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Avery Dennison Ramps Up Its RFID R&D

The inlay manufacturer hired two new engineering execs to build strengths in RFID testing and application development.
By Beth Bacheldor
Jun 20, 2008Avery Dennison is well-known for its office products and innovation in self-adhesives and label materials. Founded in 1935, the Pasadena, Calif.-based company reported sales of $6.3 billion in 2007. And for more than four years, the firm has been actively building its RFID organization. In January of this year, Avery Dennison's CEO, Dean Scarborough, said the company expected $50 million in sales from its RFID products in 2008. Although that represents a small percentage of the company's overall revenue, executives claim it is one of Avery Dennison's fastest-growing businesses.

The Avery Dennison RFID division was formed in 2004 with a lineup of ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID inlays to primarily address the carton-and-pallet market created by Wal-Mart. The division's product portfolio currently contains more than a dozen RFID products, complying with the EPC Gen 2 and ISO ISO/IEC 18000-6C standards for passive UHF tags, used worldwide in a broad range of applications. These include internal and external supply chain environments, the pharmaceutical, aviation and retail apparel sectors, and in item-level applications.

Robert Cornick
The RFID division offers a selection of products for asset-tracking applications, particularly for returnable packaging, as well as other challenging materials and environments. The company also offers RFID products through its Avery Dennison Retail Information Services (RIS) division, which sells RFID printer-encoders—most complying with the EPC Gen 2 and ISO ISO/IEC 18000-6C standards—and focuses on developing complete solutions for the retail sector. The RIS division played a vital role in the development and rollout of European retailer Marks & Spencer's RFID program, and also provides data-warehousing and brand-authentication programs to several apparel manufacturers.

Avery Dennison RFID has its own dedicated research-and-development organization with its own staff, distinct from the rest of Avery Dennison's other groups. Last month, the firm hired two executives to work at its Atlanta Technical Center (ATC) in Georgia. Harry Watkins has joined as VP of engineering, responsible for the creation of new products and processes for U.S. and international emerging markets. Prior to joining Avery Dennison RFID, Watkins served as senior director of Sensormatic, a division of Tyco specializing in electronic article surveillance (EAS) systems and RFID.

In addition, Ken Tinnell has joined the company as senior director of applications, leading the ATC's applications team. He previously served as director of technology at Terso Solutions, a manufacturer of RFID cabinets, freezers and refrigerators. Both executives have engineering degrees: Watkins holds a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Florida; Tinnell holds a master of business administration degree and a master of science degree in industrial engineering from the University of Cincinnati, as well as a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Kentucky.

"[Our] R&D team has been expanding its capabilities since its inception in 2003," says Robert Cornick, Avery Dennison RFID's VP and general manager. In order to quickly develop tag designs for pilot programs, for instance, the division has invested in equipment and processes enabling the company to proceed from an antenna design on a computer to a physical working tag in as little as 20 minutes.

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