What to Look for When Choosing Military Labels

Last Updated: February 8, 2022
Posted by: Matt Krysiak in Military

Military labels and tags are used to properly identify defense equipment and other assets that are used by the U.S. military. Because many military assets can be deployed almost anywhere in the world, it’s important that labels and tags are durable enough to survive frequent transportation and withstand conditions in a wide range of different environments. This post will help you understand what to look for when choosing military labels. Many of these considerations are similar to the steps taken to select military data plates.

Inventory and asset management in the defense industry helps to improve the efficiency of operations and can also extend the useful life of the equipment. Military labels are also customizable, making it easy to adapt these tags to meet the needs of specific military teams or applications. The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and specific military branches often work together and are connected by tracking systems and procedures. Any manufacturer or supply chain partner that is seeking to secure a military contract must develop a deep understanding of these operational details that may impact the use of their products.

Military Regulatory Requirements

U.S. military gear

The primary document that describes labeling requirements for military equipment is MIL-STD-130 “Identification Marking of U.S. Military Property.” This standard includes information that defines acceptable label formats, types, and attachment methods. Every military supplier or partner must be familiar with these requirements and include proper markings on any products or supplies intended for military use.

Also included in the MIL-STD-130 document is a definition of the U.S. DoD Unique Identifier (UID) program. The UID tracking program is required for assets that meet certain requirements and these items are strictly controlled and must be labeled properly at all times. Military labels should therefore be designed with a proper material and barcode symbology and fabricated with a high level of quality. In the next two sections, we’ll discuss the importance of choosing labels that fit well with your asset management process and are durable enough to withstand harsh environmental conditions.

Military Asset Management & Applications

Any military labels that are chosen must be compatible with the inventory or asset management software that is used by the supplier and all military supply chain partners. There are also many asset tracking software platforms available that are optimized for military use. For many applications, a single barcode label will need to be used for multiple purposes and may be scanned repeatedly as it moves from production to end-user sites. Testing your desired label formats with scanning systems can help ensure compatibility at each location.

In addition to asset management protocols, it may also be necessary to review the application requirements for each product to determine what information should be included on the military label. Some examples of these considerations include:

  • Do labels need to be serialized?
  • Does the asset meet the requirements of the UID program?
  • What label size is desired for clear readability and scanning?
  • Should any additional data or text be added to the label?
  • Do graphics such as a company logo need to be included?

To control product quality, many suppliers will also include additional data on their product labels such as lot numbers and performance specifications. When choosing a military label, it’s always a good practice to review all this information before placing an order. Making changes after products have already been shipped can be costly and result in logistics delays for military customers.

Label Performance and Durability

U.S. Navy mission on a raft

One final consideration to make when choosing military labels is the durability of the materials used to create your identification tags. This is a very critical point for combat vehicles, ocean vessels, and aerospace equipment that are typically used in harsh conditions. A military label should be able to withstand the same environmental stresses that military equipment may encounter. Some examples of the harsh conditions that may affect military assets include:

  • Outdoor weather such as rain and snow
  • Chemical exposure
  • Bright sunlight
  • Extreme temperatures
  • Saltwater
  • Sources of abrasion (such as sand)
  • Impact hazards

Several materials are available to fabricate military labels such as polycarbonate, vinyl, polyester, anodized aluminum, and Metalphoto® anodized aluminum. It is important to choose a material that is compatible with the current and future applications for the military equipment you will be tagging. Metalphoto anodized aluminum is the most durable material available for military applications, and it is often chosen for its ability to withstand extreme environments. In fact, in a study conducted by the U.S. Navy, Metalphoto received the highest score among IUID (Item Unique Identification) label materials. A Metalphoto military label also has an expected exterior lifespan of more than 20 years in outdoor environments.

Choosing a proper military label requires a careful study of application requirements, asset management practices, and defense industry regulations. You may also have to manage other local, state, federal, or international requirements that could impact the design of your final label. We hope this post has helped you understand the most important asset management considerations that military suppliers and partners should review.

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