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Tag Line: International Paper Offers RFID Experience

'The first piece of this is, you have to understand how the technology can change your business,' says Alan Clark, general manager of Smart Packaging for International Paper.
International Paper Co. is best known for its pulp, paper, and plywood products. On its Web site, recent examples of company innovations include packaging for carryout food that keeps the cold out and juice boxes that keep the vitamin C in. Here's something else the company might mention: expertise in radio-frequency identification.

To manage all its woody output, International Paper became an early adopter of RFID, an emerging technology that promises to revolutionize the way businesses manage vast supply chains. Within the past year, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and the Department of Defense have mandated that their suppliers implement RFID--and the rush is on. With its firsthand experience at a premium, International Paper began offering RFID consulting services to other companies in October.

"The first piece of this is, you have to understand how the technology can change your business," says Alan Clark, general manager of Smart Packaging for International Paper. The services being offered by International Paper range from early-stage education to pilot projects and full-scale RFID deployments.

For many companies, the key to success will involve turning RFID from a must-do cost center into money-saving efficiency and, better yet, business advantage. Among the potential upsides, Clark says, are greater supply-chain visibility, better product control, and theft- and counterfeit-prevention measures.

The forest-products specialist has become a business-technology agent of change for other companies. The RFID consulting service has even attracted some accounts that weren't previously International Paper customers.

"You're going to put the [RFID] tags on regardless of the costs," Clark says. "Let's figure out a way that we can create value [beyond] the tag costs." After all, as International Paper would be the first to say, money doesn't grow on trees.

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