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Auto-ID Center Adds Aussie Co.

Visy Industries, a leading packaging company, has become the first Australian company to sponsor the EPC effort.
Aug 06, 2002Aug. 6, 2002 -- The Auto-ID Center's mission is to develop technology and propose standards for an open, global system for tracking goods throughout the supply chain using low-cost RFID tags. Given the nature of the international supply chain, being global is as important as being open and inexpensive.

The center took an important step recently toward bringing the system to Australia and New Zealand when it signed Visy Industries, a leading packaging company based in Melbourne, Australia, as a sponsor. Visy is the first Australian company to join the effort since the Auto-ID Center opened a lab at the University of Adelaide on June 1.

Visy's main lines of business are paper packaging and recycling. Half its revenue comes from operations in the United States and the other half from Australasia. The Auto-ID Center already counted three packaging companies among its sponsors: International Paper, MeadWestvaco Corp. and the Taiwanese paper and packaging company Yuen Foong Yu Paper Manufacturing Co.

The interest of packaging companies in RFID is clear: One day soon, RFID tags will be embedded into cardboard packaging. The companies want to keep pace with, or be ahead of, the competition in providing smart packaging solutions.

Visy was founded in 1948 by a Polish immigrant named Leon Pratt. It has grown to be one of the largest privately owned packaging companies in the world, with A$2 billion in revenue. Leon Pratt's son, Richard Pratt, now runs the company. He is known as the "Cardboard King" and is one of three billionaires in Australia.

The addition of Visy is important because the Auto-ID Center needs sponsors to spread the gospel of low-cost RFID to the Asia-Pacific region. In late 2000, Visy purchased Southcorp Ltd.'s Asia-Pacific packaging operations for around $A700 million. So Visy gives the center another small toehold in the critical Asia region.

Another interesting facet is that Visy is a leader in recycling and has won several awards for its environmentally friendly business practices. The benefits of using RFID for recycling are often talked about, but there are few concrete examples of it. A pilot by Visy could show other companies the value of RFID in this area.
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