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IP Forms RFID Alliance

The giant paper and forest product maker teams up with systems integrator ESYNC.
By Jonathan Collins
Nov 26, 2003As part of a nonexclusive strategic alliance, International Paper and systems integration and consulting services company ESYNC will jointly market and deliver a variety of RFID consulting and integration services focused on the Electronic Product Code (EPC) and related technologies. The union will bring together IP's own RFID-deployment experience and ESYNC's supply chain consulting skills.
ESYNC's John Sidell

"ESYNC's expertise enhances International Paper's RFID integration offering by providing proven methodologies to assess and deploy supply chain solutions," says Alan Clark, general manager of IP’s Smart Packaging Group, which offers a suite of RFID-enabled supply chain solutions that includes smart packaging, warehousing and transportation tracking.

Since joining the Auto-ID Center in 1999 and kick-starting its RFID business, IP says it has had 350 meetings with customers of its industrial packaging materials who are interested in the potential for RFID in their own operations. It has also overseen eight pilots for customers that manufacture consumer goods, cosmetics and food and beverages.

In August, IP launched an RFID-based warehouse tracking system at its mill in Texarkana, Texas. This system uses UHF (915 MHz) RFID tags, made by Matrics, of Columbia, M.D. A single tag, which bears its own unique EPC serial number, is inserted into the core of a paper roll. Once the roll is associated with the tag, its movements—and therefore its location—within the warehouse are tracked by forklift-mounted readers. (See IP Unveils RFID-Enabled Warehouse.) ESYNC is currently working with International Paper’s Smart Packaging business to replicate the Texarkana RFID system at several of IP's other U.S. warehouses and mills.

For ESYNC, the alliance adds IP's customer contacts and RFID-deployment knowledge. “International Paper brings the real experience from the work it has already carried out. It knows about read rates and tag positioning, the physics of the readers and the effects of the environment. In short: what works and what doesn’t,” says John Sidell, principal and cofounder of ESYNC, whose customers include International Paper, Kroger, Owens Corning, American Standard, Gillette and Gap. Toledo, Ohio-based ESYNC recently launched its own RFID Strategic Assessment program to examine potential RFID deployments for its clients in the spring this year.

As part of the alliance, staff from both ESYNC and IP’s Smart Packaging Group will form a team to develop RFID systems that will marketed to both companies' customers. Details of how the new team will be staffed and structured have yet to be determined. “It's too early to tell how it will be structured or the level of investment from each company,” says Sidell.

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