IBM Expands RFID Services

IBM has launched a suite of RFID services for
mid-market businesses and industrial sectors.

The new services are geared for companies that typically employ 1,000 workers or less. IBM said it would provide consulting, development of the RFID business case, technological proof of concept, internal pilots, trading partner pilots and full rollout of the systems.

Smaller operations typically have smaller IT staffs, so they look for packaged offerings that can be deployed relatively quickly, said Eric Gabrielson, director of RFID Worldwide for IBM Global Services.

To suit them, IBM developed an RFID workshop program that can identify
the opportunities in the technology in a week’s time. The workshop costs from
$15,000 and up. IBM charges $3,000 for a site survey that looks for radio
frequency interference and determines whether active or passive chips are a
better solution. It also offers Quick Start product testing, which clients
can pay for by the day, rather than being charged by the SKU.

“We’ve taken our experiences from enterprise customers and tailored the
offerings that exist based on mid-market businesses’ needs or developed an
additional offering especially for them,” Gabrielson said.

Testing can be done at the client’s site and at IBM’s RFID test centers
in Japan, France and Maryland. In addition, customers are supported by IBM
Research to develop specialized systems and tools for unique needs.

The research firm Yankee Group said consumer goods manufacturers will
spend an average of $6.9 million each this year on RFID. It said that
deploying the technology in the company’s internal supply-chain operations
could deliver a wealth of information about inventory dwell time and
movement.

It advised executives concerned with supply chain operations to study how
RFID can reduce inventory and streamline its flow.

IBM also has verticalized its offerings, targeting the automotive
industry, aerospace and defense, manufacturing, chemicals and petroleum,
forest and paper and electronics industries.

“We’ve been working with those kinds of companies for at least the last
six months,” Gabrielson said. “Now, we’ve formally announced what we’re
doing in this important industry sector.”

One big area of opportunity, he said, is in the transportation of
hazardous waste. The company has a pilot project with a Japanese
environmental waste engineering company, in which the technology will be
used to track medical waste as it moves from a hospital to a dumpsite.

IBM launched its RFID services a year ago. The offering includes software, consulting and
implementation services. It also has two serious implementations under its
belt. It began trials of RFID with Philips Semiconductors in November 2003.
Phillips is using the technology to monitor its own chip making, including
the manufacture of RFID tags. IBM and Philips tagged wafer cases and carton
packages with RFID chips at Phillips’ manufacturing site in Taiwan and its
distribution center in Hong Kong,

Meanwhile, IBM has fully implemented RFID in its East Fishkill plant,
where, for the past two years, more than 600 business processes are driven
by RFID.

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