Good Data Management is the Key to Virtual UII Success

If you have legacy equipment in the field or GFP (government furnished property) you can create and register a UII (unique item identifier) without marking the item directly. However, creating a mark from a UII file and perfectly matching it to the item in the field has not proven successful in assuring the high reliability goals of the DoD.  There are specific rules to this process, and Virtual UIIs should only be used as a last resort. That said, Virtual UIIs allow you to be in compliance while sorting out marking techniques or with items that may currently be in use and therefore unavailable for marking.

Questions to Consider
There are several decisions to be made when thinking about how to permanently mark items.  What type of medium will you use:  labels, plates or direct part marking?  Once you determine a medium, what type of equipment do you need?  What training and ramp-up time do you need to use the equipment?  If you choose to go down the road of Virtual UIIs, be sure to have all the facts straight and your methodology fully established. A miss-marked item is really worse than an unmarked item, because it gives an illusion of compliance that will “deceive” for the item’s lifetime.

Here are some key points to consider in the Virtual registration process:

Existing and Additional Mark Details:
This is the key to handling virtual UIIs. It is essential to keep track of any and all marks on an item to ensure proper identification. The more marks the better. The reason for this: For an item to be eligible for Virtual UII registration, there must be some way to identify it as a unique item. Using more than one mark allows for cross reference. Identification can be a human readable serial number or serial number equivalent such as a VIN number that appears on the item.

What follows is a list of possible marks that may be used for this purpose: contract number, date of manufacture, FAA certification, hull number, internal asset number, item nomenclature, lot number, manufacturer CAGE, manufacturer name, national stock number, part number, property control number, serial number, service/agency/command, supplier name, tail number, type designation, UID, USA number, USAF number, USN number and vessel class.

Only a handful of these marks can be used as a single additional identifying mark. But best practice dictates that all additional marks should be linked in the data file. For example, a serial number alone is insufficient as two completely different items may have the same serial number. Add the part number or type designation, however, and the combination of marks is more useful, with each additional mark adding integrity to the process.

Virtual UII Registration:
The registration process will require submitting the UII with a medium code of “DEFINED.” This will let the Registry know that the UII is a virtual mark.  Along with the UII, you will register all the pedigree data for this item.  That includes the serial number, part number, enterprise ID and all other elements that identify the item.  The final piece of information that must be registered is the existing mark data within the mark loop in the registry XML.

Taking possession of Virtual UIIs
What happens when you receive or take custody of an item that may have been registered virtually? It is imperative to use your data management system along with Registry APIs to check for each UII’s existence in the IUID Registry. If the item is not found in the Registry a new UIIs must be created and registered. Of course, taking physical possession of an item would be a trigger for physical marking and changing of the status in the Registry.

Triggers for Physical Marking of Items
Once virtual UII registration has taken place, there are specific triggers that tell you when you MUST physically mark the item.

These are as follows:

  • Change of custody from one entity to another, such as return of an item from a contractor to the government.
  • Change in status, such as an item taken out of service for a foreign military sale.

At any point above, the entity responsible for creating the Virtual UII must physically mark the item and update the Registry before it is transferred or re-allocated.

A Virtual UII Management Option
One solution for managing Virtual UIIs is to put a system into place like A2B Tracking’s UID Comply!® or UC! Web – A2B’s web-based, hosted UID data management application which deploys Software as a Service (SaaS). This will allow you to create and manage the Virtual UIIs throughout the lifecycle of that item, from creation of the Virtual UII to uploading of a fully compliant UII to the IUID Registry.  In such a system the management of the Virtual UII process is broken down into the following steps:

  • Creation of Virtual UIIs   Ensure that the UIIs are created correctly and with the correct information.  Choose the construct you will use, Construct 1 or Construct 2?  Which data elements will you use within the two constructs?
  • Tracking of existing mark data and the association to the UII   As stated above, in order to register a Virtual UII you must have an existing mark on the item that will identify it as unique. When the time comes for physical marking, it is absolutely critical to know which mark goes with which UII.
  • Registration of the Virtual UII   To complete virtual registration you must have pedigree information for the item and the existing mark information.  In addition you must have a system that guarantees that the proper XML file is generated with the appropriate information, in the correct format.  If not, you will need to hand key each piece of information directly into the Registry, a process that leads to numerous errors.
  • Marking Strategy   You need to determine what your marking strategy will be and start the marking process.  This encompasses which marking technology you will use and where you will mark the items.
  • Data Management You must keep track of the status of the items as they move through the lifecycle.  You must know which items have been marked, which have been updated in the registry, and which are still in need of work.  This data management will allow you to know which items need work before they are transferred from your custody or re-allocated.
  • Update the registry   This will change the Virtual “DEFINED” status to the compliant “2D COMPLIANT” status once the item is marked.

Pitfalls to Avoid
There are a couple of pitfalls to avoid during a Virtual UII registration process.  The first is failure to keep track which items have been registered virtually and which are MIL STD 130 mark compliant.  Without this information, you will need to examine all items in order to determine which have been physically marked and which have not.  Data management of the UIIs and their status is probably the most important aspect to a successful Virtual UII process.

Another pitfall is failure to track which item goes with which UII. As stated earlier, this relationship must be maintained to ensure you are linking the appropriate item to its UII.

The difference between failure and success depends on the system you use to keep track of the process.  Knowing which items have UIIs created, whether they have been virtually registered, if they are physically marked or not, and allowing the facilitation and completion of these actions is imperative to a successful Virtual UII project.  UID Comply! or UC! Web allows you to track and fully manage that process, from Virtual UIIs to fully compliant UIDs in the IUID Registry.