ODYSSEY: The Leader in Defense Commerce Solutions Blog

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

cytonn-photography-GJao3ZTX9gU-unsplash

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

16617

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

element5-digital-OyCl7Y4y0Bk-unsplash

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

samuel-zeller-JuFcQxgCXwA-unsplash-1

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

What to Look for When Selecting DoD Software for Your Organization

Posted by James Lusk on Wed, Jul 12, 2017 @ 11:07 AM

evalutate software.jpg

Since 2006, when Odyssey began, we have worked with many companies and have listened to them describe their day-to-day pain points. We’ve heard just about everything a company and its employees experience as they muddle through the ever-evolving mandates and compliance measures required to do business with the Department of Defense.

 Every organization can agree that DoD Commerce is no trivial matter and that choosing the right DoD solutions software can be difficult. We want to re-focus the way DoD suppliers and other organizations view DoD commerce, as well as demonstrate all that is possible through an integrated cross-departmental solution, specifically designed for DoD suppliers. We’ve listened to our customers and colleagues and have put together our best advice.

Companies should ask themselves the following questions when comparing DoD commerce software platforms.

Will it be a simple transition?

When researching software solutions, be sure the software you are reviewing doesn’t cause any stress on your organization’s internal IT department or force further management or overhead to operate. Fundamentally changing your process will cause more harm than good. A simple transition will guarantee employee buy-in and better results.

Is integration possible?

DoD tasks should not be seen as events occurring one after another. The most successful companies have integrated departments, resulting in efficiency and ensuring 100% compliance throughout the entire process. Look for a software solution where integration is possible from award to payment.

Is it scalable for long-term success?

Scalable solutions allow companies to grow and plan for future requirements that are not yet mandated or not yet impacting current business. When comparing software solutions, be sure to find one that can easily scale up or down, based on the myriad of criteria that could affect the organization in the long-term. Fully scalable solutions for DoD suppliers is key to successful business.

Does it unite your organization?

DoD commerce tasks should not cause discourse between departments and stakeholders. Ensure that a proposed solution brings your team together for a common goal and does not require part of the group to continue using unrelated software. A collaborative software solution will help organizations see the best results.

It’s important that internal champions within a company, just like you, care enough to seek new, efficient and effective ways to successfully complete DoD tasks in one solution. It takes leaders to change the way an organization views DoD Commerce. Understand the impact of change and convey your message to peers and authorities with conviction.

Also, be sure to keep these questions in mind when researching software solutions. If you have questions, or would like to learn about using Odyssey as your DoD-approved software and commerce solutions provider, we would be happy to speak with you. You can contact us here

 

Topics: DoD approved software, department of defense, dod software, dod commerce solutions

Why You Should Care About Data

Posted by James Lusk on Thu, Jun 1, 2017 @ 13:06 PM

data center.jpeg

Data has become critical to our lives over the past 30 years. It has changed the way we are educated, entertained, and even how we do business. The sum of all the data created, captured, and replicated is rapidly increasing and will only continue to do so.                                                           

The amount of data created worldwide will increase by tenfold by 2025, according to a recent white paper published by International Data Corp (IDC). The paper, titled “Data Age 2025”, says that because of the major increase in data, organizations will have to prioritize which portions to manage and how. Organizations that don’t manage the data correctly could lose revenue, provide poor customer experiences, and suffer operational inefficiencies.

“As data grows in amount, variety, and importance, business leaders must focus their attention on the data that matters the most,” says IDC. “Not all data is equally important to businesses or consumers.”

The white paper predicts that virtually every organization will somehow be impacted by the increase in data. There are a few key trends organizations can expect to see by 2025.

Enterprises will create the bulk of the world’s data

Data Age 2025 predicts that one of the biggest shifts will come from new data sources, as enterprises will soon replace consumers as the primary creators of the bulk of the world’s data. The study says that organizations will create 60 percent of the world’s data in 2025. To provide additional context, in 2015, they created less than 30 percent of data.                                           

Data will evolve from business background to life-critical

Once inaccessible and mostly underutilized, data has now become essential. When defining “life-critical”, IDC says:

“Data usage is being analyzed by its level of criticality as indicated by factors such as the need for real-time processing and low latency, the ad hoc nature of usage, and the severity of consequences should the data become unavailable (e.g., a medical application is considered to be more consequential than a streaming TV program).                                                                                            

IDC estimates that by 2025, nearly 20% of the data in the global datasphere will be critical to our daily lives and nearly 10% of that will be hypercritical.

Data is mobile and in real-time

It is increasingly more important for data to be instantly available whenever and wherever anyone needs it.  Businesses everywhere are transforming their digital platforms to meet these requirements. In fact, IDC says that real time data will grow at 1.5 times the rate of overall data creation and by 2025, more than a quarter of data created in the global datasphere will be real time.        

These predictions and insights could impact virtually every organization, but they are 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. Because of the advances in technology, data is more crucial than ever to remain competitive. 

Our clients rely on us to provide accurate, real-time data every day to keep their businesses running and prospering. With the data that our DoD-approved software provides, our partners can:

  • Make better informed decisions
  • Increase productivity and efficiency
  • Reduce the number of errors made
  • Lower operating costs

These trends will only continue to drive the world of data in the years to come. By collecting and analyzing the right data, DoD suppliers can save time, money and resources getting the job done. Executives and data professionals should keep a close eye on these trends and adapt their strategies as needed. We wrote about this a little more in depth in April when discussing 2017’s biggest data trends. You can learn more about our data-driven services here.

 

 

Topics: DoD approved software, RFID, UID, DoD, department of defense, data

4 Trends Shaping the World of Data in 2017

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

data.jpeg

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

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.

iRAPT1.png

Here’s how it works.

Click on “Transmit iRAPT Documents”. 

iRAPT2.png

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.

iRAPT3.png

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

irapt4.png

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.

iRAPT5.png

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. 

irapt6.png

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.

irapt7.png

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

pexels-photo-3.jpg

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