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Blockchain in the Supply Chain
There are so much documentation of things blockchain technology could do and has done. Plausible revelations of how it is impacting all realms of our contemporary world positively in its unmatchable styles are also much talked about. It ends up being that assertions of the invention as being the best thing that has happened to the human world technology wise could just be so true and undebatable. Even the much touted artificial intelligence has limitations where blockchain technology easily scoop for reach. The financial sector has benefited a lot from the invention (maybe the most famous of it all) but more could be said of the health, business, connectivity, security and even agricultural sector impacts. The technology simply has a long arm of reach that penetrates virtually every aspect of life one could think about.
Like many other life sectors, the business world is evolving past mere theories and manual application of the principles of demand and supply to a much more modern and technologically realistic approaches. This has made topics and issues surrounding how to implement blockchain in supply chain one of huge interest and famous concern in a bid to better sales quality, monitor channels as well as operations and deriving enhanced value from far-reaching supply chain coordination. This has subsequently given rise to investigative articles compiled to detail blockchain use case in supply chain as follows.
Use cases of Blockchain in Supply Chains
Although its first use in 2008 allowed for creating the famous Bitcoin, the blockchain is not limited to the financial sector. Translated literally by “block chain”, the blockchain technology allows the storage and transmission of information transparently and securely. What is its particularity? The operation of distributed form, without central organ of control!
By extension, we speak of blockchain to designate a database built from this technology. This secure database, shared by different users and without intermediaries, maintains the history of exchanges between authorized users so that everyone can check the validity of the chain in all the blocks. Therefore, it can be applied to many sectors, such as the Supply Chain.
The blockchain has many advantages for the Supply Chain sector: it is programmable, reliable and allows obtaining information in real time about the operations carried out. The objective? Be able to act as quickly as possible in case of having an incident. These characteristics make it a quality guarantee for companies, especially in the food industry. Wallmart showed how peculiar that could be thus;
Five Blockchain Use Case in Supply Chain Management
Case 1: Walmart utilizes IBM’s blockchain technology for food traceability
Reports from quite a number of western media at the early phase of the last quarter of 2018 released the news of what success has been achieved in implementing blockchain in supply chain management by a popular store; Wallmart. The aim of the practice is said to track food supply from farms to its stores in near real time, utilizing the blockchain’s distributed ledger system.
Image source: https://techcrunch.com/2018/09/24/walmart-is-betting-on-the-blockchain-to-improve-food-safety
The approach is revealed to be one taken by the popular brand name in collaboration with IBM as part of its new safety requirements for suppliers. This way by 2019, the firm expects all suppliers of its leafy green stocks to implement traceability via this system focused on the global food supply chain. Reports have it that Walmart has worked with IBM based on this development since 2016, but it is set to take the approach to a whole new level in order to reduce drastically the spread of foodborne diseases via a close watch on its supply chain. The system is also believed to be one that will check wastage and financial losses that could surface during transactions between the retailer and suppliers, especially in course of recall. Going by this and many more introduction of the technology in modern businesses, we could authoritatively affirm that utilizing blockchain in supply chain could help democratize business innovations.
Image source: https://qz.com/1060607/supermarkets-are-now-using-blockchain-to-keep-food-fresh/
Case 2: VeChain solves China’s drug traceability challenge
It is scintillating to know that a company like VeChain creates safe and enabling process for manufacturers to share their products with wholesalers, retailers and consumers without hassles, just with the use of blockchain technology since 2015. The firm has partnered with reputable companies in the globe to accomplish this feat, introducing a round circle supply chain format which informs all parties involved in a transaction with its progress and ensuring that everyone play the parts they are responsible for in getting products to consumers. The firm recently announced more than 180 different use cases of its product which run on the principle of ‘Proof of Authority’. VeChain allows members of its community to launch dapps on it network to perform its technological wonder. It is reported to be connected with the largest infrastructure project in human history (China’s One Belt Road Initiative) and recently helped China solve its drugs and vaccines traceability challenges. This is made possible by introducing highly sensitive IoT devices which records all vaccines and drugs data and information through manufacture, distribution and usage.
Image source: www.vechain.com
VeChain has a growing list of reputable partnerships as highlighted in the diagram below.
Case 3: Waltonchain (WTC) Enables business collaboration without necessarily trusting the counterparty
The quest for an unending ease and persistent searches for stops to supply chain challenges continues with lots of innovations fostered at implementing blockchain in supply chain management. This births Waltonchain, a technology oriented company that is built on the principles of facilitating transparent transactions and partnerships. Alongside VeChain, Waltonchain collaborated to complete the largest infrastructure project in world’s history. They market a product called Value Internet of Things (VIoT), a hardware (chip) and software (blockchain) that enables to collaborate on business basis without questions of trust. The chips are designed to store information and upload data directly to the blockchain.
Image source: https://www.twitter.com/WTCTricky/status/1027193940607361026
In a nutshell, the Waltonchain has positioned itself as a perfect commercial ecosystem that integrate the world of blockchain and our real world especially via the supply chain management system once transacting parties sign up to the use of their products.
Case 4: Ambrosus (AMB) ensure quality supply of foods and pharmaceutical products from manufacturers to end-users
This is a specialized blockchain use case in supply chain. It is tagged specialized because it is focused on using blockchain technology and its IoT projects mainly on food and pharmaceutical industries to enhance quality assurance, anti-counterfeiting, logistic tracking and supply chain optimization.
Image source: https://medium.com/@catkane0/ambrosus-will-reform-supply-chains-with-blockchain-388b256b109
The technology is Amber token (AMB) powered to store data, acquire them and track valuable operations in the supply chain. The technology is focused on data interoperability aspect of it protocol which allows for sharing of sensitive data for a full view of the ecosystem.
Image source: https://medium.com/@catkane0/ambrosus-will-reform-supply-chains-with-blockchain-388b256b109
Although based in Switzerland, Ambrose s said to be taking the European world with storm, having two of the top five pharmaceutical firm in the world as its subjects. It is said to specialize in more accurate data and measurement of products in the supply chain process over competing brands.
Case 5: Origin Trail (TRAC) ‘monitors’ supply chains with an off-chain decentralized p2p network
Origin trail is a blockchain agnostic that has been around since 2013 but only launch the TRAC token recently. The technology manages supply chain systems with an off-chain decentralized p2p network often referred to as the Origin Trail Decentralized Network (ODN). Basically, the network allows peers to negotiate, transfer, process and retrieve data while also verifying its integrity and availability in a bid to reimburse the provider nodes. The technology has served the food industry over time and has since expanded tentacles to shipping, compliance, logistics and lots more. One good thing about the project over others is that most others leverage on its protocols to ensure data interoperability of their supply chain.
Image source: https://origintrail.io/use-cases
One of the brightest project it has completed is in the beverage industry where it cooperated with IoT provider to enable wine producers to showcase the veracity of their premium, award winning wine. With the technology too, consumers can trace food back to manufacturers.
While we have elicited on the use cases of blockchain technology on supply chain, it is sound as well as reasonable to understand how blockchain technology makes this possible.
Ways Blockchain Technology Are Useful in Supply Chain Management
After thorough investigations into blockchain use case in supply chain, it has been discovered that the technology although does the obvious in many of the studied instances, it does them differently from many of the common manual approaches and even automated systems. All of these are owed to its decentralized ledger system which accounts for transparency, traceability among other features and complementary benefits. Following are ways blockchain are making huge differences in supply chain management as studied;
In the distribution chain, it is particularly interesting to be able to automate certain tasks to increase efficiency and processing speed. Thanks to a programmable blockchain, it is possible to foresee, for example, the automatic launching of payments when receiving merchandise. If the order has not been received, a conflict management process can be automatically triggered in the same way. This will simply put an end to probable back and forth transactions that could be experienced in supplies
Establishing a traceability process without blockchain is, of course, perfectly possible. But the inviolability of the blockchain can give the chain of traceability an even more convincing value, hence reliability. The users of the chain cannot alter it, since it is insured and jointly owned by several entities. In fact, the information it contains is considered reliable and cannot be questioned since it is not managed by a single actor that may have economic or political interests. This is one huge pro of the decentralized system it offers users, even in supply chain management.
Access to Real Time Data
With the blockchain, the different actors in the value chain can also detect problems or fraud in real time. This is a scenario that cannot be compared to the current situation, in which it takes at least two weeks to identify, for example, those foods that may have caused food poisoning. So, if Walmart is choosing this system, it is purely one aimed at business development and sincere customer satisfaction beginning from the supply side of its service.
In the agri-food sector, a blockchain is foreseen to accelerate the identification of the sources of contamination of a product. Specifically, this means that each agent in the supply chain has to register all the operations carried out with a view to the distribution of the products in a blockchain. In this way, from the production to the point of sale, a contamination vector can be quickly identified by tracing the circuit.
The Carrefour group has just launched the first agri-food blockchain in Europe to guarantee the traceability of its chain of farmed chickens. Incubation, breeding, feeding, slaughtering, storage and sale: each stage of the production, transformation and storage of the running birds is recorded and constitutes an element of the blockchain, guaranteed by personalized access to all levels of the chain.
Transit and Shipping Time Management
Nowadays, an international shipment of merchandise requires, on average, the control of 30 different inspections during its route. These numerous inspections are still based mainly on the manual verification of paper documents which are prone to errors and omissions. If a document is missing, or several, a container or a truck, it will be stopped at the inspection site.
All these inspections inevitably delay the delivery of the goods and represent significant costs if not losses for the operators of the supply chain. However; with the use of blockchain it is possible to eliminate these impediments thus reinvigorating supply chain management.
Reduction of Development Costs
The blockchain is a low-cost technology that raises high hopes in the logistics sector, and of cure it’s worth the wait. Without large investments, all economic agents will be able to benefit from affordable solutions at a lower cost.
Improvement of Brand Image of Companies
From the point of view of the marketing plan, a brand that uses the blockchain can also significantly improve its image and increase consumer confidence in its products. How? Take as an example the fashion brand Baby Ghost, which from the spring / summer 2017 collection uses blockchain to track its garments and accessories.
By scanning an NFC chip or an integrated QR code on each item, consumers can access the full history of the product they have purchased and verify the authenticity of their purchases. Thanks to this technology, the brand claims to have managed to increase interactions with its customers. The use of the blockchain has, therefore, a real marketing potential for brands concerned with the relationship with the customer.
The Blockchain technology provides a permanent record of transactions, which are then grouped into blocks that cannot be altered or manipulated. Transactions are verified and approved by consensus among the participants, which makes fraud difficult. Therefore, food fraud is less likely and, if it occurs, it is easier to detect. At the same time, consumers are assured that companies cannot change information in an attempt to hide the true origin and movement of the product through the supply chain.
Blockchain provides a neutral open platform. No third party is needed to authorize transactions, rather, there is a set of rules that all participants, both users and system operators, must comply with. This is very valuable in complex supply chains where trust is low and compliance is difficult to assess.
The blockchain is represented today as an unprecedented opportunity for the supply chain sector, especially in the food industry. However, the application of technology remains complex, in particular due to the disappearance of intermediaries. There are also some points to clarify at a political and legal level in relation to the processing of personal data. All these brakes will have to be eliminated to take full advantage of the potential of this technology.
Since blockchain technology operates on a distributed (rather than centralized) platform, each participant has access to exactly the same records. When the information is updated, it is updated for everyone on the network at the same time. This allows the entire supply chain to be more responsive to any threat of food safety fraud or disaster.
Imagine that a retailer could see and validate with 100% certainty where each food was grown, handled, processed, stored and inspected. They can track each stage of your trip to your store. The Blockchain technology has the potential to make this a reality. With the blockchain, there are no gaps in the history, location and status of a food product. Instead, you can see the full picture while building your consumer’s confidence. That’s the feeling brought about by implementing blockchain in supply chain management procedures of your firm.