Blockchain could repair our broken global supply chain


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If you’ve been shopping recently and found an empty shelf where your favorite cereal or ice cream is usually stored, you know that the world market supply chain is facing some serious setbacks at the moment.

The global supply chain has always been a delicate and complex system, which has recently been further complicated by an ongoing global pandemic and war. It is estimated that 90 percent of the world’s goods they are shipped by sea via approximately 60,000 cargo ships. The largest cargo ships carry 24,000 containers. On that scale, it’s not hard to understand why everything from the coffee you drank this morning to the microchip in the device you’re reading this on can be lost or delayed.

There have been problems with supply chains long before the COVID-19 pandemic. In recent decades, companies have made investments in information technology that have helped improve the flow of goods around the world. IT investments in ERP systems, EDI interchanges, and standards like ISO 9001 have helped make global supply chains more efficient. But as the modern buyer can attest, there is more work to be done.

Supply chain adaptability, agility

This day, up to 80% of critical business data now lives outside the four walls of a company. Suppliers, manufacturing sites, distributors, wholesalers – there are too many parties trying to coordinate their transactions using disparate systems that don’t communicate well with each other. This situation creates a number of problems, because each of these companies requires critical, accurate and timely data on the goods they are trading, as well as information on any incidents that may have serious implications for their supply chains, customers and individual brand. reputations With the increasing complexity of the global supply chain and deep dependencies between suppliers and manufacturers, businesses experience new delays and information failures on a regular basis, with empty store shelves and lower profits among the inevitable results.


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Modern supply chain IT solutions already need to support sustainability and visibility. But the growing problems facing multi-tier providers and the need to improve the flow of information in the global economy have placed a new and urgent emphasis on provider adaptability and supply chain agility in general, especially as Multilevel supply chains with global reach are becoming more and more the norm for companies. Today’s multi-tier supply chains demand technology solutions that give all parties enhanced visibility into where, when and how items flow, and how end-to-end supply chain mechanisms fit together. Without this visibility, companies will not be able to understand actual and potential outages, as well as opportunities to prevent or mitigate outages.

Next generation blockchains

Next-generation blockchains that combine blockchain and cloud technology are one solution that can help address supply chain coordination issues. Businesses can use blockchain technology to track cargo, in the same way that end customers of a retailer like Amazon track orders and shipments. The value of Blockchain lies in the ability it gives parties to quickly and securely share data in a way that is also decentralized.

Consider a gourmet chocolate retailer that needs to know important details about their product, such as when new inventory will arrive, whether it was exposed to temperatures above its melting point during transit, and whether the cocoa beans were ethically sourced and farmed sustainably. Only by bringing together disparate data from many different parties – cocoa bean farmers, product shippers and warehouses, manufacturing, logistics and retailers – can this comprehensive view of a chocolate bar be established and maintained over time.

Other benefits

Other properties of next-generation blockchains that benefit supply chain tracking include:

Being SaaS based, they easily connect the entire ecosystem

Next-generation blockchains are often delivered in software-as-a-service (SaaS) form, eliminating the need to manually deploy, secure, maintain, and pay for infrastructure scaled to full capacity as a prerequisite. By its nature, SaaS connects all parties in a value chain to ensure 100% authenticity and provenance and to ensure that everyone in the ecosystem has the same trusted and complete view, from raw material to retail delivery of the product. finished.

They focus on privacy, security, and compliance.

Blockchains and next-generation distributed ledgers offer out-of-the-box solutions for data privacy, making it easier for data producers to decide who can view or update their data through simple permissions mechanisms. With so many parties involved and so much supply chain data being produced and consumed in real time, it is critical that companies have the ability to not only share their data, but also enforce (and audit) who can access their data. mission. critical business data. When competition or antitrust rules apply, these issues take on even more urgency.

They are energy conscious and cost effective

Next generation blockchains are energy and cost conscious, avoiding the ecological impact of proof-of-work systems and the benefits of multi-tenant cloud architectures, and can pass these cost (and carbon footprint) benefits on to adopters.

Essential challenges

Overcoming challenges with supply chain tracking is critical for companies to not only have real-time data on the location, condition, and quality of goods flowing through those chains, but also to better understand the production and meeting the demand for a specific good. When companies have this level of detail, in real time, they not only have the critical information needed to run their business smoothly, but they can also deliver better services and experiences to their customers.

Tim Wagner is CEO and co-founder of Vendia.

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