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The U.S. Department of Defense uses National Supply Numbers (NSN's) to uniquely and permanently identify items that it purchases.
The NSN consists of a four-digit Federal Supply Class (FSC) code number plus a nine-digit National Item Identification Number (NIIN). For example, in NSN 1315-00-9356011:
Collectively, the last nine digits are designated as the NIIN. Here is another example, courtesy of the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA); see the DLA link below under Further Reading for additional information:
The Federal Logistics Information System via the World Wide Web (WebFLIS) contains information on more than 16 million active and inactive supply items used by the US government and its NATO allies. However, this system is restricted to DoD business. They do offer a public version for download that is horridly inconvenient, but at least it's something.
The military is now permitting the use of UPC (Universal Product Code) bar codes that are found on most consumer goods. They have a database that cross-references UPC's to NSN's; see the first link below.
NSN's are not required data on Safety Data Sheets. A manufacturer can put this information on an SDS if they wish, of course.
NSN's are similar in a sense to a CAS number which uniquely identifies a specific chemical substance, however an NSN identifies a specific product. The distinction is important because one product may contain several chemicals, each with its own CAS number. Likewise, a specific unique chemical has only one CAS number, but will have a different NSN for each manufacturer!
There are few good, freely accessible and comprehensive databases for NSN's. It is fairly difficult for a novice to locate a product's NSN or determine what a product is from the NSN. The links below are a good start.
See also: CAS Number, EINECS number, NAICS, UN/NA number.
Additional definitions from Google and OneLook.
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