services can offer existing Odyssey customers the opportunity to process awards that may be one-offs in their environment, such as MIL-STD 130 N UID or MIL-STD 129 R Item Level RFID. If a customer has access to Odyssey software, but not one of the add-on modules, they can engage Odyssey to complete the one-off transaction. This way, the customer avoids having to purchase the entire module. 

Odyssey understands the demands its customers face and created Transaction Services to help facilitate an easier shipping process. Signing up for the Transaction Services is simple, and requires minimum input from the customer. 

The process is as follows: 

  • Customers provide award information and shipment configuration
  • Odyssey provides a quote to perform the work
  • Upon receipt of signed quote, Odyssey will initiate work on the labels and contact the customer to fill in any unknown information (weights, dimensions, etc.)
  • Customer receives proof of labels for approval 
  • Upon approval, Odyssey ships labels to customer or other designated location
  • Customer provides the corresponding government invoice number
  • Odyssey uploads the Advance Ship Notice and Commercial Invoice via server-to-server integration, together representing a combo or any other form of submission required by the contract

There is a one-time fee for Transaction Services, plus charges for labels and shipping. Odyssey guarantees a 100 percent compliant process and will stand by the transaction until it is accepted in WAWF and the pay cycle has begun. 

To learn more about Odyssey’s Transaction Services, or for any other inquiries about our products and services, contact us

Topics: MIL-STD-129, DoD, Odyssey DCS, department of defense, dod commerce solutions, packaging

What You Need to Know About MIL-STD-129R and MIL-STD-130N

Posted by James Lusk on Wed, Dec 18, 2019 @ 10:12 AM

DoD shipping standards

If you’re new to doing business with the Department of Defense, a vital lesson to learn upfront is there are very specific requirements that you, as a contractor, are required to comply with to fulfill your contract and receive compensation. Failure to comply with the smallest specification can result in rejected shipments and delayed payments, which could cause major headaches for your business. 

An example of these requirements that frequently cause DoD contractors trouble are the two labeling standards MIL-STD-129R and MIL-STD-130N. These DoD-approved standards outline a set of directions for labeling and tracking the shipping of requisitioned supplies and equipment, as well as marking items purchased by the DoD (including text formatting, syntax rules, and where markings should be located). 

Before you begin work on your DoD contract, here’s what you need to know about MIL-STD-129R and MIL-STD-130N.

MIL-STD-129R

The current incarnation of this standard, R, is an update to MIL-STD-129 that was made in 2014. MIL-STD-129R replaces linear barcodes on identification labels with machine-readable PDF417 barcode symbols that allow the use of UID labeling (which can be up to 50 characters long – too long for a traditional, linear barcode). This allows large amounts of data to be securely stored on a 2D shipping label. DoD and defense contractors can scan these barcodes automatically, greatly simplifying asset management and tracking. 

The Defense Logistics Agency has created a checklist of 10 key components that must be present, in order, on the shipping label to be compliant with MIL-STD-129R standards. They are as follows:

  1. NSN/NATO stock number
  2. CAGE code
  3. Part Number (identified as PN or P/N)
  4. Item description and nomenclature, exactly as it appears on the contract, purchase order, or requisition
  5. Quantity and UI
  6. Contract number or purchase order number
  7. Military preservation method and date of unit preservation, if applicable
  8. Shelf-life markings, if applicable
  9. Serial number(s), preceded by the abbreviation SER NO
  10. Barcode markings, including NSN and CAGE, if required 2D (PDF417), and serial number

With so many inputs needed, the process of creating MIL-STD-129 obviously has many opportunities to go wrong, resulting in shipping mix-ups, delayed payments, possible non-compliance penalties, and damage your credibility as a preferred vendor.

MIL-STD-130N

After World War II, the organization that would eventually become the Department of Defense created Federal Stock Numbers to facilitate inventory control. These FSNs were 11-digit identifier codes that acted as unique identifiers to military assets. This method was further refined several years later with the Defense Cataloging and Standardization Act, which mandated a single catalogue system for the DoD. The system was successful. To make it official, the DoD published MIL-STD-130N in 1953 to require the uniform application of identification labels to military properties, providing a set of directions for proper marking of items purchased by the DoD. 

The most recent update to this standard, referred to as Change 1, occurred in 2012 and established the UID unique identifier data matrix requirement to allow for easier automated data capture. This unique identifier follows an asset throughout its entire lifecycle for easier tracking. This system greatly enhances inventory control and visibility. However, like MIL-STD-129R, the asset marking requirements set forth in MIL-STD-130N can be complex and difficult to manage.

What you need to know about managing these requirements

Managing MIL-STD-129R and MIL-STD-130N means reducing errors, and the key to reducing errors is limiting the opportunity for them to occur. If your current operations involve a great amount of manual data entry, consider introducing automation into this process to reduce human error and streamline information exchange. 

Odyssey’s products are made specifically for defense contractors trying to maintain MIL-STD-129R and MIL-STD-130N compliance. They automate data entry, label printing, UID validation and registry submission, and can even facilitate payments and future reordering. Learn more about how Odyssey can streamline your operations, reducing risk, and protecting your cash flow. Contact us today.

Topics: MIL-STD-129, DoD, Odyssey DCS, department of defense, dod commerce solutions, packaging

What Vendors Should Know About TLS Contracts, And How Odyssey's KOP Module Can help

Posted by James Lusk on Wed, Nov 20, 2019 @ 11:11 AM

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What's TLS?

The DLA’s Tailored Logistical Support program provides total logistics support and procurement for government customers. Vendors who qualify for this program are placed on a short list, and have the opportunity to bid and win contracts with the Department of Defense, federal agencies, state and local governments, as well as other authorized customers around the world. A wide variety of both military and commercial products, training and services are available for the TLS program. Examples include contracts for tactical equipment and supplies, safety equipment, hazardous material response training and maintenance, repair and operations.

What are the obstacles to success?

Being a TLS contractor is a coveted position! Future business, and plenty of it, is essentially assured- but only if you play by the rules. TLS contractors are required to send data in Electronic Data Interchange format, which on occasion can cause errors (especially if the contractor uses a separate enterprise resource planning tool). In addition, contractors are also required to conform to MIL-129 r labeling standards. Failure to abide by any of the rules can result in delays, refused shipments and unpaid invoices.

How can Odyssey help? 

To address these issues, and help ensure that TLS contractors’ business operations remain profitable, Odyssey developed the KOP Module. The module is a sophisticated, EDI-centric compliance and efficiency tool. It provides superb handling of exceptions, assuring contractors that all of their electronic transactions and MIL-129 r labels will be correct and result in paid invoices. 

Odyssey’s KOP Module is aided by an easy-to-use interface, which grants users the ability to see the entire transaction. Contractors have full visibility of all of their open orders, as well as detailed information on each specific order. Orders can be sorted and filtered by characteristics such as ID number, payment status and invoice amount. In the event of any inaccuracies resulting from human error or bad data, personnel can manually correct the errors without prior knowledge of EDI. 

Odyssey screengrab

Since the KOP Module automates EDI transmissions, contractors can continue working in their own ERP and utilize the KOP Module as a point of reference or for exception handling. 

Contact Odyssey today to learn more about how our KOP Module can help your business make every TLS contract a profitable one.

Topics: MIL-STD-129, DoD, Odyssey DCS, department of defense, dod commerce solutions, packaging, KOP Module, TLS Contracts

3 Reasons To Use VSM Automation

Posted by James Lusk on Wed, Oct 9, 2019 @ 12:10 PM

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Any contractor who has done work for the DoD is well aware of the DLA’s Vendor Shipment Module. VSM is a web-based application used by the DLA to manage shipment arrangements by providing Transportation Control Numbers for each shipment. It provides labels for small parcel services such as UPS and FedEx, as well as necessary paperwork for large shipments that require transportation carriers, and also allows the government to negotiate favorable rates with carriers. But for a defense contractor, especially those using automation for Mil-Std-129 labeling and WAWF transaction submissions, using the VSM website can be problematic and time consuming. Luckily, there is an alternative available.

There is technology available today that allows defense contractors to simplify the process of working with VSM. Called VSM Automation, the technology effectively streamlines VSM processes for defense contracts. If you’re on the fence about incorporating VSM Automation into your business, here are three reasons why you should:

Set it and forget it

VSM Automation eliminates the need for a contractor to interact with the VSM application, or transfer VSM information into other systems. The technology also allows contractors to prepare shipping labels and create invoices with minimum data entry. Contractors can receive shipment acceptance electronically, without entering data into the WAWF web site.

Make shipments easy

All required data can be directly accessed through a VSM Automation platform. Shipper labels from UPS, FedEx, DHL and others can be easily generated from the same interface.

End-to-End Integration

VSM Automation, especially those systems approved by the DoD, offer automated server-to-server integration with the purchasing, receiving and payment agencies of the DoD. All processes, including bidding, accepting contract awards and fulfilling orders from government agencies is managed in a single streamlined workflow. The improvements in operational efficiency, cash flow and government regulation compliance are immediate.

Odyssey is the market leader in VSM Automation, having released the first Direct VSM Integration available in February 2019. It is the only provider offering an integrated, cross-departmental workflow process utilizing an efficient and effective cloud-based platform. Odyssey is the preferred platform for hundreds of DoD commercial suppliers, non-profit government partners and federal agencies.

Contact Odyssey today to learn more about how our technology can assure your government contract work goes smoothly.

Topics: WAWF, VSM, MIL-STD-129, DoD, department of defense

Government Contracting 101

Posted by James Lusk on Mon, Sep 16, 2019 @ 14:09 PM

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If you’re reading this, the chances are good that you’re either considering pursuing, or have recently entered into a government contract. If that’s true, then it’s easy to understand why. In 2017 alone, the Department of Defense spent approximately $294 billion on goods and services. With about half of those supplies being non-combat related, a wide array of companies from different industries have taken on government contracts. If this is your first contract, you should know that government work is unlike any other. While steady and profitable if done correctly, there are many pitfalls to government contracting that could potentially jeopardize your margins if not successfully navigated.

Below are several lessons you should learn before entering into that first government contract.

There are many rules. 

The DoD has standards governing almost every aspect of the business you have been contracted to complete. There are specific, multiple and disconnected systems (DIBBS, VSM, iRAPT/ WAWF) that suppliers are required to use for bidding, invoicing and asset tracking. And every step in the process introduces the potential for human error, which could negate your hard work.

Maintaining compliance is a big deal. 

Following every standard down to the letter is the key to a successful government contract. Suppliers who fail to meet a standard can be issued a Corrective Action Request (CAR), with four levels of CARs depending on the severity of the infraction. High level CARs require corrective actions that can result in reductions of payments, cost disallowances or even suspension of payments. Combine these with other consequences of noncompliance, such as rejected shipments or potential penalties, and it is easy to see why nonconformities can be so dangerous to your bottom line.

Technology offers a solution. 

There is software available today, developed specifically for government contractors and approved by the DoD, that allows you to take the guesswork out of maintaining compliance and focus on the work at hand. This software reduces requirements for manual data entry (and the accompanying chances for human error), integrates data from DIBBS, VSM and iRAPT/ WAWF, reduces liability in the labeling process, and even alerts you of new contract awards so you can begin working on fulfillment.

Besides supplying the technology, Odyssey’s experience can help you stay ahead of the constantly changing government compliance standards so you can execute your contracts efficiently.

Contact Odyssey today to learn more about how our technology can assure your government contract work goes smoothly.

Topics: WAWF, dod compliance, VSM, iRAPT, DoD, department of defense, DIBBS

What You Need to Know About ASTM D3951

Posted by James Lusk on Thu, Aug 1, 2019 @ 11:08 AM

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Most military suppliers likely cringe at the mention of packaging specifications like ASTM D3951. Being a supplier for the Department of Defense can be very rewarding for a manufacturer, as the defense industry is a secure and steadily growing multi-billion dollar industry. However, the heavy regulations that govern nearly every aspect of packaging and labeling can cost suppliers enough time and money to make that DoD contract seem far less attractive.

In the Past, This Drove Packaging Out-Of-House

In the past, these stringent regulations on packaging and labeling caused most suppliers to outsource the work to 3rdparty packaging houses that specialize in DoD packaging and labeling. While this adds an additional cost, making the work less profitable, for many suppliers it was necessary to avoid having to deal with the mountain of specifications for physical packaging.

So what does the newest incarnation of these packaging specifications, ASTM D3951, mean for suppliers today?

It’s Likely Not What You Think

What many suppliers might not know is that things have changed. ASTM D3951 is the newest document defining standard practice for commercial packaging of supplies and equipment for DoD contracts. It represents a fundamental shift away from the endless standards for every aspect of packaging. Under ASTM D3951, the DoD’s new relaxed guidelines for packaging place trust in the suppliers’ knowledge of the product they manufacture, and the best way to package it so it will arrive safely.

What Does This Mean For Me?

ASTM D3951 removes one of the obstacles that forced suppliers to outsource their packaging. The other obstacle, labeling, is now the main reason many continue to pay packaging house fees to fulfill their DoD contract work.

With Odyssey’s labeling solutions, suppliers can ensure compliance with all government requirements with just a few clicks. So there’s no longer a reason you can’t bring all your packaging and labeling work in-house, and increase margins for your DoD contracts.

To learn more about how Odyssey can help you cut operating costs and ensure compliance, get in touch with the experts at Odyssey today.

Topics: dod compliance, DoD, labels, department of defense, packaging, ASTM D3951

RFID Printers and More: The Hardware You Need for DoD Commerce

Posted by James Lusk on Wed, Jul 10, 2019 @ 14:07 PM

dod commerce hardware might include conveyor belts and rfid label printers

Many companies take pride in supplying the US government and military with a variety of goods – including uniforms and boots, heavy machinery, materials needed for combat, and even basic office supplies. Working as a DoD supplier can also provide a financially rewarding, long-term business relationship.

It can be challenging to get started, especially if you’ve never provided goods to government agencies before. The complex processes and compliance requirements can deter new suppliers from bidding on contracts. But once you obtain the right hardware and software, your DoD commerce processes become simpler and more efficient.

High-level DoD commerce hardware checklist

Here are some items you may need to get started with DoD commerce. You can purchase these items from individual vendors, or work with a partner that provides a comprehensive DoD commerce solution. 

 

  • Label printer (RFID or non, depending on your needs)
  • Scanners
  • Imagers
  • Readers
  • Verification/validation devices
  • Labels/ribbons

If you’re not sure whether RFID makes a difference, read this article to learn more about why RFID matters when doing business with the government. 

5 key questions to ask about RFID printers

As you’re considering your options and making decisions about your DoD commerce hardware setup, here are some crucial questions to ask about label printers:

  1. Does the printer’s manufacturer specialize in RFID? Some of the most popular printers on the market may not be RFID specialists. As you consider the many label printer options on the market, look for this point of differentiation. 
  2. How much does it cost to configure and test print? Find out what sort of configuration and testing options are available when purchasing from a manufacturer, or whether it makes more sense to purchase through a different source.
  3. How easy is it to ensure the labels we’re printing are DoD-compliant? Having the right hardware doesn’t guarantee that the labels you’re printing are going to be compliant with Department of Defense standards. Make sure you have a solution in place for creating compliant labels. 
  4. What kind of ongoing support is offered? This will help you determine whether to purchase from the manufacturer or a different retailer.
  5. How does the hardware integrate into the rest of our DoD commerce processes? For maximum efficiency, it’s best to integrate all the hardware and software components into an end-to-end process.

An integrated, complete DoD commerce solution

Odyssey, a government-approved software vendor, also offers all the hardware suppliers need for efficient, compliant DoD commerce. Our team of experts offers configuration, test printing, and support free with the purchase of a label printer; we’ll also configure and support your existing hardware for a small fee. 

The real benefit is a fully integrated process that brings together all the components needed for successful DoD commerce. Get in touch with Odyssey and let us help you build a more efficient process for doing business with the government.

Should You Outsource Your Defense Commerce Labeling and Reporting with Transaction Services?

Posted by James Lusk on Sat, May 25, 2019 @ 12:05 PM

Collaborating on defense contract fulfillment via outsourcing

Supplying the government with any kind of physical goods, from boots to jet engines, requires a completely different set of business processes to manage shipping, fulfillment, and compliance with DoD standards.

Understandably, many companies choose to outsource these business processes. For example, Odyssey offers Transaction Services, where we manage the labels and data submission requirements to ensure your contract is fulfilled according to government compliance standards.

Here are four questions you can ask that may indicate outsourcing this aspect of your DoD contract management is the right move.

1. Are you new to working with the Department of Defense?

As you’re probably finding out, supplying the federal government comes with a considerable learning curve. Between the terminology, compliance requirements, labeling processes, and often confusing government sites and databases, fulfilling a defense contract presents numerous challenges.

Until you know how much business you’re going to be doing with the DoD, it might not make sense to invest in the hardware and software required to effectively handle all the required processes.

2. Does DoD commerce account for a relatively small portion of your overall business? 

Because the requirements for labeling and reporting compliance are complex, many suppliers end up spending a disproportionate amount of time managing their work with the government compared to their private-sector clients. If you don’t do a lot of business with the DoD relative to your other customers, outsourcing these processes on a per-contract basis could be the right choice.

As you are awarded more contracts, you can decide to continue outsourcing these processes or to bring the work in-house using a defense commerce software like Odyssey’s.

3. Do you have limited staff to help with the requirements of working with the government? 

If managing the labeling of items and submitting data to VIM or iRAPT is pulling staff away from other work, getting some outside help with this time-consuming process may be the best approach. Outsourcing this business process to a provider like Odyssey frees up valuable capacity on your team. And if staffing changes, you can opt to have your team handle those tasks for your next defense contract.

4. Were you awarded a contract that involves UID? 

This is specific to current Odyssey users who leverage our iRAPT/WAWF Console, RFID and MIL-STD-130 capabilities, but are awarded a contract that requires UID. The Odyssey team can handle these requirements on a per-contract basis, saving you from having to upgrade your Odyssey software to manage UID. This is a good option if you don’t typically deal with UID, and don’t expect to have future contracts of this type.

If any of the situations above apply to you, it’s worth considering Odyssey’s Transaction Services. On a per-contract basis, our team creates all required labels and submits the necessary data to iRAPT in a compliant, timely fashion. Learn more about our Transaction Services.

A Primer on the IUID Registry: What DoD Vendors Should Know

Posted by James Lusk on Wed, Mar 6, 2019 @ 17:03 PM

iuid compliance with iuid registry for military gear and more

When it comes to MIL-STD-130 compliance, it would be nice if all you had to do was slap an IUID label on the item and call it a day. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. DoD suppliers must also register the required data with the government in order to be in compliance.

What is the IUID Registry?

The IUID Registry, hosted within the government’s iRAPT suite (formerly Wide Area Workflow, or WAWF), serves as the central repository for all IUID data. This allows the government to track the vast amount of items it acquires.

As the government’s system of record, the IUID Registry gives them an audit trail for all assets. The system allows them to analyze the entire lifecycle of assets, informing decisions about logistics, systems, and operations.

Learn more about item unique identification (IUID) and how to correctly label assets for MIL-STD-130 compliance here.

What information must be submitted to the IUID Registry?

For every item delivered, you must submit data that’s compliant with the IUID syntax. Here is the basic information you’ll plan to submit about the assets you supply to the government:

  • What the item is

  • How and when it was acquired by the government

  • Its initial value

  • Its custody status (who has the asset on-hand, you or the government)

  • How it’s marked for tracking

  • Additional details for end items, legacy items, and government-furnished property as applicable

Here are some data points you’ll need to have at-the-ready when reporting to the IUID Registry in order to ensure you’re meeting the reporting requirements and remaining in compliance:

  • Contract number and type

  • CLIN-level detail

  • Acquisition costs

  • Unit of measure

  • CAGE code

  • Part and serial number

  • UID number

  • Date of shipment

  • Date of acceptance

If you’re new to Department of Defense terminology or need a refresher, take a look at our DoD Glossary.

What are some common pitfalls when using the IUID Registry?

IUID Registry reporting must be 100% accurate because it is the system of record for all government assets. Although it is possible to make changes to IUID data you’ve already submitted, it can be a painful process. Better to get it right the first time.

But this also poses a challenge: manually entering pedigree information (via a government website that’s somewhat less than user-friendly) can be a time-consuming chore. What’s more, manual data entry is a minefield of potential mistakes that could result in audits and penalties. The amount of painstaking data entry needed to comply with IUID Registry requirements is just not scalable in the long run, especially as you look to grow your revenues from DoD commerce.

How can I make IUID compliance easier?

All the data you’ll need to successfully submit asset information to the IUID Registry is easily created or quickly imported using a solution like Odyssey’s. Our end-to-end DoD commerce solution streamlines IUID-related tasks to reduce user error and redundancies. Odyssey’s IUID modules have been designed to scale with DoD requirements as they evolve, and are built to ensure simple, sustainable workflows as your business grows.

By ensuring compliance and accuracy, Odyssey solutions for IUID give your business a competitive edge. Learn about how we drastically simplify the complex compliance processes required for DoD suppliers – get in touch with us today.

Topics: MIL 130 N, UID compliance

What Odyssey’s New Integration with DLA’s Vendor Shipment Module Means for You

Posted by James Lusk on Thu, Feb 21, 2019 @ 17:02 PM

new integration with DLA Vendor Shipment Module

Recently, Odyssey announced a new integration with Defense Logistics Agency’s Vendor Shipment Module (VSM) that expands on current functionality for shipping label access. We had previously built an integration for Freight on Board (FOB) Destination shipments to allow you to access the necessary shipping labels, and the new integration lets you do the same for FOB Origin. This integration is the first of its kind and streamlines contract fulfillment processes for DoD suppliers like you.

Before the new VSM integration

The government has a program called First Destination Transportation Program (FDTP) that provides for the government to pay the shipping costs. Our platform was already integrated with DLA’s tool for FOB Destination shipments, and the previous functionality allowed suppliers to create all DoD-specific labels, such as NSN, MSL, and CASE.

However, businesses were not previously able to access or submit data for contracts designated for FOB Origin, and had to do an extra step of logging into VSM to access the shipping labels they needed.

What the integration means for DoD suppliers

With Odyssey’s new integration, all the required data can be directly accessed through our platform. Shipper labels for UPS, Fedex, DHL, and others can be easily generated from the same interface. This type of direct integration with VSM has never been available before, and Odyssey customers benefit from an even more efficient process.

If you’re an existing Odyssey customer, this new VSM integration upgrade is available at no cost. To learn more, contact us or refer to the Help tabs within the Odyssey software interface.

We know constantly evolving requirements create a burden for DoD suppliers, so being first to market with this VSM integration is exciting because we know it will help our customers fulfill government contracts more efficiently.

See the press release here, and get in touch with us to learn more about how we can make the process of doing business with the government easier and more profitable for your business.

Topics: VSM