Blockchain NW discusses future of blockchain in supply chain management

Yesterday, business community members from the logistics and financial sectors gathered in Seattle at Blockchain NW, the city’s first conference centered around the trendy – if a bit illusory – open-source technology.

While blockchain is commonly coupled with cryptocurrency, the conversation surrounding its potential to revolutionize supply chain management has been buzzing for the past year, with ambassadors of the concept advocating its perceived ability to vastly improve transparency and security in supply chains.

Expeditors released a video explaining blockchain’s role in the logistics industry on Tuesday.

In 2018, we’ve finally seen tangible developments of blockchain in the logistics sphere, with companies of the likes of Maersk, IBM and Alibaba announcing their own ventures in incorporating the technology.

Representatives from IBM, blockchain technology think tank BNFT, diamond source-tracing platform Everledger, and digital logistics platform ShipChain, sat down for a panel on the uses of blockchain in supply chain management.

Kurt Wedgewood, blockchain leader at IBM, explained the benefits that blockchain could bring to supply chain, citing as an example Walmart’s recall of mangoes. Because it could not quickly identify the point at which one bad batch of mangoes entered its supply chain, the company had to throw out all the mangoes recently distributed to retail stores.

“It would have taken almost seven days to identify where the batch came from,” in which time all the mangoes would have spoiled anyway, said Wedgewood. “With blockchain, we could find out in 2.2 seconds… We all paid for this hiccup, when we could have pinned it down to which stores and which restaurants had [the bad batch with blockchain].”

Yes, we’ve heard the benefits that digitalization brings to business operations – but what is it specifically about blockchain that makes it superior to a regular database?

Clinton Senkow, VP of Partnership at ShipChain weighed in, saying that blockchain brings “transparency and ownership,” and pointed out both the public and instantaneous nature of the software, saying that it makes data available on “an ongoing basis.”

The realization of blockchain in the logistics world has been running into the same barriers that the sluggish progression of the digitalization of billing in the air freight sector has encountered. While the technology’s potential to vastly increase transparency and accountability through the supply chain is undisputed, it still seems to be on the other side of a glass wall. We are be keeping our eye on companies like ShipChain to see how the story unfolds.

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