Packaging and Preservation with Mil-Std-2073 and ASTM D-3951
Contracts or a master-solicitation will identify which of these standards apply. Mil-Std-2073 covers the full sweep of military packaging and preservation. When it is cited in solicitations and contracts a series of codes will be provided which cover each packaging and preservation category: PRESERVATION METHOD, Preservation Material, Cushioning Material, Level of Protection, Cleaning and Drying Procedures, Wrapping Material, Containers, Packing Quantities, and Special Marking or Packing Instructions. The codes can be found in the standard and create a contractual obligation for the contractor. Mil-Std-2073 does invoke Mil-Std-129 for package marking and it also provides an inspection regime and criteria for packaging operations. ASTM D-3951-10 is the commercial specification for packaging performance and specifies physical performance criteria. It is more generic and provides more leeway for the contractor in terms of which materials and methods are employed to package items for shipment and storage. However, ASTM D-3951-10 does also invoke Mil-Std-129 for package marking as well. When these standards are invoked in the contract, they are not optional. Mil-Std-2073 is far costlier and may involve more scrutiny during acceptance than packaging prepared using ASTM D-3951.
Mil-Std-2073 provides for a wide array of logistics scenarios that any item might encounter. A single item could have a different set of Mil-Std-2073 requirements depending on whether it was intended to be delivered at sea or if its destination was to the Arctic or the Middle-East. The good news is any solicitation invoking Mil-Std-2073 will be very specific as to the requirements. So the contractor will be able to prepare their bid appropriately. One of the most critical specifications of Mil-Std-2073 is the ‘QUP’ or Quantity of Unit Pack. The most typical QUP is 001 which means the items should be individually packaged and marked. If the contract intent is to source items in bulk, the QUP will reflect that. For instance even though a contractor might want to ship 1,000 screws in boxes of 100, if the QUP is for 001 the contractor will likely be bagging and labeling one at a time! Remember that Mil-Std-2073 automatically requires Mil-Std-129 labeling on all packaging and shipping containers. Lastly, the standard also provides an exhaustive set of finished goods inspection criteria which need to be incorporated into the contractor’s quality assurance systems and procedures.
ASTM D-3951-10 provides for multiple handling and shipment by any mode, and storage periods of a minimum of one year in enclosed facilities without damage to the product. This standard does allow for commercial QUPs but generally recommends for QUP of one. At the end of the day, if your contract is purchasing EA you’ll be at a QUP of one. Paragraph 184.108.40.206 governs markings for DoD in accordance with (IAW) Mil-Std-129.
Understand your solicitation and the contract
You want to look for one of two things: Mil-Std-2073-1D or Mil-Std-2073-1E. These will show up alongside their multiple codes designating everything from QUP to Method of Preservation.
Decode the contract and make a Bill-of-Materials
Once you find the codes. Look them up and document their requirements (hint we have software that does this for you). From these you will be in possession of material, process, and quality specifications for how to package and preserve your shipment. Make a shopping list based on findings from Mil-Std-2073. Be sure to incorporate the packaging requirements into your bidding assumptions. Mil-Std-2073 ignorance has the potential turn a seemingly profitable bid into a money-losing contract.
Designate the responsible authority within the business
Putting these specifications into practice will involve packaging engineering, product engineering, government sales, quality control, packaging and shipping departments. Most organizations will need to designate one individual as the final authority on Mil-Std-2073. At some level that individual will likely need training or access to outside expertise.
Incorporate Mil-Std-2073 into your quality system
Mil-Std-2073 requires an inspection regime be integrated with the packaging process. Make sure these inspection criteria are incorporated with the organizations quality systems. (EasyForm Pack is the only solution on the market that incorporates inspection reports based on packaging codes).