IBM broadens suite of RFID services

IBM Corp. on Tuesday will announce an expansion of its services for companies seeking help with radio frequency identification (RFID) technology.

Over the past several months, IBM has developed RFID services for industrial companies, such as those in the automotive, aerospace and defense, manufacturing, chemicals and petroleum, forest and paper and electronics industries, and for mid-market companies, which IBM defines as those with less than 1,000 employees.

The services, which are available now and will be officially unveiled Tuesday, include consulting, development of a business case, technical proof of concept, pilots for the client and trading partners and full system implementation.

IBM's decision to extend its RFID services palette to cater to industrial companies and to mid-market players comes as a response to rising demand from companies in these two segments, said Eric Gabrielson, IBM Global Services' RFID vice president.

In the industrial segment, companies are exploring RFID not just to comply with mandates from government agencies and from partners requiring them to adopt this technology, he said. "They're doing it both for the supply chain area mandates but also for a number of other (internal reasons), such as improving their business processes and enhancing their collaboration with customers," Gabrielson said.

That is the case at H.J. Heinz Co., which recently began dipping its toes in the RFID water and has hired IBM to assist in the venture.

"We're using IBM to build our RFID business case, to see how it looks like from today to 10 years out: where we can see some benefits, where we can see some cost offsets and where we can roll out the project from slap-and-ship, which is the 2005 retailer mandate, all the way out through tagging items in a production environment," said Doug Ostrosky, Heinz's RFID program manager.

For now, Heinz, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is focused on getting a pilot project up and running. The company hired IBM in June of this year for the project, which is slated to end around November with a Heinz facility equipped with RFID. IBM is helping Heinz with the testing of products, the drafting of a business case and the actual set-up of the pilot facility, Ostrosky said.

So far Ostrosky has been very happy with IBM's service, particularly with the vendor's honesty and candor about this emerging and still immature technology, he said. "If they don

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