Know Which Part Number Should Be On Label

According to the Military Standard, if a Part Number (PN) is specified in the contract or order, then only that PN shall be shown. This PN could be a number assigned by the Government procuring activity, a PN assigned by the actual manufacturer or the PN assigned to the item by the company awarded the contract.

Uniformity Is Key to Correct Markings

Since uniformity is integral to correct markings, it is important that all contractors understand what elements of marking are required on unit, intermediate and shipping labels. The basic requirements for an identification label IAW Mil-Std-129 include the NSN, CAGE Code, P/N, Item Description, Quantity and Unit of Issue, the Contract Number, the Military Method of Preservation and Date of Unit Preservation.

Mil-Std-129 and Military Shipping Label Basics

Now, more than ever, the U.S. Government has relaxed some requirements for packaging of items that go into immediate use and do not remain in long-term storage. As a result, government contracts may include a reference to packaging IAW ASTM D 3951 which is essentially commercial packaging. However, it is extremely important to understand that even though the packaging requirement may be commercial, marking requirements for shipment to the Dept. of Defense continue to be called out and Mil-Std-129 marking is required on all shipments to the Dept. of Defense no matter what the packaging requirement is.

Mil-Std-129 is titled “Military Marking for Shipment and Storage” and the purpose of this specification is to provide the minimum marking requirements for uniform military marking for shipment and storage. Additional marking may be required by the contract or the cognizant purchasing activity.

Since uniformity is integral to correct markings, it is important that all contractors understand what elements of marking are required on unit, intermediate and shipping labels. The basic requirements for an identification label IAW Mil-Std-129 include the NSN, CAGE Code, P/N, Item Description, Quantity and Unit of Issue, the Contract Number, the Military Method of Preservation and Date of Unit Preservation. In addition, when applicable, Shelf Life Markings shall be applied and also, when an item is assigned a serial number and serialization is required by the government, the serial number shall be included on the Mil-Std-129 compliant labels.

The first element of the label is the NSN also known as the National Stock Number. The NSN is comprised of 13 digits with the first four digits representing the FSCG (Federal Supply Classification Group) and the remaining 9 digits representing the NIIN, the national item identification number. Together, these two data elements make up the NSN which is a unique number identifying a specific item within the government logistics system.

The second element of the label is the CAGE Code. CAGE is an acronym that stands for Commercial and Government Entity. The CAGE Code assigned to your company or business is unique and allows for the U.S. Government to identify properly registered contractors who wish to do business with the Government.  For the purposes of marking IAW Mil-Std-129, the CAGE Code used on the label is the CAGE Code of the company awarded the contract for the item being shipped.

The part number is the third data element required on military marking labels. This can be a bit confusing for contractors because sometimes a design source activity may have one part number, a manufacturer may have a different part number, and possibly a distributor may have a completely different part number.

According to the Military Standard, if a PN is specified in the contract or order, then only that PN shall be shown. This PN could be a number assigned by the Government procuring activity, a PN assigned by the actual manufacturer or the PN assigned to the item by the company awarded the contract. For shipments sent directly from a subcontractor to the Dept. of Defense, the PN of the company awarded the contract shall be shown. When shown on labels the part number shall be preceded by the abbreviation “PN” or “P/N”. Finally, if the item has no PN assigned to it or if no PN is cited in the contract, the blank line may be omitted.

The item description or nomenclature is the fourth data element required. In this case, the exact name and description of an item as it appears in the contract, purchase order or requisition shall be shown. Item descriptions may be marked on more than one line if required due to space limitations.

Following the item description on the label is the quantity and UI which stands for unit of issue. On most labels this is shown as “1 EA” representing one each. Sometimes a non-definitive unit of issue may be used such as 1 roll, abbreviated as “1 RO”.  In this case a non-definitive UI shall be accompanied by a quantitative expression such as “1 RO (100 FT)”. This additional description will help the receiving activity understand more clearly what it is they are receiving.

The next element required on the label is the Contract Number or Purchase Order Number. The in-the clear contract number shall include the dashes as shown in the contract, i.e. DAAB07-15-C-1234. This number may also include a delivery order number or call order number. If assigned this additional four digit number shall be shown

The Military Preservation Method and Date of Unit Preservation shall also be shown on Mil-Std-129 compliant marking labels. The preservation method comes from Mil-Std-2073-1. If a military method does not apply (commercial packaging) then Mil-Std-129 indicates the method space shall be left blank. However, a procuring activity can require additional marking and in the case of the DLA they generally do require commercial packaging to be identified on the military marking label as Method Commercial Packaging (MCP) or Commercial Packaging (CP). Please refer to your contract for additional information on this element. The Date of Unit Preservation is to reflect the date the item being supplied was preserved. If a preservation date does not apply, the pack date shall be shown. An example of a label identifying commercial packaging done for the DLA in January of 2015 would look like this; “MCP-1/15”.

This information presented is the most basic formatting for unit labels IAW Mil-Std-129. There are slight changes when intermediate and shipping labels are created IAW this specification. Please refer to Mil-Std-129 for additional information. Currently both Mil-Std-129P and Mil-Std-129R are in use. The most current revision of Mil-Std-129 is Revision “R” dated 18 February 2014. You should always refer to the Military Standard that was in effect at the time of solicitation. That should be the standard that is cited in the contract issued to you. Future narratives will compare the changes between Mil-Std-129P and Mil-Std-129R.

The Need For Military Shipping Labels

All shipments to the Department of Defense require a Military Shipping Label also known as an MSL IAW Mil-Std-129. The MSL is a unique address label with both linear bar code labels and a two- dimensional bar code label that captures all of the pertinent data related to the shipment and is a critical component of the packaging and labeling requirement.

Know Which Cage Code to Use

Although the U.S. Government  recently issued more contracts with “Commercial” packaging requirements, they continue to require all shipments to the Dept. of Defense be marked IAW Mil-Std-129. The most current version of Mil-Std-129 is revision “R”. One of the more confusing aspects of this marking requirement can be whose “Cage Code” shall be used on these marking labels. Clearly stated, the CAGE code of the company awarded the contract for the item being shipped shall be used and the CAGE code shall be preceded by the abbreviation “CAGE”.

When A UID Label is Needed

DFARS clause 252.211-7003 defines conditions that require the use of UID Labels and UID Tags to mark assets owned by all branches of the DoD. UID, or Unique Item Identification,  is required for items valued at $5000 or more, or otherwise specifically required in the contract. Remember to mark the UID Serial Number placed on the outside. When applied to the product, the UID must be validated & verified.

Three Types of RFID Track DoD Supplies

There are three types of RFID used to track supplies. Passive PFID tags respond to radio frequency (RF) emissions from an RFID reader from a distance between 10 and 20 feet. Semi-passive tags are battery-powered and do not transmit an active signal, but they can monitor data like climate or a breach in a container. An active tag has its own power source and transmitter. It can send a continuous signal up to 750 feet.

Understand the Military’s Packaging Objectives

Understanding the requirements of military packaging means understanding the military’s underlying objectives that support  the material readiness of the Department of Defense as well as its economic concerns.  The military seeks to ensure the optimum life, utility, and performance of its materiel by preventing its damage or deterioration, as well as by maintaining efficient storage, receipt, transfer, and inventory practices, and by ensuring that the minimum of marking requirements are enforced and obeyed to provide for effective identification and handling. Any military packager needs to take all of these factors into consideration when working with the DoD.

Understand the Degree of Protection Needed

Modern military specific packaging specifications and standards are focused on performance. Like any business, military clients want maximum output from adequately protected goods at the minimum cost available. If you are a company working with the
military, it’s essential to have a firm grasp of the degree of protection an item will require when being shipped and how to economize within those lines of tolerance.

Setting Performance Parameters for DoD Packaging

Operating within performance parameters in your military packaging means predicting the environmental and logistic conditions that will be encountered. A professional military packaging company will be able to control costs by designing and engineering their unit and exterior containers, use newly developed materials, as well as alternate yet effective techniques, to reduce the tare weight, cubage, and packaging costs of a shipment.