Defence and armed forces – guidance

UK National Codification Bureau

The UK National Codification Bureau logs every item used by the 3 services. Suppliers can find out here what they need to do to be included.

Codification creates a detailed catalogue of everything our armed forces use on a daily basis, not just weapons systems and hardware, but spares, clothing, medical items, food and anything else the services need to operate effectively.

Technical descriptions of every item are stored on a central system along with who makes and supplies it. This system is run by the UK National Codification Bureau (UKNCB) in Glasgow and is integral to the success of the defence supply chain.

The UKNCB uses the NATO Codification System (NCS), the biggest and most comprehensive codification and cataloguing system in the world. 64 countries are members of the NCS and its 17 million NATO stock numbers. It provides a common ‘language of logistics’, boosting the effectiveness of our armed forces, reducing costs and facilitating both national and coalition operations.

Benefits of codification

The UKNCB documents technical data and descriptions for every item of supply and allocates NATO stock numbers based on form, fit and function. This information is stored on the Item of Supply Information System (ISIS) and includes details of manufacturer, supplier and any other relevant information and the benefits/advantages of codification are detailed further in JSP 886 Volume 2 Part 4.

This procedure is specific to codification requests directly submitted by project teams (or by manufacturers/design authorities on their behalf) to the UKNCB for equipment procured and supplied to/used by the UK Military Services and managed within the Joint Supply Chain (JSC). There is currently no service supplied by the UKNCB to provide codification (allocation of NSNs) to Industry in support of commercial ventures.

The codification process is not expensive and is carried out within a target date of 45 working days. If it’s needed faster for operational reasons then it can be done in 24 hours.

NATO codification

The NATO codification system is used by the army, navy and air force. All Items of supply going through the military supply chain must be NATO codified. A 13 digit NATO stock number (NSN) is allocated to an item which is used to identify it throughout the supply chain. NSNs are catalogued on the ISIS database.

Codification Policy is set by AC/135 and all participating countries follow the same guidelines.

There are many codification databases. America has FEDLOG, the French have SOPRANO, Germany have NCORE and the Spanish have SICADMIL to name but a few. In the UK we use ISIS.

The 3 services each have their own stores management systems which in turn control several satellite inventory management systems. The army have Stores System 3 and systems like OLIVER, the navy have CRISP and systems such as Oasis, and the air force have SCCS and systems such as MJDI POC.

Using the army as an example, when an item is introduced into service the army apply to have the item codified. Along with the record on ISIS, NCB also creates a supply management data form (SMD) which is sent to SS3, prompting the creation of a record on the stores system.

If commodity managers or users of the item discover a mistake that needs correcting or simply want to amend or add a reference the army can let us know using an e-tasking form. We update ISIS which automatically generates an ‘up-issue’ of the SMD which will update Stores System 3.

This process can be repeated as many times as is necessary to keep ISIS and Stores System 3 in sync and up to date. The navy and air force stores systems work in exactly the same way.

ISIS also reconciles regularly with the 3 main stores systems in order to bring to the attention of commodity managers any inconsistency. Codification, in addition to providing an invaluable common supply language within the supply chain, is essential for maintaining effective and efficient stores management systems, helping to deliver logistics solutions to the front line.

Suppliers and source data

To start the process, suppliers need to submit source data. This could be the technical drawing for the item or the manufacturer’s catalogue or specification. Source data is important so that only authenticated data regarding the item of supply is used for codification purposes and to determine that the item of supply is unique.

The extent of data required for full codification is governed by the requirements of the item identification guide (IIG) used and the complexity of the item.

Data should include the following, where applicable (list is not exhaustive):

  • name of the design control authority
  • design control authorities drawing/part number or standard/specification reference (indicating definitive or non-definitive)
  • the item name. Where the approved item name (AIN) refers to inherent properties, eg. ‘Tube Assembly,Metal’ or ‘cable, power, electrical’, or the AIN definition specifies properties, eg. cable, power, electrical is defined as ‘…working voltage of the item must be 300 volts or more…size of each individual conductor must be No 18 AWG (0.75 Sq mm) or larger…’, this information must be supplied for the AIN to be used
  • nominal dimensions of length, width, height and diameter, with tolerances if applicable
  • basic material (from which item is fabricated) and surface treatment (finish by which item is plated/dipped/coated), with their associated standards/specifications. See note 1 below
  • electrical characteristics, nominal voltage, current and/or rated power of the item, rated resistance, capacitance or inductance
  • nominal pressure and temperature ratings, or operating frequencies
  • data should show distinguishing features, eg. colour, shape, style, holes or slots, etc
  • include markings that indicate the primary purpose, function or application of the item
  • where items are threaded, include the size, type, class and direction
  • common mechanical parts, such as nuts, bolts, screws, washers, etc should include all key dimensions, as these items are the most difficult to differentiate
  • assemblies should include parts lists and known NSNs of constituent parts. Cable assemblies should include cable core type and electrical ratings

Note 1: The Design Control Authority is not required to disclose particulars of proprietary processes, manufacturing techniques or proprietary material specifications.

Single item ownership

In accordance with JSP 886 policy on single item ownership, UKNCB now record only one IMC, DMC or SMBI code in the CSU field to identify the item owner.

Where a second user group has an interest in that item they must contact the existing owner to either agree supply of the item through existing arrangments or to negotiate transfer of ownership, establishing business agreements. Failure to carry out this process will result in users future demands being cancelled.

For further information please refer to JSP 886 on single item ownership which includes contact details for the single item ownership working group and the policy owner.

Auto NCAGE system

UKNCB is responsible for the maintenance of the MOD’s Item of Supply Information System (ISIS). ISIS contains data relating to all materiel, spares, stores and services supplied to UK MOD. Each organisation listed within ISIS is allocated a 5 digit code known as an NCAGE code (NATO Commercial And Government Entity), which holds name, address and contact details.

Where previously applications for NCAGE codes and updates to details were processed by UKNCB, the automated system allows the user to search for existing NCAGE codes and create new codes if required.

Each organisation listed has access to our system to check on the accuracy of their details and if required, update them (address and contact details only). Amendment to NCAGE code details is now the responsibility of the NCAGE holder, who will be assigned a username and password for the new system. However any changes to the name of the NCAGE record should be sent to via

It is beneficial to MOD suppliers to ensure their data is accurately recorded to allow continued procurement of defence equipment and spares and also to ensure payment for equipment/services provided.


UKNCB can no longer deliver the ‘Codification and ISIS’ training course. All training modules are currently being reviewed and will go online in a new UKNCB training portal which is currently under construction.

Contact us

For any E-ISIS or ISIS Web account enquiries / problem reporting call GTN: (9)4561 2116 CIV : 0141 224 2116

For new codification and updates to existing NSNs call GTN: (9) 4561 2259 CIV: 0141 224 2259

For NCAGE and NSN enquiries call GTN: (9)4561 2250 CIV: 0141 224 2250

United Kingdom National Codification Bureau
Rm 2.4.23 Kentigern House
65 Brown Street
G2 8EX

Customer queries email: