Avery Dennison to Buy Smartrac’s Transponder Business

By Claire Swedberg

The acquisition will give the California-based adhesive company a greater presence in the RFID industry, by providing tags and inlays for retail, industrial and other markets in the UHF, HF and LF frequencies.

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Avery Dennison has announced that it is purchasing the entire RFID product portfolio of Smartrac Technology Group‘s RFID transponder business, including its UHF, HF and LF RFID products. The company says the agreement includes all of Smartrac’s manufacturing, research and development, and sales and administration facilities; the purchase transaction is expected to take place within the next few months.

Avery Dennison, located in Glendale, Calif., sells a variety of adhesive products used in industrial and medical applications, as well as in retail. The company also offers a line of UHF RFID-based products, predominantly for retail applications. For instance, Avery released a line of “intelligent labels” this year that utilize UHF RFID technology for product identification.

Avery’s Francisco Melo

The addition of Smartrac’s products will allow the firm to add to its portfolio, says Francisco Melo, Avery’s VP and general manager. With the acquisition, Avery Dennison will be able to offer 125 kHz LF, 13.56 MHz HF and NFC, and UHF RFID products, including on-metal tags and sensor tags that can detect moisture or temperature, then transmit that data via UHF.

Smartrac, founded in 2000 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, sells a variety of RFID inlays, tags and solutions. Its products are used in tags designed for inventory management and other use cases for the industrial, automotive, health-care, supply chain and retail sectors. The company operates manufacturing sites in China, Malaysia, Germany and the United States, employs about 900 workers and produces approximately 2.5 billion RFID transponders each year.

Recently, Smartrac has offered Internet of Things (IoT) solutions as well. Smart Cosmos is the company’s cloud-based solution for managing RFID data. With the sale of its line of RFID transponders, Smartrac will shift its focus to its Solutions Division, says Christian Uhl, Smartrac’s CEO. “The acquisition supports Smartrac’s strategy to further accelerate its Solutions Division growth,” he states, “and successfully expand its existing IoT solutions portfolio across many segments, such as cold chain management and retail.”

Smartrac and Avery Dennison are committed to completing the transfer of the transponder product lines in a seamless process throughout the coming months, Uhl says, adding, “Hence, our customers can fully rely on consistent service and product supply, performance and quality.” With the acquisition, he notes, “Avery Dennison will take over all contractual obligations to customers, suppliers and any other business partners.” In the meantime, Melo says, by acquiring Smartrac’s transponder product portfolio, Avery Dennison will be able to broaden its own offerings. That means not only extending its existing offerings in retail, but also reaching other markets, such as industrial use cases, including aerospace and automotive manufacturing.

Avery Dennison has been designing RFID products and solutions for more than 15 years. “RFID is a key part of our growth strategy,” Melo states, “and we look for opportunities to accelerate that growth. This is exactly where we believe Smartrac comes in as an important addition.” Smartrac not only offers the additional inlays and tags needed, he explains, but also has customers in the industrial market and other sectors.

Although growth in RFID has been fueled, in large part, by the tagging of apparel, Melo says, the market is broadening even within retail applications. “If I look within retail,” he states, “I see big growth in the food space, especially in elements around sustainability.” By tracking tagged food items, retailers and food companies can reduce the amount of waste, thanks to the improved visibility in the supply chain and on store shelves afforded by using RFID tags to access and store data regarding every item’s history.

Avery Dennison has also developed a high-performance on-metal tag for use on metallic food packaging. However, the broader platform of products and customers will enable Avery to provide on-metal solutions to other markets as well. The company released its microwave-safe UHF RFID tags in 2018, for use with its WaveSafe and Freshmarx solutions for managing food throughout the supply chain (see Avery Dennison Provides RFID System for Food Management). “That’s one of our core strategies,” Melo says, “and an area we’ve been developing in.”

Under normal conditions, Melo explains, the inlays are not expected to turn up in a microwave, though the tags have been tested and deemed safe if that were to happen, thereby assuring brands that the tags will not create safety risks. “We have a number of pilots underway,” though he is unable to name the companies piloting the new tags.

Among its own portfolio, Smartrac provides labels for the aerospace industry, as well as for maintenance, repair and overhaul companies (MROs), which are applied to metallic parts. In addition, the company offers sensors that could enable the tracking of conditions around a tagged item, such as identifying a leak near a sealed part.

Avery Dennison’s expanded portfolio means new areas for RFID-based solutions may be found, Melo predicts, using UHF, HF, NFC or LF. “These are areas where we have not been very active previously,” he notes. Avery’s goal is to increase its strength and grow its business by helping customers improve their supply chain or employ RFID for other use cases that will become possible with Avery’s acquisition of Smartrac’s products.

Approximately two and a half years ago, Avery Dennison established a Converter Leverage Team representing its materials division, which works directly with label converters. With the Smartrac acquisition, Avery intends to expand that effort to more actively partner with RFID label converters as well. “I fundamentally think the capabilities of both entities will provide another platform for research and development of new solutions,” Melo states, while increasing Avery’s competitiveness regarding its existing solutions.

Uhl says the acquisition will enable both companies to offer a broader technology platform, expanded product lines and added manufacturing capacity, which he claims will create “a broad, dynamic and very attractive RFID portfolio serving a wide variety of today’s and tomorrow’s customer and market needs.”