3. Common Rules and Data Standards:

3.1. Item Identification

Item identification is the most important element of the codification system because it establishes a unique identification for every item of supply. The identification consists of the minimum data required to establish clearly the essential characteristics of the item, i.e., those characteristics that give it a unique character and differentiate it from all others.

The NCS identification process is based on the "Item of Supply" concept. The term "item of supply" refers to an item required for acquisition in order to satisfy a logistics need. It can consist of one or many "items of production" (i.e., a product of a specific manufacturer) having equivalent "fundamental characteristics".

The system employs rules for "naming" each item of supply using standard naming conventions to ensure uniformity among users. The NCS controls these naming conventions using a dictionary of Approved Item Names. Each approved name is given a five digit numeric code. This code-based system provides for easy translation and communication between nations in varying languages. After an item has a name, a suitable supply classification is determined.

The vast number of items of supply in the NCS has made it necessary to establish manageable commodity classifications of items, by family grouping. The NATO Supply Classification system provides for discrete commodity groups and classes. Each group consists of items of the same physical or performance characteristics or the same application. Within each group, there are more specific classes that further define the specific commodity-type of items included. For example, one large commodity group of items is "Hand Tools," identified as Group 51. Within the large "group" of hand tools, there are sub-classes that differentiate the types of hand tools (i.e., non-powered, powered, tool boxes and kits, and sets of hand tools).

A unique number identifies each of the sub-classes, for example:

  • 5110 - Non-powered, edged hand tools

  • 5120 - Non-powered, non-edged hand tools

  • 5130 - Power driven hand tools

  • 5140 - Tool and hardware boxes

  • 5180 - Sets, kits and outfits of hand tools

To achieve the NCS objectives of (1) increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of logistics operations; (2) facilitating data handling; and (3) minimizing costs to user nations, it is essential that each item of supply be assigned a unique name, classification, identification and a NATO Stock Number (NSN).