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Avery Dennison Celebrates Sale of Its 1 Billionth Transponder

The tag provider marks an industry milestone, and the company's commitment to the RFID industry.
Posted By Mark Roberti, 04.22.2011
Earlier this week, I was invited to visit Avery Dennison's production facility in Clinton, S.C. The company was celebrating a milestone—the sale of its 1 billionth transponder, which occurred on Mar. 11. The inlay was sold to Nashua, a label converter located in New Hampshire.

In a room filled with the many people who work behind the scenes at Avery Dennison to churn out hundreds of millions of transponders, Jack Farrell, the head of the firm's RFID division, welcomed the attending partners—including Impinj and NXP Semiconductors, which supply chips for Avery Dennison's transponders—as well as a representative of Nashua. "We are very excited about this industry milestone," he said. "And we expect to be back here soon, celebrating the next billion, and then 10 billion."

Farrell credited the "strong commitment from the corporation," including CEO Dean Scarborough, which I thought was extremely appropriate. A lot of big corporations bailed on the RFID market when it failed to take off as fast as expected. Avery Dennison was among the few that hung in there, and I think the firm is now reaping the benefits as a result. The RFID division is its fastest-growing area.

After Farrell spoke, Maggie Bidlingmaier, Avery Dennison's global director of sales and marketing, addressed the attendees. "It was clear from the start that Avery had all the components [to succeed in the RFID market]," she stated. "We had the manufacturing expertise, the technology and the channel partners. Even in the dark days, I knew we would be the market leader. The challenge will be to maintain that spot, because a lot of people are gunning for it."

The journey wasn't easy, Bidlingmaier said. From the onset, Avery Dennison was behind such companies as Alien Technology and UPM Rafsec (now called UPM RFID). The firm sought to finalize its first ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) inlay products, and to sell whatever it could produce. It won a major deal in the early days with Kimberly-Clark, which helped put the company on its way.

"It would have been easy, in those early days, for Dean and the leadership team to say that it was just too early, but they stayed the course," Bidlingmaier told the crowd. "It's our job now to make it pay off."

One thing that was clear was that the Avery Dennison team enjoys a great camaraderie. Like many people in the RFID industry who have slogged through what Gartner calls the "trough of disillusionment," the folks at Avery Dennison share a bond—the feeling that comes from working together, sticking it out and achieving success. The billionth tag isn't just an abstraction—it's a symbol that their hard work paid off.

It was also clear, from a tour of Avery Dennison's Clinton manufacturing plant, that the company is intent on being the "gorilla"—Geoffrey Moore's term for the dominant player—among tag providers. I can't describe what I saw, but I can tell you that Avery Dennison continues to invest in developing its capacity to produce inlays, and in more sophisticated equipment that will provide flexibility in meeting the market demand.

One billion is an impressive number. But it is nothing compared to the sales of inlays that undoubtedly lie ahead.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.

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