June 2005 
Volume 04, Issue 2 
Integrated Defense Systems

Raising the bar (code)

Raising the bar (code)

Unique identifiers track assets, help improve inventory management


Boeing is raising the bar on tracking U.S. Department of Defense assets through a next-generation Unique Identification (UID) program.

As part of a new Pentagon compliance requirement for defense suppliers, Unique Item Identifiers (UIIs) will need to be affixed to or directly marked on specified parts and products.

But this is more than a government requirement. Integrated Defense Systems has taken this assignment as an opportunity to further improve asset management, logistical support and inventory management processes that benefit the company and its customers. Comparable to a Social Security Number, a UII is globally unique to the item to which it is assigned. Specific data about the part—including serial number, part number, history, use and configuration—is maintained in a Defense Department registry.

With each item having its own identifier, information about an item can be easily tracked and maintained throughout its service life. This will help preserve product integrity, quality and authentication across the supply chain—helping ensure the right asset is in the right place at the right time. When scanned, the UII works like an overnight delivery service's label, generating information that will help track shipments and parts from beginning to end, as well as maintaining the items' value. This information is then uploaded to the Defense Department's Unique Identification registry.

"We're taking bar-code technology to the next level," said Jeff Geear, Boeing IDS program manager, Automatic Identification Technologies.

ID tags also working at BCA

Boeing Integrated Defense Systems' Unique Identification program is not the only leading-edge identification system. Boeing Commercial Airplanes has been at the forefront of radio frequency identification tags, which—unlike current bar code labels—allow an airline mechanic or inspector to access all the information about a part that's hidden behind bulkheads or panels, or rests as far as 15 feet away (the December 2004/January 2005 Boeing Frontiers).

RFID tags—applied directly to the part—contain microchips that store up-to-the-minute data about a part, including manufacture date, expiration date and service history. The tags let airline mechanics check component service histories at the gate instead of in the maintenance hangar. The tag information also "helps Boeing assemble the airplane better, faster and cheaper by reducing cycle times, defects and costs," said Ken Porad, Boeing program manager for the Automated Identification Program.

The program will be used to improve data collection and tracking, analyzing, storing and retrieval of materials through Boeing's supply chain, factories and support services. This will help decision making for repairs or replacement and help improve business practices. For customers, UIIs will help pinpoint where their property is at any given time and will elevate their asset management capabilities. "Customers can better predict what they'll need, when they need it," Geear said. "This also is an opportunity for Boeing to provide customers with improved logistics management."

In March, the Boeing Weapons Enterprise Capability Center took a significant step in the Boeing UID program when each Joint Direct Attack Munition tail kit was shipped with a UII attached to the shipping container.

All JDAMs will have UIIs affixed to each tail kit for the remainder of the program. Boeing plans to soon use UIIs on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, T-45 Goshawk Training System and P-8A Multimission Maritime Aircraft programs.

"Although the UID program is a government-driven requirement, implementing the next-generation technology has given us the opportunity to rethink, reevaluate and reinvent our processes," Geear said. "With UID, we are improving our internal processes, and a Lean focus will enable more growth opportunities in knowledge-based logistics."


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