As we continue to explore the depths of UID and MIL-STD 130N in this blog series we want to next discuss the history of the compliance process mandated by the DoD. UID was very much a system built out of necessity, and understanding that necessity sheds a lot of light on the reason for its widespread usage today. Item identification, as it pertains to military assets, has been around for quite awhile, but let’s go back, for the sake of illustration, to World War II.
Consider the Sherman tank, which was the American tank most commonly used by Allies in WWII. During the U.S.’s involvement in the war, primarily between 1942 and 1945, roughly 50,000 Shermans were manufactured and shipped to various Allied nations. While the German Tiger tank was a vastly superior product, manufacturing times and expenditures on these armored vehicles were dramatically higher than the Sherman. In the end, the U.S. tank became vital to the war effort because it allowed the Allies to overwhelm their Axis counterparts with sheer numbers. Surely George Patton reveled in the influx of Shermans into his 3rd army, but the asset volume caused headaches for those keeping track of the logistical side of the war.
During this time, each branch of the U.S. military used separate methods for identifying assets, meaning a single part could have a different name depending on which branch you asked. With such a substantial amount of items being delivered around the world, it didn’t take long for the military to realize inventory control was neigh impossible under the current system. After WWII, as part of a series of events that gave birth to the Department of Defense, the Federal Stock Number (FSN) was created. This system utilized an 11-digit stock number that was applied to assets to give them a unique identifier. This method was even further refined a few years later with the Defense Cataloging and Standardization Act, which mandated a single catalogue system for the DoD. The entire system was so successful that in March of 1953 the first edition of the MIL-STD-130 was published to require the uniform application of identification labels to military properties.
This system of asset management went through various stages of change in the coming years, but saw its largest evolution in 1990 with The Chief Financial Officers’ Act, which called for cost reduction and improved item accountability. The DoD found itself in a situation where it needed to greatly improve asset visibility and lifecycle item management. It was one thing to properly identify and distinguish assets, but now it was necessary to track those assets at any point throughout their lifecycle and provide real-time data and logistical information. Such was born the DoD’s first vision of modern unique item identification.
In 2003, the Acting Under Secretary of Defense signed into effect a policy that lead to UID as we know it today. This policy made UID management a mandatory DoD requirement on all new assets issued on or after January 1st, 2004. This was also around the time that UID began utilizing a 2D Data Matrix. The technology for this type of marking had actually been around since the 90s when NASA was in need of a way to mark individual items that was both secure and compact. The inclusion of the 2D Data Matrix into UID meant that all items of a certain value were required to be marked with this machine-readable code to improve inventory data quality, asset visibility, and accurate data capture.
And so we find ourselves here, today, with the most modern interpretation of UID. It’s a system that has been around for decades and continues to evolve, sometimes in small ways, sometimes in larger ways, but always to streamline the cost, effectiveness and efficiency of asset management. Please contact us to learn more about how the ODYSSEY DCS SaaS platform can help your organization manage MIL-STD 130N, UID and as well as all other DoD commerce requirements.