A Brief History of NSN

If you have ever wondered how the federal supply system labels all of their items that are repeatedly procured stored, stocked, issued, and used, then you would be thinking about an NSN, or a National Stock Number.

This unique item identifier uses a series of numbers and when assigned to a supplied item, data is used to describe the item.  These data elements can include information such as a unit price, manufacturer’s part number, the item name, or just physical and performance characteristics.


The Birth of NSN

Many people might wonder why the concept of NSN was ever created. During World War II, it became a common concept to find a single item used by each military serviced with different names. This made it extremely difficult for the military services to locate supplies, and in most cases, impossible to share items of supply between different organizations. In result, an item surplus situation for one service and item depletion for another occurred due to items having different names and not being categorized.  The implementation NSN has made searching for supplies, parts, and services much easier, and PartsBase has made it even easier than before to search, sell, and buy items of importance all over the world.

Now, NSNs are primarily used in managing, storing, moving, and disposing material making it a critical part of the military’s logistics supply chain. NSNs are used to identify and manage just about every imaginable item. More specifically, NSNs facilitate standardizing item names, supplying language, management data and characteristics by reducing duplicate items in the federal inventory.  Moreover, when potential duplicate items come in, these numbers standardize the military requirements for testing and evaluating potential items of supply.

How NSN is structured

Just like a telephone has a certain structure of numbers as a 10 digit code, NSN has a 13-digit code and is depicted as: 6240-00-357-7976. The first four digits of the code are known as the Federal Supply Class (FSC). For example 6240 is the FSC for electric lamps and is used to group different lamps like fluorescent lamps, incandescent lamps, mercury lamps, etc. The next two codes make up the Country of origin. To identify the United States, the codes 00 or 01 are used. The final seven digits are assigned sequentially and are unique to each NSN.

NSN is recognized by a variety of governments and organizations including NATO, the United States government, and many others around the world. One of its main distributors, the Department of Defense, buys and manages billions of dollars of supplies a year using the NSN. Another highly recognized and reliable defense and aviation parts locator, Partsbase, conducts a Batch Search to search large amounts of parts numbers on NSNs at once.

Requests for NSN can be initiated whenever a non-stocked item is ordered repeatedly or if a new weapons system is developed. When this happens, the DLA Logistics Information service is used to assign NSNs.  For information on NSNs and how to use them in a Batch Search, be sure to visit PartsBase as more information will becoming very soon.

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