UID = A Wealth of Possibility

Imagine the possibilities of utilizing UID beyond compliance. Once the thought, energy and expense have been expended to become UID compliant, why not reap the huge benefits that are available, beyond compliance? In a previous article, we discussed the benefits of utilizing a web-based system for handling UID data management and registration.  Here we go further by addressing the essential components of a total, enterprise UID solution.  And we invite you to engage in some daydreaming about how your company will utilize the newly available data.

A web-based system lays the foundation
The foundation component for utilizing UID data across an enterprise is a web-based system that enables UID policy and compliance.  Key components within such a system include the ability to create, print and register UIDs while maintaining the business rules associated with MIL STD 130 and MIL STD 129.  Along with these basic compliance needs, there must also be capacity for embedded relationships and as well as updates to the UID Registry for part number rollovers and other life cycle events.  This foundation covers basic compliance but there is more to consider

Work flow, item tracking and efficiency are high on the list for further consideration. For example, it is necessary to ask where most UID work be performed.  Web-based systems enable  access and visibility from multiple locations, so personnel who are responsible for the creation and registration of UID labels and plates in one building or department  have visibility into the steps in process on the manufacturing floor and  in the field where physical marking and labeling of items may be taking place. In other words, a web-based system ensures transparency across an enterprise, and the pay-off is a high level of visibility of information for making smart decisions.

Plan for a walk-about
Consider what will happen when it becomes necessary to move away from the computer, to create parent/child relationships as assemblies are being built in the warehouse, for example.  Mobile computing is the solution.  If the enterprise IT infrastructure allows for a wireless connection to the network, then this becomes easier by connecting a handheld PC with a 2D Imager such as the Motorola MC9090 or a tablet PC with a 2D Imager like the Panasonic U1 to the network and running the web-based application.  These mobile devices solve the mobility dilemma, but what happens when there is no connectivity?

In that event the mobile computer module should utilize scanning and tracking in an offline mode, with the ability to synchronize the data to the web application. Mobile computers in today’s market come integrated with the 2D Imagers that allow for the scanning of UIDs in transactions such as embedding, part rollover, tracking, and other functions.

Use APIs for data synchronization
Now let’s consider another scenario, that of an item that was originally manufactured at your facility,  was later fielded, and still later  is back for repair.  It is essential to know what has happened to that item while deployed.  With the APIs that are established by the UID Registry, a complete system should be able to synchronize with the Registry, to ensure not only that the information is current, but also to enable Registry updates.  In other words, if an embedded relationship changes in the field, it is essential to know what needs to be done to bring the assembly back to its original form or to update the Registry to reflect the changes.

Track and trace with UID
Once the basic UID compliance needs are met, the UID itself can be used for a whole host of item tracking tasks.  In fact tracking opportunities afforded by UID abound and the pay-off is enormous in any enterprise, whether military or in the private sector. Manufacturers of end item deliverables, for example, can use the UID to track serialized items at every build and package level and, further, track and link component builds to final, top level builds. These top level builds can be linked to order fulfillment, which in turn, can be linked to transport carrier documentation. And, after delivery, the linked UID can be tracked through warranty and system repair giving the manufacturer total lifecycle visibility.

Companies who are custodians of government furnished property (GFP) have the opportunity to track UID reported items internally, independent of compliance. A simple table of contracts and linked equipment can become the basis for assigning custodians and locations within an enterprise, with immediate visibility across all personnel and departments.

Within the military tracking beyond compliance offers similar visibility with some added bonuses. A simple spreadsheet of UIDs can be used to link each item to its location and/or custodian. When a gun is checked out for target practice, for example, that gun is linked to the location, the individual and the duration of use. This enables not only asset location and accountability but provides vital information for maintenance issues such as recalibration.

Global visibility and use
The key benefit to a web-based system, used in tandem with offline components, is its global nature. The entire enterprise can utilize the same system to access information. Because of proper data management, that information is guaranteed to be accurate. Let’s say, by way of example, that the enterprise has an overseas field team handling repairs. With a web-based system that utilizes UIDs, that team can access the system to obtain data on individual items. When repairs are made in the offshore repair facility and reported to the system both the main location and the remote field agents are up to date with the same information. Now, imagine that an item cannot be fully repaired in the field.  The item is tracked in transport, back to the main location or elsewhere, and those responsible for ultimate repair know not only that the item is due to arrive, but the nature of the repair, and whether parts must be ordered for quick turnaround.

How will you become fully compliant and then leverage UID data in the future?
To summarize, it is important to assess the needs of your organization when considering both the necessities and possibilities of a full UID compliance system. Here are some questions that bear answering:   What tools do you need to satisfy basic UID requirements?  What other, more complex UID scenarios might arise? Where will you be using scanning technology? And finally, looking into the future, how will you leverage UID data to run a more efficient and profitable enterprise?