What happens when supply chain meets blockchain?

23 Nov 2017

Image: Hannah ChiraNara/Shutterstock

Deloitte offers some insight into the benefits organisations can reap by merging blockchain technology with their supply networks.

It is Fintech Week here at Siliconrepublic.com, and we have been looking at the various ways in which blockchain has impacted the world of finance, from the shipping industry to charity-focused start-ups.

To dive deeper into the inner workings of this technology in a business, we spoke to Lory Kehoe, EMEA blockchain lead at Deloitte, about life inside a blockchain lab.

But what about business supply networks in particular? Why does it make sense to combine your supply chain with blockchain technology?

Blockchain benefits

As we can see from the Deloitte infographic below, blockchain can improve a variety of industries, from food to pharma.

It can target specific pain points in supply chain processes, such as traceability, compliance, flexibility and stakeholder management. This can lead to better performance when it comes to monitoring products, ensuring high standards are met, keeping costs down and reducing risk.

Indeed, blockchain has a myriad of capabilities, including auditability, immutability, smart contracts and disintermediation, making it an attractive option for many an organisation.

However, blockchain technology is not suitable for every supply chain.

“Full understanding of what the technology can and can’t do is vital, not only for the supply chain sector but for all industries and sectors,” explained Kehoe.

“Companies still need to be prudent when using the technology, like any other. Blockchain technology should be evaluated on its unique and value-creating characteristics, and ensure it is driving real business benefits and value before rolling out front-to-back solutions.

“Blockchain is not always the answer … we are seeing it may play a role, but not the entire technical solution.”

Will 2018 be the year of live blockchain?

Blockchain may be growing in popularity but some businesses have yet to fully grasp its potential.

Kehoe said: “2015 was the year of hype, 2016 was the year of the prototype. We are starting to see some clients, like DNV GL, use blockchain in a production environment in 2017, but expect to see a lot more companies using blockchain in live environments in 2018.

“We feel that it will take a couple more years for blockchain technology to be fully integrated into various supply chains. However, in the short term, we see the technology being used in certain parts of the overall supply chain process, such as part-tracking, finance processes and procurement processes.”

Transparency is key

What about end consumers? Will they see any difference with the integration of blockchain technology into the supply chain of their chosen provider?

Kehoe said these customers will be able to access detailed information on their goods through the use of QR codes, with a quick scan bringing up the full life cycle of their purchase.

“Transparency and provenance is fast becoming an increasingly important part of modern society, and blockchain technology will help show the authenticity of a range of goods, from food to art to handbags.”

For more information on how blockchain can impact various supply chains, as well as the five steps to implementing the technology, check out the infographic below.


Click to enlarge. Infographic: Deloitte

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Shelly Madden was sub-editor of Silicon Republic