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Marrying Boxes and Tags

Carton and crate maker LINPAC buys majority share of U.K. RFID systems integrator Intellident.
By Bob Violino
Oct 29, 2003Intellident, a bar code and RFID systems integrator based in Manchester, England, has accepted an offer to sell a majority shareholding in the company to the U.K. packaging specialist LINPAC Group. The exact size and value of the investment have not been disclosed, but Intellident says it will utilize the new capital to expand its offerings.
LINPAC crates with embedded Intellident-supplied RFID tags

"We will certainly use the investment to develop some new products as well as expand our implementation teams," says Adrian Segens, business development manager at Intellident, a 20-year-old privately owned company whose client's have included such European corporations or corporate divisions as Barclays, Glaxo Welcome, IBM, Marks & Spencer, Natwest, Smith Kline Beecham, Sony and Unilever.

Based in Birmingham, England, the LINPAC Group is a privately held diversified packaging group with global sales in excess of £1.2 billion ($2.3 billion) and manufacturing facilities in five continents. Its six divisions design and make millions of cartons and carriers, including corrugated and paper packaging, polystyrene burger boxes and other fast-food containers, disposable tableware, plastic crates used to ship such things as Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and printed containers for manufacturers of foods, beverages, and household products.

Intellident believes the investment will also enable it to offer turn-key RFID deployments that couple RFID systems with LINPAC Group's products, especially its smart packaging. Smart packaging includes sensors and offers special functions that switch on or off in response to changing external or internal conditions. "We strongly believe in the synergies between the two organizations and wish to maximize the opportunities available by combining smart packaging with Intellident's automatic identification [RFID] technology skills," says Jim Hopwood, managing director at Intellident.

Despite being majority-owned by LINPAC, Intellident maintains that its new investor will not determine exactly how Intellident develops its RFID offerings. "Even in companies that it has 100 percent ownership—which it will not have at Intellident—LINPAC leaves them to operate autonomously," says Segens.

That hands-off approach is expected to extend to possibility of Intellident working with LINPAC rivals, which include British Polythene, International Paper and Rexam. "We are now working and will continue to work with a number of other packaging companies," says Segens, adding that those partners remain confidential at present.

According to the company, the new investment comes at a key stage in the development of the RFID market in the United Kingdom. "The market has now moved beyond the pilot stage. We are taking more and more orders from companies that are looking to roll out full RFID deployments," says Segens.

LINPAC's decision to take a majority stake in Intellident builds on existing partnerships between the two companies. LINPAC already produces plastic materials-handling equipment that includes Intellident-supplied RFID tags encapsulated during the molding process.

The two companies are also working together on a number of projects, including the roll out of 4.5 million RFID-enabled reusable trays and roll cages to retailer Marks & Spencer's food division and its distribution and supplier network. The project is believed to be the world's largest retail supply chain RFID application to date. Marks & Spencer, one of the U.K.'s largest retailers, hopes that by having more than 200 of its suppliers use the trays, it will speed up its supply chain and reduce errors. During the three-year project, Intellident is working with LINPAC's service provision division, Birmingham-based Logtek.

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