ODYSSEY- The Leader in Defense Commerce Solutions Blog

Smart Devices Shifting From Consumers to Businesses

Posted by James Lusk on Tue, May 16, 2017 @ 10:05 AM

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Consumers are adopting smart devices at a rapid rate, welcoming them into their homes, cars and everyday lives. These devices have changed the way we think, live and interact with one another, and there are no signs of it slowing down. However, while we often correlate smart devices and technology to products we use in our personal lives, they are more relevant than ever to businesses today, especially in manufacturing, logistics, industrial, shipping and tracking industries. Companies must notice these trends and recognize the advantages in investing in smart technology. 

What is smart technology?

Smart technology connects multiple devices or networks via wireless protocols, allowing objects to operate interactively and autonomously. Any type of equipment, instrument, or machine that has its own computing capability is considered a smart or intelligent device.

Harvard Business Review explains it well:

“All smart, connected products, from home appliances to industrial equipment, share three core elements:

  • Physical components (such as mechanical and electrical parts)
  • Smart components (sensors, microprocessors, data storage, controls, software, an embedded operating system, and a digital user interface)
  • Connectivity components (ports, antennae, protocols, and networks that enable communication between the product and the product cloud, which runs on remote servers and contains the product’s external operating system).”

You may be familiar with smart, connected products like smart refrigerators that can sense what kinds of products are being stored inside them and keep a track of the stock or FitBits and other wearable tech that offer personalized data, like heart rate, step count and calories burned. However, it’s no longer just about the “smart home”. It’s also about the “smart office” and “smart warehouse.” 

How are businesses using smart technology?

Data Collection

With more devices connected than ever before, companies have greater access to data regarding consumer behavior, patterns and interests. Companies are taking advantage of the increased amounts of data by making decisions, like product recommendations, effective advertising and sales decisions, based off their findings. Greater access to data is proving to be valuable as studies show that executives want their companies to focus more on data, and less on intuition.  We wrote about data and the Internet of Things in January.

Inventory Tracking and Management

The ability to view, track, and monitor inventory continues to improve through smart devices and technology. A smart supply chain is updated in real-time, so your company can track inventory, remain aware of shipping issues and keep track of what stock needs replenished. Additionally, RFID tags are able to hold and communicate even more information about an object, such as temperature, weather, traffic, damage to the object, etc. This will reduce the number of lost items, better identify inefficiencies and help companies make more informed decisions. Learn more about the benefits of RFID technology for businesses. 

Automating Manual Processes

One of the main complaints we hear from business owners who are considering switching to Odyssey is that they want to focus on the work that really matters. They are too distracted by the inconsistencies and headaches of multiple tools and manual processes. With smart devices, everything is connected, automated and streamlined, freeing up employees and business owners to focus on tasks that add value. This allows companies to produce more and larger projects in less time. Automatic processes also reduce the number of errors that are normally seen during manual processes. See how your company can squash errors. 

What are the benefits for companies?

Many businesses have found that smart technology improves their bottom lines through:

  • Informed decision making via data collection
  • Automating manual processes, freeing employees up to focus on value-adding tasks
  • Lower operating costs
  • Increased productivity and efficiency
  • Reduced number of errors 

Because of the advances in smart devices and technology, everything is connected. Odyssey has adopted this growing technology to create integrated, cross-departmental work-flow processes that utilize an efficient and effective cloud-based platform. Today’s Department of Defense commerce requires an IT platform that can make sense of requirements and provide an automated environment to easily react and respond in real-time. Our DoD-approved software helps to make our partners’ work easier and more efficient by:

  • Improving resource utilization
  • Reducing errors
  • Enabling streamlined commerce and DoD compliant measures
  • Creating a more efficient process, saving companies time and money

We take pride in staying on top of the latest and most effective technology. Learn how your company can benefit here. 

Topics: DoD approved software, dod compliance, RFID, DoD, business technology, smart device, automation

Seamlessly Manage IUID Tasks in One Platform

Posted by James Lusk on Wed, May 3, 2017 @ 10:05 AM

The Department of Defense is consistently changing and updating requirements for military marking, shipments, storage and more. These new standards often add to an already long list of requirements and processes that must be managed.  Companies must engage in asynchronistic activities, log into multiple unrelated software programs and coordinate with outside suppliers, just to complete a DoD transaction.

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Imagine how efficiently your company could run if all that redundant work was eliminated by a single, end-to-end product.  Odyssey is a cloud-based, fully integrated IUID compliance and transactional software solution and is DoD approved.

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UID activities generally fall into two main tasks:  Events and transactions.

Events

  • UID Mil-Std 130 N marks
  • Receipt of previously marked assets
  • Pedigree building or embedded IUID relationships

Transactions

  • UID data into required exterior labels
  • Advanced ship notice and invoice submission
  • Managing lifecycle events within the registry

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Even though these tasks are separate from one another, and each uses its own specialized software and data pathways, you, the supplier, are tasked with entering and integrating data for each one to complete a successful DoD transaction.  Odyssey unifies this process, allowing you to engage in successful IUID mandated commerce from a single end-to-end solution.

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Now you can seamlessly manage the following, all in one DoD approved platform:

  • End level UID creation
  • Assets previously marked with UID
  • Embedding IUID for parent/ child pedigree assembly
  • Government furnished property
  • UID compliance requirements mandated to occur through the IUID registry

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Odyssey’s technology also eliminates keystroke or typographical errors. Our approach is based on automation, rather than redundant data entry. Its flexible, low-impact implementation won’t obstruct your unique set of assets, requirements and workflows.

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Hundreds of organizations, from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, have already standardized on the DoD approved Odyssey platform.  Success and longevity demands a compliant, transparent and repeatable process.

 

Watch the full video demonstration here. Schedule a no-obligation, personalized demonstration today, here.

Topics: DoD approved software, UID, MIL-STD 130 N, IUID, DoD, Odyssey DCS

4 Trends Shaping the World of Data in 2017

Posted by James Lusk on Thu, Apr 20, 2017 @ 13:04 PM

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Data is commonly defined as, “facts and statistics collected together for reference or analysis.” With the help of technology, the process of collecting and analyzing data continues to evolve and is now bigger than ever. Businesses are relying on mass amounts of data to gain insights into their customers and meet their objectives.

Data is especially important for suppliers to the Department of Defense (DoD). For example, our industry maintains a vast amount of information like Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and Item Unique Identification (IUID) to effectively track and ship products, meet DoD requirements and complete transactions.

We’ve noticed a few trends that are shaping how we use data, and these trends aren’t slowing down in 2017. 

Data volumes continue to grow

As the internet of things (IoT) continues to grow, the amount of data created worldwide is expected to increase tenfold by 2025. That’s a lot of data. In fact, according to an International Data Corp (IDC) white paper, “By 2025, an average connected person anywhere in the world will interact with connected devices nearly 4,800 times per day – basically one interaction every 18 seconds.” 

From a business perspective, organizations need to be strategic about what portion of that data to manage and how to manage it. If not done correctly, organizations could lose revenue, provide poor customer experiences and suffer operational issues. 

More and more data moves to the cloud

Due to the increasing amount of data, organizations are taking more of their applications to the cloud and out of their data centers.  Data centers can be expensive to manage, especially for small businesses, and companies today don’t want to be required to lock in for multiple years to on-premises equipment. 

The cloud is based on subscription services, is scalable to your business needs, and offers greater flexibility. There are many benefits to working with cloud service providers that offer the big data processing platform, as well as the expertise. For these reasons, many organizations have already moved to the cloud, and even more will follow suit.

Many of the DoD suppliers we work with enjoy the ability to work in the same dashboard as their coworkers located around the country. All data in the dashboard is updated in real-time through the cloud.

Companies place great importance on security

Although a slow process, companies seem to finally be catching on to the importance of data security and are putting resources toward it.  And as more companies than ever are relying on data, they will be forced to evaluate and improve their privacy and security procedures. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2018, 50% of business ethics violations will be related to data.

We want immediate gratification

Today, most everything can be done with the click of a button, leading customers to demand instant gratification. The same goes for companies when it comes to their data analytics. Executives and managers want to see analytics that offer immediate, actionable data. Gone are the days of waiting hours or even days to get answers and insights. Real-time data programs, like Odyssey, offer the ability to make accurate and real-time decisions, based on the data provided. Fresh, timely insights will be more important than ever. 

These trends have already emerged, but they will only continue to drive the world of data in the years to come. All businesses, especially those working with the Department of Defense, should see themselves as data-driven companies. Executives and data professionals should keep a close eye on these trends and adapt their data strategies as needed.

By collecting and analyzing the right data, DoD suppliers can save time, money and resources getting the job done. Learn more about our data-driven services here.

Topics: RFID, IUID, cloud computing, department of defense, data

The Evolution of Inventory Management

Posted by James Lusk on Wed, Apr 5, 2017 @ 13:04 PM

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Inventory management continues to evolve. Like many other processes, the evolution is driven by the need for greater efficiency and accuracy. Today, suppliers have the ability to use real-time, cloud-based software, like Odyssey, to track and manage inventory and shipments. Let’s take a look at how we got here.

Manual Counting

Inventory management was very primitive before the Industrial Revolution. Some of the first people to rely on inventory management were shopkeepers and merchants, who would count the number of units at the end of each day, determine how many were sold and do their best to forecast future needs. The process of manually counting the physical inventory would often take hours or even days, and as you can imagine, it wasn’t very accurate.

Punch Card System

The Industrial Revolution completely transformed the inventory management process as efficiency and mass production became the main goals of businesses. The punch card system was the “next big thing”, designed by a team at Harvard University in the early 1930’s. The tiny holes in sheets of paper allowed punch cards to correspond with catalog items that were readable by computers. The information would be passed to employees in the storeroom, who would then bring the item up front to the customer. Companies could keep track of which products were being ordered and record inventory and sales data based on the punch cards customers filled out. Unfortunately, this process was too expensive and too slow to remain widely used and to keep up with rising business challenges. 

The Modern Bar Code

The first version of the modern bar code was created in the 1940’s and 1950’s and was composed of ultraviolet light-sensitive ink and reader to track items for sale. As technology improved in the 1980’s and 1990’s, the bar code system became more efficient, affordable and widely adopted. The implantation of more advanced computers and software allowed the modern bar code to flourish for years. At this point, inventory tracking by hand was replaced by scanning products, but inputting information into computers was still done by hand.

Radio Frequency Identification

RFID (radio frequency identification) technology has become a staple in warehouses, factories, and retail stores during the 2000’s. RFID uses a microchip to transmit information about a product, such as type, manufacturer and serial number, to a data collection device. The introduction of RFID technology means that businesses no longer needed to input data by hand and barcode readers could instantly update their databases. The technology is also a game-changer for vendors because they can ensure their products are properly available, and they have constant access to real-time sales data.

The Odyssey team believes that today’s Department of Defense commerce requires an IT platform that can make sense of requirements and provide an automated environment to easily react and respond in real-time. Utilizing the most dynamic cloud- based software levels the playing field for all organizations and users. A five-person company can enjoy the same benefits as a 500-person company. We are always happy to talk to you about your business needs and help you create a more efficient and cost-saving process. You can also watch a demo here.

 

 

Topics: RFID, Passive RFID, cloud computing, business technology, inventory management

DoD Shipment & Invoice Submission Made Easy

Posted by James Lusk on Thu, Mar 23, 2017 @ 15:03 PM

We know that completing Department of Defense transactions in iRAPT can be difficult. However, we also know it’s a necessary part of doing your job.  This can prove challenging for many DoD suppliers. With Odyssey, you no longer have to log into iRAPT and work manually to complete a successful transaction.  

 The iRAPT Console’s “Transmit iRAPT Documents” feature makes it easy to submit required shipment and invoice information to the DoD.

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Here’s how it works.

Click on “Transmit iRAPT Documents”. 

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Select the document ID you would like to submit.  Choose the appropriate pay mechanism, like “Combo” or “Fast Pay”, and associate your invoice number to the transaction. From here, discounts, fees and attachments can be initiated.

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You can also create a receiving report for review that doubles as a government approved packing slip.

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When you are ready to submit, use the iRAPT Console’s point-and-click submission to send your transaction directly to the government database iRAPT.

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You can email the data directly to your QAR from Odyssey or log in to iRAPT, and it appears as if you manually entered it yourself. 

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In the world of DoD commerce, time and accuracy matter. Odyssey’s iRAPT Console is the most efficient and effective way to complete your DoD transactions.

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Learn more about our iRAPT Console here. You can also watch a full video demo here.

Topics: DoD approved software, iRAPT, DoD, department of defense, simple, easy to use software

What To Know About Corrective Action Requests

Posted by James Lusk on Tue, Mar 7, 2017 @ 11:03 AM

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Recently, we have had many discussions with Department of Defense suppliers about corrective action requests (CARs) and how to address them.  In fact, we have heard more about CARs recently than we have in our last 11 years of service. Our DoD approved software can help.

What is a Corrective Action Request (CAR)?

A Corrective Action Request (CAR) is commonly defined as, “A formal notification sent to a supplier, where an item or process is in nonconformity and a remedy is required.”

CAR’s ask that the cause of nonconformities of a product, process, or service be eliminated, with the objective of preventing recurrence and are normally determined during quality assurance activities. These non-conformances are resolved through corrective actions. Each organization will have its own specific CAR form, process and procedures.

Levels of Corrective Action Requests

The DoD has four levels of CARs. The level depends on the severity of the nonconformity and the level of supplier management visibility required to properly address corrective actions, according to ACQ Notes.

Level 1

  • Issued for a nonconformity that can be corrected immediately and where no further corrective action response is necessary.  
  • The issue is not considered systemic, significant or recurring. 

Level 2

  • Issued when contractual nonconformity cannot be corrected right away.
  • Problems that involve Critical Program Impact items, Safety of Flight or critical safety items are determined a Level 2 CAR, at a minimum.
  • CARs should be directed to the supplier management level responsible for initiating corrective actions.

Level 3

  • Issued to the supplier’s top management to call attention to serious contractual nonconformity.  
  • Because of the severity of a Level 3 CAR, the supplier must acknowledge receipt and understanding with a due date.
  • There may be contractual remedies involved, such as reductions of progress payments, cost disallowances, business management systems disapprovals or more.

Level 4

  • Issued to the supplier’s top management when a Level III has been ineffective.
  • May also be issued if the contractual nonconformity is serious enough to warrant contractual remedies, such as suspension of progress payments or product acceptance activities.

How To Overcome Corrective Action Requests

DoD suppliers are constantly challenged by evolving requirements. The data associated with these requirements, and coupled with the demands of unrelated governmental websites, often leads to nonconformities and CARs, and it diminishes the profits of a DoD supplier’s business. 

We believe that today’s DoD commerce requires an IT platform that can make sense of requirements and provide an automated environment to easily react and respond in real-time.  Our DoD approved software provides the peace-of-mind that companies need to complete DoD transactions.

 The Odyssey platform offers fully-scalable solutions for organizations of all sizes and structures including:

  • Small businesses
  • Non-profits
  • Large publicly traded companies

To learn more about how your organization can overcome and avoid this all too common problem, please CLICK HERE.  We offer many services that will help you take corrective actions immediately.  If you are a supplier wrestling with DoD Commerce, please contact us to learn more about the Odyssey platform, designed specifically for DoD suppliers.       

 

Topics: DoD approved software, dod compliance, corrective action requests, CARs, department of defense

4 Benefits of RFID Technology For Business

Posted by James Lusk on Wed, Feb 22, 2017 @ 13:02 PM

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Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is commonly defined as the use of radio waves to read and capture information stored on a tag attached to an object. To put it more clearly, RFID technology serves the same purpose as the bar code on your groceries or the magnetic strip on the back of your credit card; it provides a unique identifier for an object.

While RFID is not completely new, it is being adopted by more companies each year as the technology continues to mature and evolve.  This is because the benefits of RFID technology can be seen throughout a wide variety of industries, all the way from retail to healthcare to transportation and logistics. Each industry has its own demands that RFID technology is helping to meet.  For example, retail companies often use RFID tags to track the quantity of apparel in stock at each store. Healthcare companies use RFID technology to manage medication distribution in hospitals. Logistics companies use RFID every day to create an up-to-date list of what has been put on and removed from its trucks. So, could RFID help your business?

We’ve put together a few reasons why we’re a big fan of the technology.

RFID makes your business efficient.

RFID technology requires a lot less monitoring than its predecessor- the bar code. One reason for this is that it doesn’t require line-of-sight scanning to read tags, meaning that multiple tags can be read at once. Less monitoring and a simpler process means that your employees are free to handle important tasks and focus on productive efforts. Overall, goods and information are handled much more efficiently.

RFID technology prevents errors.

Because of the automatic nature of the technology, no human intervention is necessary to read data. Not only is this more efficient, freeing up employees for other tasks, it also lessens the risk of human error that typically comes with data logging and product replenishment. By cutting out manual processes and replacing them with automated technology, companies often see more accurate results.

RFID provides real-time data.

RFID technology has the ability to track and provide real-time data about inventory and products. This capability is attractive to any industry, especially in today’s world of data-driven decision making. Whether you are tracking warehouse inventory or individual retail products, your company can benefit from the automatic, real-time data collection and analysis that RFID offers. 

RFID offers insights that lead to better decision making.

The access to real-time data and analytics that RFID technology provides allows companies to become better and more accurately informed at all times. Having hard data and insights leads to better decision making, which business owners and managers can turn into actions that improve the business. This is the power of RFID data.


Check out how our RFID technology is helping our clients here.

 

Topics: RFID, Passive RFID, business technology

Squash Errors with Odyssey’s UID Module

Posted by James Lusk on Wed, Feb 8, 2017 @ 10:02 AM


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Managing UID tasks and compliance is difficult and tedious, and without a robust solution in place, you can be left with many errors.

 

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Odyssey’s UID Module can be your one-stop for all UID needs.  

Here’s how it works, step by step:

Click on the UID Construct Manager to begin creating new UID MIL 130 N Labels.

 

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The UIDs can be created in multiple formats, such as Construct 1 or 2, as well as custom, and in any quantity.

 

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You can also import files that include UID data already created.  Odyssey will validate the uniqueness of each UID to ensure it is compliant and ready for use.

 

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And with Odyssey’s embedded UID feature, you can efficiently manage pedigree building activities.

 

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Because the UIDs are housed in an integrated solution, it’s easy to associate either a single end-level UID, or a parent UID, and its subsequent children to a specific transaction located within iRAPT console.

 

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The data will then flow from Odyssey via direct DoD integration to iRAPT for payment and then to the UID registry for compliance.

 

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Lessen your chance of error, increase your chance of opportunity for compliance and efficiency, and let Odyssey’s integrated UID module manage your tedious UID tasks. 

 

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Learn more here. You can also watch the full video demo here.

 

Topics: dod compliance, UID, department of defense, MIL 130 N, errors

5 Changes the Internet of Things Will Bring to Businesses in 2017

Posted by James Lusk on Mon, Jan 23, 2017 @ 10:01 AM

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The Internet of Things, or IoT, is not a new term or subject matter.  In fact, according to Datafloq, the term was coined in 1999, but the prediction of a connected world through handheld devices has been around since 1926.  While IoT has been discussed for years now, the way it is used is constantly changing and evolving.

IoT is commonly defined as, “a proposed development of the Internet, in which everyday objects have network connectivity, allowing them to send and receive data.” In September, we wrote about how the Internet of Things is the key to DoD commerce success. Turns out, it is beginning to impact pretty much every business industry.   

In 2017, experts are predicting some big changes for businesses and the Internet of Things.

IoT’s not near, it’s here.

Gone are the days of discussing IoT as “the future”.  Many industries will be completely disrupted as companies around the world begin to use IoT technology in the every-day running of their business. 2016 was the year that a lot of groundwork was laid, but 2017 will be the year it all comes to fruition.  Read more here.

Smart business is the focus.

Over the last few years, IoT has been heavily focused on consumer products. From Amazon’s Alexa to self-driving cars, consumers are slowly but surely beginning to welcome the Internet of Things into their lives. But this year, there will be a large push for more businesses to use the technology. Sukamal Banerjee, executive vice president and global head, IoT Works and HCL Technologies says, “As per our 2016 global IoT survey, 38% of organizations have already started their IoT journey, and 57% are currently planning to, thus, making 2017 an inflection year for Industrial IoT adoption.” Read more here.

Business is getting personal.

With IoT devices, businesses will have greater access to data, ranging from consumer behavior to manufacturing inventory changes. Companies will take advantage of greater access to data by making decisions- such as product recommendations, effective advertising and sales decisions- based off their findings. This data will also prove to be convenient as studies show that executives want their companies to focus more on data, and less on intuition.  Read more here.

Inventory management continues to evolve.

The ability to view, track, and monitor inventory will continue to improve through integration with IoT.  RFID tags will be able to hold and communicate even more information about an object, such as temperature, weather, traffic, damage to the object, etc. This will reduce the number of lost items, better identify inefficiencies and help companies make more informed decisions.  Read more here.

Efficiency is King.

The Internet of Things will continue to allow employees to produce more and larger projects in less time.  They will be able to focus their efforts on the important aspects of the business, rather than inefficiencies and manual work. Not only will they complete projects faster, but they will be able to do so more accurately.  Read more here.

2017 will be a big year for the Internet of Things, and businesses in every industry will start to see changes.  We are excited to continue serving our clients with this growing technology.  

 

 

Topics: Internet of Things, DoD, IoT, business technology

How To: Create Compliant MIL-STD 129 r Unit Labels

Posted by James Lusk on Mon, Jan 9, 2017 @ 10:01 AM

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One of the main complaints we hear from business owners who are considering switching to Odyssey is that they aren't able to focus on the work that really matters. They are too distracted by the inconsistencies and headaches of multiple tools and manual processes. Creating standard and compliant DoD labels can quickly become cumbersome and disorganized. With Odyssey’s NSN Label Manager, everything is automated and streamlined to help you finally leave those headaches behind.

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Odyssey NSN Label Manager allows you to standardize the creation of specific unit labels and ensures they are compliant.

Here’s how it works, step by step.

 Click on the NSN Item Label Manager.

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Enter the last four digits or any portion of your NSN.

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The information for the NSN will automatically populate directly from the contract.

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From here, you can edit any of the data if necessary. Enter shelf-life markings, such as cured or manufactured dates, as well as lot or batch data. You can even serialize these labels if needed.  When the information is complete, you can select the appropriate standard or custom template and print as many labels as you need.

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Let Odyssey’s NSN Label Manager help you standardize the assets specific label creation process to keep it efficient and effective. To view the video demonstration, click here.

 

Topics: dod compliance, DoD, labels, Odyssey DCS, cloud software

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