Product Details: Weight, A Heavy Issue

scales

It’s simple physics: more weight = higher costs. Doesn’t that make dollars and sense?

…No, we’re not talking about going on a diet here, folks. This post is about shipping weight.

Even before Newton discovered gravity through the drop of an apple, weight has always been an issue. How heavy something is determines the outcome of so many processes, especially the transport of an individual mass or group of masses (aka your order).

But this is not a blog about physics and it isn’t about weight conversions. As mentioned, shipping weight comes down to the cost calculated to transport an order from warehouse to doorstep/office.

The crazy thing about weights is that you would think it would be easy to understand. But it isn’t. And that is most unfortunate because weight is extremely important when it comes to shipping.

Anyone who has bought anything online knows that weight factors into shipping costs. So naturally it is crucial to get it right since it factors into the overall cost of purchasing a product(s). The distance from the warehouse where your order is packaged; the weight of the product; the weight of the package; a fee attached to dangerous goods; method of shipping (ground or air)…ALL of these are factors that affect company and customer.

An often overlooked aspect of this subject is the definition itself. “Weight” is such a broad term. Most of us do not work for industries directly related to transportation. Ask anyone on the street what the DOT does and you’re answered with another question, “What’s that?” And while we all use UPS and FedEx and DHL are we really familiar with weights and measures?

blog-weight-plexus-2

Shipping weight is usually found in the Product Details section. In this screen cap the size (net weight) is 13 oz. But that’s not the total weight, which weighs over a pound.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

There are three main terms or types of weight that customers may find useful in understanding on how shipping is calculated: net, tare, and gross.

The net weight is the weight of a product without the container and/or package; at the bottom of the can of Plexus (See Figure 1) you will see “Net Wt. 13.0 oz.”

Related to this weight—and a weight most people are not aware of—is the tare weight, which refers to the weight of the container and/or package. That’s right, what most people forget is that packing slips and bubble wrap and any kind of padding to protect the safe delivery of a product does, in fact, have weight. The bigger the box, the more it usually weighs.

Finally, the gross weight is another way of saying total weight (i.e. net weight +tare weight = gross weight). Orders are based on gross weight and calculated as such.

blog-weight-plexus

Figure 1 – Area on the aerosol can that identifies the net weight of Plexus.

We definitely don’t take weight lightly. Unfortunately, not all weights on our site are accurate. However, the best remedy for inaccuracy is due diligence. The SkyGeek team is on the look-out for the wrong weights. And you should be, too.

Please, if you find an error, don’t hesitate to email us at service@skygeek.com.

What is Shelf-Life?

Well, this one is easy.

A product that possesses a shelf-life is a product with a timer strapped to its chest (metaphorically speaking, of course). Shelf-life refers to the time that a product has before its usefulness runs out.

The term is used on a whole host of products. In fact, most of us are aware of the shelf-life in our everyday lives since it is found in the food and drug industries. Ever pick up a loaf of bread at the supermarket? Then chances are you have seen the expiration date. What about your latest bottle of allergy medicine? Yup, that expires too.

But SkyGeek doesn’t sell food or drugs so why am I posting about it? Well, because chemicals have shelf-lives. And we got a whole bunch of products consisting of chemicals. Fuel and oil, the lifeblood of a plane, has a shelf-life. And if you use fuel with a 0% shelf-life guess what: your plane isn’t going for a happy joyride.

Due to its composition, a product may be susceptible to limited use and its function can be compromised if exposed to certain elements or factors. This includes light, temperature, moisture, and even handling during transportation. Also, if packaged improperly, an item’s shelf-life may diminish.

A higher shelf-life means a more potent and thus effective product. Think about a piece of fruit or meat—the older it is the more it spoils and the less nutritional value it possesses. It is a similar concept with regards to chemicals that are unstable.

blog-diagram-for-shelf-life

Figure 1 – Diagram of the shelf-life process as it relates to select SkyGeek products. Type I shelf-life items use alpha codes while Type II products use a number system to indicate how much time remains since date of manufacture. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

According to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), there are generally two types of shelf-life products.

Type I products are “critical end-use items, the failure of which could endanger human life or cause major systems (such as an aircraft) to fail.” This would also include some adhesives and sealing compounds as well. Type II products are “those for less critical applications, and which can be reinserted periodically to determine their continued fitness for use.” Thus, most shelf-life products are Type II. Some examples include paint, adhesive tapes, disinfectants, and yes, chemicals.

Shelf-life is a hard thing to monitor. One of the most commonly asked questions is, “What is the shelf-life [of a product]?” This is a legitimate question and we definitely understand why customers ask it. You have to purchase something but don’t plan on using it right away. However, you don’t want it to expire by the time you do. It’s a preventative measure to ask and also saves you money because additional costs are incurred on disposal of shelf-life items. If you buy something, why wouldn’t you want it to fulfill its purpose?

What many may not realize is that our products are not situated in our office so we cannot simply get up from our desk and get the answer. We contact our warehouse and have personnel check. But the warehouse at our headquarters does not contain our entire inventory. We have other warehouses we use in remote locations as well. This requires contacting personnel at these warehouses which—depending on their schedule—may take additional time to contact and track down the answer.

Unfortunately, shelf-life will always be an issue that requires careful handling; the headaches it causes will never truly expire. Regardless, we try to ensure that the most shelf-life is shipped to our customers in as timely a manner as our resources will allow. And as our internal processes and systems improve the intended effect is to have it so that we can get shelf-life problems resolved with less customer complaints. It’s a work in progress so stay tuned. In the meantime you can checkout SkyGeek’s Shelf-Life Policy Warning.
.

For more information about shelf-life, an excellent source is the GSA’s FAQ page.

What is ORM-D?

Last blog post I spoke about hazmat, aka hazardous materials. These are dangerous goods that pose a risk to users as well as areas where they are stored/put-to-use.

But when you think about it, “dangerous goods” is kind of a broad category. Certainly there are gradients of danger.

Well, there is and that is where ORM-D comes in.

Like the NFPA 704 hazard diamond used to denote hazmat products, the ORM-D symbol is a warning label. However, it signifies a much lower level of danger. If you see the ORM-D sign it pertains to mailing or shipping. ORM-D stands for (O)ther (R)egulated (M)aterials for (D)omestic transport only.

On many SkyGeek product pages you will see the ORM-D symbol; this means the product contains hazardous materials. But here’s the main point: ORM-D contains hazmat in limited quantity. Thus, you could say that ORM-D is a water-downed version of a hazmat.

So what kinds of products carry ORM-D? Not hardware or tools that’s for sure. But lighters and certain fuels do (even perfume and small arms ammunition). SkyGeek sells a lot of chemicals and substances and some of these products come in aerosol cans. Bingo. Aerosol cans are often labeled ORM-D.

Let’s use a best seller from our site as an example.

The Plexus 13 oz Aerosol Can contains the ORM-D symbol. But wait: you’ll notice that the symbol has another symbol right next to it, “DOT” (See Figure 1). That just refers to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the department responsible for handling hazmat-related issues. Actually, if you want to be more technical, an agency within the DOT works closely with dangerous goods transportation, i.e. the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). Under CFR Title 49, the PHMSA has jurisdiction over the transportation of hazardous materials, including ORM-D.

blog-orm-d-ex-site

Figure 1 – Location of ORM-D symbol on a SkyGeek product page. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Sorry for the tangent. Back to the Plexus…

As mentioned, the ORM-D symbol—as well as the DOT symbol—can be found on applicable product pages. Where? To the right of the image (See Figure 1) and above the “Add to Cart” button. But you’ll notice that there is more information accompanying these symbols. The MSDS document has been discussed in a previous post; the “Details” link was discussed in the hazmat post.

What’s left? Code, Class, and Group.

The Code for Plexus is UN1950; “UN” refers to the United Nations’ Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods. This committee, as the name implies, handles hazmat in regards to international transport; hence this code does not directly relate to ORM-D(omestic). Still, just in case you are wondering (come on, there HAS to be some safety geeks out there), UN1950 is described as “Aerosols, corrosive, Packing Group II or III, (each not exceeding 1 L capacity) or Aerosols, flammable (each not exceeding 1 L capacity) or Aerosols, flammable, n.o.s. (engine starting fluid) (each not exceeding 1 L capacity) or Aerosols, nonflammable (each not exceeding 1 L capacity) or Aerosols, poison, each not exceeding 1 L capacity.”

blog-ORM-class2

Placard for products with Class 2.1 designation. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

The Class for Plexus is 2.1. This refers to the hazmat nature of the product. Class 2 refers to gases and contains divisions (or sub-sections); products labeled 2.1 are considered flammable gases.

The Group is short for Packing Group. According to the Environmental Health & Safety page on NC State University’s website, packing groups “indicate the degree of risk a hazardous material may pose in transport in relation to other materials in that hazard class.” Since Plexus is Group II it is considered a “moderate danger,” as opposed to low (Group III) and high (Group I).

Speaking of packing, I found this clip that shows the proper method for shipping ORM-D:


Notice the ORM-D sticker placed on the package (around the 1:00 mark).

So there you have it – ORM-D explained once and for all.

=========================================
*Thanks to “Jeff Smith” for uploading that interesting, “behind-the-scenes” video on Youtube.

What is Hazmat?

“What is hazmat?” A simple question with a simple answer (well, sort of).

blog-Hazmat

The NFPA diamond on a SkyGeek product page (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Sure many of you are aware that hazmat is short-hand for “hazardous material(s)” but how exactly is that defined and what are the implications to those who encounter such substances?

Hazmat is an abbreviated term that represents a category of products considered “dangerous goods.” That means an item (in solid, liquid, or gas form) poses a threat to a person or the environment that is exposed to it. Because of this inherent health risk, these types of products are subject to regulations.

This relates to our site in that you will often find an item that is deemed hazmat. And if this is the case,  the item is accompanied by a Material Safety Data Sheet, or MSDS .

Like an MSDS, the regulations involved in classifying and identifying what is hazmat is determined by an organization or government (basically some authority on the subject). Thus, one country has one system while another country has another. Up until recently there was no universal code. However, now it would appear that is changing both in terms of MSDS and hazmat code.

In the United States, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is responsible for publically disseminating safety in regards to hazmat. This organization has devised NFPA 704, a standard that “presents a simple, readily recognized, and easily understood system of markings (commonly referred to as the “NFPA hazard diamond”) that provides an immediate general sense of the hazards of a material and the severity of these hazards as they relate to emergency response.”

Recently OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration via the U.S. Department of Labor) has joined forces with the NFPA so that labeling items as hazmat is at least a little less of a headache in years past. This is due in part because of what is called the Global Harmonization Initiative (aka GHI), an effort by the global scientific community to reach a consensus on how best to facilitate the transfer of information as it relates to safety regulations.

I found this clip that has a representative from the NFPA explaining the GHI:

blog-hazmat-fee

Figure 1 – Hazmat Fee Disclaimer (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

For a nice side-by-side comparison and quick reference of the content contained in the above clip, you can view this NFPA/OSHA Quick Card.

So beyond safety how does the hazmat label affect customers? Two words: Shipping and costs (that’s actually three, but whatever). If you land on a product page that contains the NFPA diamond , you will notice the word “Details.” Clicking that word will produce a pop-up message explaining that a fee is incurred with most items considered hazmat (See Figure 1). As we explain, things that can go ‘boom’ are dangerous to transport and that risk unfortunately comes at a price…

It’s understandable that individuals are uneasy whenever they see a hazmat symbol. That type of reaction is actually the desired result. A person dealing with dangerous goods should be on guard and handle with care. The hazmat symbol will alert you to this fact and is a visual cue to tread carefully.

—————————-
*A special thanks to Michael Beeks at Brulin
for making us aware of the Global Harmonization Initiative.

The Power of a Product Review

As the end of the year approaches, it is common practice to reflect on what we did, who we met, and where we are going. It is only by examining the past that we can avoid making mistakes and— with determination and a little bit of luck— move forward unhindered.

New Year’s resolutions abound – we promise to ourselves never to do that or to always remember this. Yet time and time again we fall into the same traps or fail to learn from prior experiences.

This may sound like some philosophical rant or the beginnings of a self-help article, but it isn’t. I’m simply reflecting on how this time of year is full of so much promise but as holidays and time off fly by and we resume our day-in and day-out, we quickly forget our intentions to change.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a constant reminder, a warning of errors made or of good advice heeded? Wouldn’t it be great to be alerted on what you did and whether you’d want to do it again? Wouldn’t it be useful to display information based on prior experiences for the benefit of others?

Well, good thing for the Internet, the all-mighty record keeper that helps access past experiences. If this sounds like a helpful trait to which the online community can assist, then you know this very same trait exists in e-retail.

Shopping online affords us with a distinct advantage: Yes, I’m talking about written product reviews.

How many times have we gone to a store, an event (like a concert), or even a restaurant and wanted to review the service or product in question? E-commerce sites like SkyGeek provide you with a chance to determine the value of your experience based on either the site itself or the product you purchased.

If you love a certain type of grease because it possesses many features (e.g. it has a wide operating temperature range), or you absolutely hated the cheap material a certain piece of hardware was composed of, a product review offers a means to get the message out.

blog-review2

Figure 1 – How to write a product review (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

When you think about it, a product review is an opportunity for change. Giving a product a 1-star or 5-star review can make or break a reputation. Honestly, how many times have you based your purchasing decision on the number of stars it has received? I know I have. Some people go so far as to not buy anything with less than a cumulative score of 4-stars.

Of course, we all know that reviews can be somewhat misleading. What happens if there is only one review and it is 2-stars and it was because the item accidentally was cracked during transport? What about if there are two reviews, one is a 5-star and the other a 1-star? Which one do you trust? And then you have reviews based on shipping or some other factor dealing with delivery and not on the merits of the product itself. Truth be told, a review is important but it is not just the stars that reveal a product’s fate.

Actually writing a review with details can be cathartic; it can help a customer vent their frustrations due to inferior craftsmanship. It can also be a means of unintentional advertising. If you absolutely loved a product wouldn’t you want to share it? Word-of-mouth isn’t only good for figuring out if this week’s newest movie hitting theaters is worth seeing. A product review that speaks highly of an item’s uses is like a shiny badge of honor that every shopper can see. Now future customers will know what products are of greater quality and value. In this way, reviews help the person that has bought the product as well as people that may buy the product.

blog-reviews

Figure 2 – An alternative way to write a review (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

And it also helps the e-commerce site. Think about it this way – if an item earns a reputation for being poor in quality, do you think the site will re-order any more once stock is depleted? Consistently bad reviews will lead to an early grave for an unreliable product. Thus, from a sales and purchasing perspective, a customer review is an important form of feedback. A customer becomes a salesman and is directly responsible (to a degree) for an item’s success or failure in the marketplace.

blog-submit-review

Figure 3 – The Submit Review form that is easy to fill out (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

So how do you write a customer review on SkyGeek? It’s really quite easy.

There are two areas to look for on a product page. First, if there are no reviews written, a blue link will appear directly below the “Add to Cart” button; click the link that says, “Review this item” (See Figure 1). However, if there is already one or more reviews, you can either click the link next to the star-rating, or click on the “Reviews” tab; from there click the button that reads, “Rate & Review this Item” (See Figure 2). Once done, a new screen will appear with a short form (See Figure 3). After completely filling in the mandatory dialogue boxes, click the “Submit Review” button and you are done. Just like that you have contributed to the ongoing quest for finding quality products and stating which ones fly off the shelves and which ones gain cobwebs.

Consider this: a product review is your voice that can be heard forever on that site. Let your voice be seen and your choices serve as an example for others.

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.

blog-bread-crumbs

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.

blog-bc1

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.

blog-bc2

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.

blog-bc3

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

blog-bc4

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.

blog-bc5

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.

blog-bc6

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.

blog-NSN-site

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.”

blog-nsn-figure2

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).

blog-NSN-example

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.

Blog-image-coming-soon

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!”

blog-henkel-stock-photo

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).

blog-spec-illustration

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?

blog-mil-spec-product-details-locale

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.

blog-mil-standard

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.

blog-mil-spec-DOD-logo

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.

Cockpit Commentary: A Trip to the Past

Flying is dangerous.

That is the somber sentiment I am reminded of from time to time.

Human beings are not naturally gifted with the ability to defy gravity. Yet we did it—at least through innovation and technology. Unfortunately, with such triumph came sacrifices. A lot of trials, tribulations, and tragedies were the expenses paid for sustained flight. But we persevered, evident by the mundane modern flight we experience every day.

As a global society, most of us almost intuitively understand the benefits of air travel; they are immeasurable. Flying saves time, it saves money. It’s good for business. There are countless ways it has collectively improved our lives, directly and/or indirectly.

Commercial flight has been around for decades. What’s your business? What’s your pleasure? Going on vacation? Let us take your bags. Let us accommodate you and make your trip enjoyable.

Originally, that was the ideal vision of air travel and for awhile I suppose it existed. But that fairy tale is pretty much just dust in the wind.

Since 9/11, air travel has been anything but novel and flying seems anything but convenient. The word “luxury” exists but in smaller supplies. Don’t expect a full meal; you’ll get a bag of peanuts and like it. Fees for this and fees for that. Oh wait, you can’t bring that nose clipper on board because it might be a grenade launcher. Security is tight. Terrorism pervades the tarmac. Flight is seriously not a prelude to fascination and fun.

My sunglasses have long ceased to be rose-colored.

More planes in the air mean tireless coordination and navigation to minimize collision. And in addition to increasingly screwy weather in the last few years, there’s an even greater possibility for delays.

You know what else causes delays? Mentally unstable individuals that cause chaos in airport terminals.

I’m sure many of you reading are well aware of the recent LAX incident. It’s sad. Whenever such stories crop up (which seems to be more and more frequent) I shake my head and wonder why. Why do we, despite elevated security, continue to witness threats like this in the news?

I don’t have an answer. But my thoughts often make we wish I could take a special trip to the past, when something like a terrorist on a plane was as uncommon to the natural order as flying cars.

I found this clip. It’s a 1958 Pan Am commercial that displays their 707 jet service.

Would you look at that food? Would you look at that service? The dishes and meals look like a five-star restaurant! Air travel certainly seemed much better.

Of course, that is only a matter of perspective. Flying was comparatively much more expensive right after WWII. The perks of flying were much different as well. Would you rather play with a puzzle (1950s) or watch a Blu-Ray of the latest blockbuster (today)? Would you rather be able to light a cigarette (1950s) or be squished by a nearby passenger’s encroaching waistline?

There are merits and advantages to both decades of flight. I’m not about to begin to tell a reader that the 1950s was perfect for aviation. Watching the above clip might be painful but is it as painful as being poked and probed by TSA officials? That’s your call.

I guess the point of my ramblings is to show that while air travel has advanced considerably, we still have a ways to go. And while more complicated security measures are sure to be enacted, I often yearn for a simpler time. A time when entering a plane wasn’t a pain and your head was filled with wonder not the effects of a migraine produced by bureaucratic red tape.

I guess for now I will have to be content with putting on the occasional rose-colored pair of sunglasses.