Product Page Breakdown: What are “Bread Crumbs?”

The Internet has been called the “Information Superhighway.” If you were to graphically represent that superhighway, well, even if all the mapmakers in the world combined forces to perform such a task, their heads would be set to explode. The Internet can be confusing to get around despite—and especially because of— the myriad routes, roads, expressways, and back roads. Search engines consider themselves guides but not even they can provide a universally simplified display of the World Wide Web and its structure.

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Figure 1 – The navigation path of BP Turbine 2380. Nav paths are affectionately called “bread crumbs.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

A website is a microcosm of the aforesaid confusion. In fact, I might even venture to say that navigating a plane might be an easier task than navigating some websites.

Admittedly, you may have trouble getting around the SkyGeek site. Hey, that just comes with the territory. If you offer over 100,000 items, chances are there may be some delays in getting to your destination. But these delays don’t need to lead to cancellations. In fact, you may be able to skip the delays of reaching your preferred product page altogether. How?

Just follow the bread crumbs.

What are bread crumbs and why are we talking about food in a time of navigation-induced frustration? We’re not talking about food. “Bread crumbs” is a reference to the navigation buttons strewn about the top of a product page (See Figure 1).

Examine Figure 1; notice the color gradients, i.e. as you move from left to right along the bread crumbs you see that it goes from a darker shade of blue to a lighter shade. This color gradient is a representation of where a specific product is in relation to the home page. But these bread crumbs are not stale. Clicking on the names of each crumb is a link to that section of the site. Refreshing – like a loaf of bread.

To further drive home the point, let’s look a little closer at Figure 1’s example, BP 2380 Aviation Turbine Oil. There are a total of seven bread crumbs. As mentioned the first bread crumb on the left is always going to be labeled “Home” because whenever you get lost there should always be a way home. Actually, let’s break down the bread crumbs as follows and accompany them with screenshots (Be sure to click the screenshots to enlarge; also be sure to locate the red arrows):

Bread Crumb #1 = “Home” >>>>>Click this link and go to the homepage.

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Bread Crumb #2 = “Shop Supplies” >>>>>Click this link and be transported to this large section; this section can also be found in the “All Departments” tab which is located right above the bread crumbs.

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Bread Crumb #3 = “Fluids, Oils, and Lubricants” >>>>>Click this link to narrow your search. This section is also currently found in the “Shop & Hangar Supplies” tab directly above the bread crumbs.

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Bread Crumb #4 = “Oils” >>>>>Click this link to refine your search even more. You can now distinguish types of oil from one another.

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Bread Crumb #5 = “Turbine Oil” >>>>>Click this link if you know you want turbine oil but don’t know the brand or military specification.blog-bc55

Bread Crumb#6 = “BP Turbo Oil 2380 – MIL-PRF-23699F” >>>>>Click this link and you will be taken to what is called a “Multi-Add” page. These types of pages take the same product but display its different sizes.

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Bread Crumb#7 = “BP 2380 Aviation Turbine Oil – 24 Quart Case” >>>>>>Clicking this link is kind of pointless as it will refresh the page you are already on. The last bread crumb is always the destination page you are currently viewing—or at least it should be.

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Unfortunately not all of our bread crumb trails are complete. But know that we are constantly striving to get them properly aligned so that our site is organized. And that is ultimately what bread crumbs are— a hierarchy of web pages that correspond to products, from general to specific. It is a navigation tool that lends itself to organization.

Remember, knowing how to get around instills confidence in shopping as well as ease of use. And that is something we like to give away for free and as much as possible.

Product Details: What is a National Stock Number (NSN)?

You’ve stared at it many a times. You’ve seen those numbers. You read what they are. But, do you understand them? What is an NSN and what does it refer to?

Sure you can search for it, but try to type in “NSN” in Google or Yahoo or whatever and you are liable to get anything from “Never Say Never” to “No Such Number” to the “National Storytelling Network.” To be clear, we are discussing the National Stock Number, which also goes by the name, NATO Stock Number.

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Figure 1 – Where a National Stock Number appears on a SkyGeek product page. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

At a quick glance an NSN is nothing but a 13-digit code but upon closer inspection it is much more. In order to fully grasp the scope of this code you must study its structure. Firstly, it is not simply a string of 13 numbers, one after another. And it isn’t necessarily a number. It is a code. What’s the difference? A code can be alphanumeric, i.e. not only numbers. However, it usually consists mostly of numbers.

Generally, an NSN will appear with dashes although it doesn’t have to. When it does include dashes it look something like this: 1111-22-333-4444.

An NSN is broken into two sections: a 4-digit FSCG and a 9-digit NIIN. FSCG stands for “Federal Supply Classification Group”; NIIN stands for “National Item Identification Number.”

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Figure 2 – An NSN is broken into two parts: the FSCG (the prefix) and the NIIN (the root). These two parts are separated and juxtaposed courtesy of PartTarget.com. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

The FSCG is further divided into a 2-digit Federal Supply Group (FSG)—which is the first two digits—and the actual FSC, or Federal Supply Class; this makes up the last two digits in the 4-digit code. For a nice idea of FSCs and what they mean, you can check out ArmyProperty’s listing. And as if to confuse you even more, the FSCG is also known as the National Supply Classification Group (NSCG). Overall, the FSCG serves as a prefix to the NIIN; its function in an NSN is to provide context, so that the general classification of a specific item can be identified.

Similar to the FSCG, the NIIN is divided into two sections. The first two digits designate the National Codification Bureau (NCB) code. This refers to a country’s agency that deals with the NATO Codification System, or NCS. For example, the United States has a NCB code of 00 or 01 while 15 is the NCB code for Italy. The NCB thus gives you an idea of what entity is in charge of dealing with a particular item. The remaining seven digits uniquely identify the item.

For the sake of clarity, let’s use an item from our site and deconstruct its NSN. For this example we will use the MS51958-64 Machine Screw, which has the following National Stock Number: 5305-01-541-2751 (See Figure 3).

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Figure 3 – An example of how an NSN is broken down into smaller codes. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Based on Figure 3 you can see this item has the FSCG, 5305. The 53-code is the FSG classified as “Hardware and Abrasive” while the 05-code (the FSC) identifies the item as a “Screw.” As for the NIIN, the NCB is 01. As mentioned earlier, that NCB alludes to the United States so it was made there. The actual item number, 5412751, does not have any significance of any kind and thus cannot be broken down any further. Thus, you can see that in an NSN, the most important part is the NIIN—especially the last seven digits. That will narrow down your search if you want to find a precise item.

The aforementioned screw is a fastener made to conform to military specifications. And a great portion of NIINs are specially designed with the military in mind. Still, NIINs are not limited to items used exclusively by the Armed Forces so that when you factor in what are classified as “Items of Production,” you’re looking at a coding system that contains over 16 million NIINs!

So who is responsible for National Stock Numbers and cataloging such a massive classification system? Who else but the U.S. Department of Defense.

With so many items to keep track of, it is only natural that a classification system would exist. And when you (well, a government entity) are handling over 32 million parts that belong to countless systems for countless equipment and vehicles, you want to be able to trace each one easily and efficiently. The NSN, while confusing to the average person, makes sense to those trading and acquiring parts for the items that are an integral component to their work operations.

About SkyGeek Product Images

Before you purchase something you want to be able to see it. Even better would be if you can hold it in your hands and examine it. Internet shopping, unfortunately, does not allow for the latter but at the very least a product should be visible on a commercial website, right?

The answer is not so transparent and can be more opaque than desired.

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Figure 1 – The dreaded “Image Coming Soon” sign found on our site.

Big e-retailers have the resources and personnel to retrieve images for their massive inventory. Smaller businesses, well, not so much. But it is more than that. A small company that sells a comparatively small inventory of popular items will more than likely be able to find images for their products.

What do you get when you have a massive inventory but with a significant portion geared toward a niche market? Answer: SkyGeek’s product image dilemma.

The aviation industry is a market for a variety of products, some well known and others obscure. Owning and maintaining a plane will inevitably have you searching for not just shop supplies but also specialized parts and assemblages. So for every can of Plexus and case of AeroShell Aircraft Engine Oil, there are items that may never have a web presence—at least not in image form.

We’re trying to change that.

As hard as it is to believe, not every manufacturer has images of their catalog on their own site or for public use. Many times SkyGeek will contact the manufacturer and ask for an image; seldom does this tactic work. If we receive a reply at all (which is rare) a representative will simply state they do not give out images. If they actually provide an explanation for not sending an image, it is usually due to some legal constraint, i.e. proprietary reasons and all of that.

Trust us, it’s equally as frustrating for SkyGeek as it is for our customers.

To make matters worse, search engines are not too thrilled in seeing a place-holder photo that contains the ambiguous message “Image Coming Soon” (See Figure 1). We can just hear the people screaming, “HOW SOON!”

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Figure 2 – A stock photo used as a place-holder in order to appease search engines. It is temporary until we can find a more reliable picture.

In an attempt to appease the Google-gods we found stock photos of items and placed brand logos on them. Take, for example, the Henkel Alodine 600 Conversion Coating 55 Gallon Drum (See Figure 2). We could not find an image of a 55-gallon drum so we found a generic drum of that size and placed a Henkel logo on it. This is until we can create or capture an actual image of the item. Again, this is not our final solution, but rather a step in the right direction.

The above Henkel example also hints at another reason for not having images of every item.

Not many know that while we have inventory in our 60+ acre warehouse, that is not the only warehouse our items draw from. Warehouses across the country from our suppliers dropship the items, meaning these items are stored in these other warehouses and don’t even come through our own when shipped to the customer. And even if items did make a stop at our facilities, we cannot open the package and take a photo because then the item(s) would not be considered “new.” So you can see the problem we constantly face when it comes to grabbing images.

Sometimes we find an alternative. The next best thing comes in the form of an illustration or diagram of the product. This is often the case with hardware. For instance, the illustration of the Military Standard MS20002-4 Steel Washers offers a clue to their size and dimensions (See Figure 3).

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Figure 3 – An illustration of the MS20002-Series Steel Washers. Sometimes the only alternative when an actual image is not available.

As for the fate of many specialized parts we sell and whether or not they will ever be seen in all their glory, that is yet to be determined. Perhaps our biggest product line that remains faceless is that from Piper. Anyone that has tried knows Piper’s website does not offer an image for each of its countless parts. We sell literally thousands of them and have yet to find a method of acquiring good pictures to transfer to our customers. The best we are currently able to do is search for parts catalogs or have customers refer to them if they already have one.

If you have any suggestions as to securing reliable and non-copyrighted images of products, please feel free to email us at service@skygeek.com or comment below.

Product Details: Military Standards

Peruse our site and you are bound to come across this short-hand phrase: “MIL-STD” or “MIL-Spec” or something similar. I’m sure many readers are familiar with these phrases and know that they stand for military standard and military specification, respectively. But what exactly does that entail?

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General location of the Military Standard on a SkyGeek product page. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

If we were to discuss down to the minutest detail every facet of what these standards are and what they encompass, we would have a blog post longer than all existing copies of War and Peace combined.

Let’s not overcomplicate the issue.

While often used interchangeably, there are slight differences between military standards and military specifications, both of which are established by the United States. Military standards refer to the process and materials used to create a product while military specifications identify the physical traits a product possesses. In a way you can consider the military standards as the general/broad concept of a product and the military specification as, well, the specific aspect of the product (as the term would suggest). These are not precise definitions but it certainly gives you a better frame of reference.

The purpose of a MIL-Spec is to present a set of guidelines and objectives to which a product must conform. This standardization creates a sense of consistency in quality and its aim is to achieve uniformity in performance within and among the various branches of the military. Having a list of standards and specifications provides a baseline that manufacturers can follow to produce a product of lasting value. In essence, MIL-Specs are a means of quality assurance. If a product does not meet these standards, that should indicate to a customer that the product is inferior. However, if it exceeds these standards, then users know the product can reliably do its job.

An excellent source to determine conformance to the aforementioned standards is by using the database library at EverySpec. Let’s use some examples to further illustrate MIL-Specs.

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Figure 1: A snap-shot of MIL-STD-704F on EverySpec’s website. Notice the abstract or summary on the top that desrcibes it. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

MIL-STD-704F is considered an interface standard that ensures “compatibility between the aircraft electric system, external power, and airborne utilization equipment.” When you search EverySpec you will find that this document has many versions (See Figure 1). These versions show the updates to the status of the standard; MIL-STD-704F has undergone many revisions over the years. It was first issued in 1959 and as Figure 1 proves, many notices have been released to coincide with any changes to the standard. Thus, EverySpec shows the history of the standard’s development and keeps a record of said changes.

A great thing about EverySpec is that you can usually download each version of the standard to inspect the information in further detail.

Another aspect of this site worth mentioning is the status. The site will tell you if the MIL-Spec is active (green bar) or cancelled (red bar). If a standard is cancelled it has usually been superseded by either another standard of the government or a standard set by an industry institution (e.g. SAE).

Now let’s find a MIL-Spec item on our site.

BP 2380 Aviation Turbine Oil has the following MIL-Spec: MIL-PRF-23699F. Search EverySpec and you will find that this is a “performance specification” (hence the PRF). It pertains to lubricating oils with a synthetic base used in aircraft turbine engines. The “F” in 23699 indicates it is a revision of a previous version. This MIL-Spec is active and has superseded another standard, MIL-L-23699E.

Yet another military standard is the MIL-DTL; the DTL stands for detail. In addition to performance requirements, this specification provides detail requirements, i.e. materials to be used as well as how to construct the product using the materials so that the requirements can be met. An example of such a product that conforms to this standard type is Prist’s Hi-Flash Hi Flo Anti-Icing Aviation Fuel Additive, which has the following MIL-Spec: MIL-DTL-85470. According to EverySpec, this detail specification is classified as an icing inhibitor for fuel systems. It is active and it supersedes MIL-I-85470A.

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Logo of the U.S. Department of Defense, which establishes MIl-Specs.

Who is responsible for military standards? Yes, the U.S. government but who specifically? You can thank the Department of Defense (DOD), which handles the Army, Navy, and other military departments and agencies. If you refer back to Notice 1 of MIL-DTL-85470B, you will find the notice advises you to “verify the currency of [MIL-Spec documents by] using the ASSIST Online database.” ASSIST, or Acquisition Streamlining and Standardization Information System, serves as the foremost method of seeking the latest information on MIL-Specs. This database is part of the DOD’s Defense Standardization Program (DSP), a program where you can locate MIL-Spec documents. Using ASSIST is similar to using EverySpec and it is better in that it comes straight from the source. The drawback: you need to register and have a username and password to access the documents not available to the public. Plus, the ASSIST website is often hard to access. However, a nice alternative is assistdocs.com.

So why do companies like Prist and BP and others make products that meet or exceed military standards? Conforming to MIL-Specs allows manufacturers to bid on government contracts. Obviously this is to the manufacturer’s advantage as it is profitable. It is also a good means of marketing a product. As mentioned, these standards will ensure quality. The result is a product that customers can rely on.

Product Details: What is a Schedule B?

With the countless buying and selling that occurs each and every day around the world, you would think there would be a means of categorization and organization. There is, thanks to the U.S. government.

The U.S. Census Bureau under the Department of Commerce has developed a coded system that helps businesses promptly identify “articles,” their word for goods or items. This helps ease the exchange of said items so that exporters can expedite transactions and maintain the proper forms and records.

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Location of a Schedule B on a product page on SkyGeek.com (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

No doubt, our site offers as much information about a product as we can obtain given our resources. On each product page you will find a section labeled “Product Details.” In it you will often find that product’s Schedule B.

So what exactly is a Schedule B? According to export.gov, a Schedule B is a “10-digit number used in the United States to classify physical goods for export to another country. The Schedule B is based on the international Harmonized System (HS) of 6-digit commodity classification codes. There is a Schedule B number for every physical product, from paperclips to airplanes.” Couldn’t have said it better ourselves (especially with ending on ‘airplane’).

For all the most common inquiries, we suggest you go to export.gov’s FAQ page.

And while perusing the above link would suffice to answer the question, we figured we’d go a step further. Let’s use an item on our site to illustrate the 10-digit Schedule B.

We offer a lot of hardware. One of the many bolts we sell is the Military Standard MS20004-15 – a steel, internal wrenching bolt.

The MS20004-15 bolt has the following Schedule B code: 8803.30.0010. The “88-” refers to the 88th chapter of the Schedule B (there are 97 in total). Chapter 88 is labeled “AIRCRAFT, SPACECRAFT, AND PARTS THEREOF.” Based on these first two digits alone, you already know that this bolt is made especially for the use in aircraft installations.

Here’s a chart that will better deconstruct the 8803.30.0010 Schedule B code:

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Breakdown of the Schedule B code: 8803.30.0010. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

If you ever want to validate a product’s Schedule B, you can do that quite easily. Simply enter the code into the Schedule B Validation search box on the U.S. Census Bureau’s website. Below are links to specific pages on this site that will further explain and clarify the Schedule B.

Schedule B Reference Index
Schedule B Validation
Schedule B Definition (and Others Related To)
Schedule B – An Introduction
Schedule B Code: 8803.30.0010 Results Page

Product Page Breakdown: What is a Manufacturer’s Certification?

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The location of the Manufacturer’s Certification on one of our site’s product pages.

Our site is riddled with curiosities for the average customer. Not all information pertains to each and every shopper. Nonetheless, it is important to cover all bases so we can ensure those that need certain details, get it.

On each product page you will find a checkbox below the price of the product. This allows for an optional manufacturer’s certification to be attached to a customer’s order of said product.

A common question asked is, “Do I need a manufacturer’s certification with my order?” For many customers the answer is, “No.” That is why it is optional.

On the right of the Manufacturer’s Certification check box is a question mark surrounded by a blue square. Hover over the question mark with your cursor and a message will appear that reads: “Many of our government and institutional customers request a manufacturer’s certification for their records. If you “check” the appropriate box to the left, SkyGeek will ensure that you receive this certification with your order. If you are questioning whether you require this or not, it is likely that you don’t need it!”

So what is a manufacturer’s certification? It’s pretty self-explanatory: this certificate is a signed statement by a manufacturer that verifies that a product has indeed been produced by the manufacturer in question.

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Hover over the blue-squared question mark button and this message will appear.

Requesting one secures quality assurance. How? By having a manufacturer’s certificate in your possession, a customer is promised that the item they receive is not counterfeit. Another advantage is that the cert provides traceability or a link between SkyGeek and the manufacturer and the customer. This is great for record-keeping and is especially useful for companies. Accounting departments need to document all the expenditures that a company makes, whether it is in helping with tax filings and/or for budgeting purposes. So, essentially, an individual generally can ignore this aspect of the product page, unless of course he/she feels secure in having that kind of record if ever a situation of a product’s authenticity arises. But, for the most part, companies, organizations, and government agencies rely on this feature on our site.

Product Details Breakdown: What is an ECCN?

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Logo of the Bureau of Industry and Security. This government entity handles ECCN.

When you take a trip, you want to know where you are going.

Navigating our site is like navigating the skies: the directions and destination are paramount. But unlike the sky, your progress while traveling through our site may be hindered by obstacles, including either a lack of information or aspects of a product you might be unfamiliar with.

Admittedly, including all the relevant information about a product on its page is often difficult. Manufacturers and suppliers can be hard to reach out to and often we do not get a response. And when they do respond, the data provided is not as thorough as we’d like. Still, we try our best to transfer as much details about an item so that you can make as much of an informed purchase as possible.

Details, details, details. It’s all about the details.

They say the devil is in the details, but actually details are more divine if you ask us. Why? Because being clueless about a product doesn’t make for a good shopping experience for a customer. Knowledge eliminates ignorance as well as the frustration of having to return an item because the information on the page is inaccurate or simply non-existent.

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Location of the ECCN on a product page. [CLICK TO ENLARGE]

If you’ve searched our site you have undoubtedly noticed the “Product Details” section of a product page. There are many individual components to this section. Some are more obvious than others. In this post I want to highlight one detail in particular. A lot of customers ask, “What is an ECCN?” Good question.

ECCN stands for “Export Control Classification Number.” If you are a plane owner and you just fly around the country in a GA aircraft, an ECCN may not be important to your purchase. However, we often deal with businesses, both national and international. We also handle military and government contracts. Since we have a global clientele, exporting is just a part of SkyGeek’s M.O. And because our day-to-day operations involve the aforesaid, knowing an ECCN is definitely helpful.

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The 10 categories (divisions) of a Commercial Control List (CCL) as well as the five product groups (sub-divisions). [CLICK TO ENLARGE]

An ECCN is an alpha-numeric identifier, i.e. it identifies items for export control purposes. This identifier is used in conjunction with what is called the Commerce Control List, or CCL. When doing business across borders, trade and commerce must be regulated. This is where the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) steps in. The DOC consists of many bureaus and the one that handles ECCN classification is the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). The BIS is the authority over the export and reexport of what is referred to as “dual-use” items. Dual-use simply means that the items are used for civilian as well as military applications. To find out more, you can visit the BIS page that discusses the Commerce Control List Classification, which includes a downloadable index of the CCL.

Under the CCL system, categorization is based on the nature of the product and thus so is an ECCN. Categories correspond with the alpha-numeric designations; there are 10 (0-9) including Computers (4); Navigation and Avionics (7); and Aerospace and Propulsion (9). In addition, these categories are broken down into five “Product Groups” including: Systems, Equipment and Components (A) and Technology (E).

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Example and break down of an ECCN based on CCL categories and product groups. Source: Bureau of Industry and Security.

When on a product page, it seems more often than not you will find EAR99 as the product’s ECCN. What is EAR99? This designation acts as an umbrella term that captures all the items that are not found on the CCL. However, such items are still under the jurisdiction of the EAR, or Export Administration Regulations. Such regulations are controlled by the BIS.

Ultimately, an ECCN comes into play if “you ship a commercial item from the United States to a foreign destination,” as it is critical in determining “whether you need a license to export dual-use items outside of the U.S.” For a more complete ECCN overview , read the Bureau of Industry and Security’s document on Export Control Classification Numbers.